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Chapter 6 – Understanding and Tracking Mission-Critical Email Marketing Metrics

You’ve heard it before.

The mantra that’s so cliche and repetitive that it verges on annoying.

“Data is king.”

But in the world of email marketing, nothing quite reveals how engaging you are, how impactful you are, how profitable you are like the data does.

Of course, to claim that data is king is to claim that it has some semblance of influence over the actions you take, too. That is to say, the data doesn’t just report the current situation, but informs your future strategy — it doesn’t just tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong, it tells you how to fix it.

And that’s true, if you’re good at interpreting the data.

Which is exactly what we’re going to talk about in this chapter.

We’re going to discuss which email marketing metrics you should pay the most attention to, what they mean, how you can calculate them, and how to improve them if they’re suffering.

But first…

The email marketing funnel and how it changes your perception of the data

On the side of your subscriber, a few simple things happen when they find your email in their inbox. First, they read your subject line and they decide whether or not your email is worth opening. Then, assuming they open it, they read or scan your email copy, subconsciously determining whether your CTA is worth clicking.

If they click, they finish by deciding whether they’re going to pay for whatever it is that you’re offering on your landing page.

But before any of that happens, some other (just as critical) things take place.

Once you send the email, the email must necessarily get delivered. It’s only after those two things happen that the subscriber’s decision-making funnel comes into play at all.

From start to finish, the entire email marketing funnel looks like this.

Why is this important?

Well, a lot of email marketers make the mistake of working to get a higher open rate when they actually have more of a delivery rate problem. Similarly, many beginners try to convert more leads when they have a click-through rate problem.

But, of course, that’s a waste of time.

You should only work to improve the funnel chronologically — that is, you should only try to improve one part of the funnel (i.e. click-through rate) once all of the previous steps have been optimized (i.e. sent, delivered, and opened).

In other words, don’t get caught up in trying to prematurely fix one metric when there is a separate independent metric problem preceding it in the email funnel.

How do you know which metric deserves your attention first?

Well, you need to know how each piece of the funnel is performing — which metrics are healthy and which are suffering. Then, chronologically work toward fixing each from the top down.

Now let’s talk about all the metrics you need to understand.

Note: Your ESP will automatically track most if not all of the metrics mentioned in this chapter. However, so that you fully understand how these metrics are calculated, we’ll provide you with the formula for each.

Delivery Rate

What is it and why does it matter?

Delivery rate is the percentage of emails that get delivered in a given campaign.

Internet Service Providers (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc) will put your incoming emails in the recipient’s spam folder for lots of different reasons. Sometimes it’s because your subject line had too many words associated with spam emails. Other times, it’s because people on your list have marked your past emails as spam, contributing to your a poor reputation with the ISP.

If your email goes to a recipient’s spam folder, it’s practically invisible. Plus, get a large enough spam percentage and your IP address’ reputation will spiral out of control and you’ll struggle to deliver any emails straight to people’s inboxes.

Additionally, some emails “bounce”, which means that the email didn’t get delivered at all. This may happen in one of two ways. When an email address has gone bad or is no longer valid, it is an example of a Hard Bounce. When the recipient’s inbox is full or your email gets blocked for an extremely poor sending reputation these are examples of Soft Bounces. A good Email Service Provider will differentiate between “Hard” bounces and “Soft” bounces.

Too many spam box emails and bounced emails lower your delivery rate and hurt your IP address’ reputability.

Tracking formula

Delivery Rate = (Emails Delivered/Emails Sent) x 100%

How to improve it

To improve your delivery rate:

Open Rate

What is it and why does it matter?

Open rate is the number of people who click on your email once it hits their inbox — the percentage of people who “open” a given email campaign.

And it matters because if subscribers don’t open your email, then they can’t read your email, they can’t click your CTA, and they can’t buy from you.

Plus, it hints as to what percentage of your subscribers engage with your emails consistently.

Tracking formula

Open Rate = (Emails Opened/Emails Delivered) x 100%

How to improve it

To improve your email open rate, try…

Unsubscribe Rate

What is it and why does it matter?

Unsubscribe rate is the percentage of subscribers who opt out of your email list during a given campaign.

A high unsubscribe rate is bad news — sometimes, it means people leave your list faster than they’re joining it, giving you negative net list growth. Plus, with an unsubscribe rate that’s through the ceiling (it generally correlates with higher complaint rates), and ISPs will lose trust for your IP address, making it more difficult to contact the people you most want to contact.

For those reasons, keep an eye on how many people unsubscribe every time you send an email.

Tracking formula

Unsubscribe Rate = (Unsubscribes/Emails Delivered) x 100%

How to improve it

To improve your unsubscribe rate, try…

Click-through rate

What is it and why does it matter?

Click-through rate is the percentage of people who click a link or CTA within your email.

Opening your emails is one thing, but if people never click (i.e. take the action that you want them to take) then you’re sending emails for no reason. This is perhaps one of the most revealing metrics in regards to how engaging and persuasive your emails are.

Tracking formula

Click-through Rate = (Emails Clicked/Emails Delivered) x 100%

How to improve it

To improve your click-through rate, try…

Complaint Rate

What is it and why does it matter?

Complaint rate is the percentage of people that report your emails as spam in a given campaign.

When you send an email and someone marks it as spam, not only does that mean the person dislikes receiving your emails, it also means that their ISP is going to pay special attention to other emails coming from your IP address to determine whether you’re a spammer or not.

Too many complaints means that more and more of your emails automatically go to the spam box — not good when you want your emails to be seen and interacted with.

Tracking formula

Complaint Rate = (Complaints/Emails Delivered) x 100%

How to improve it

To improve your complaint rate, try…

Note: At this point, you might be wondering, What’s a good benchmark to strive for for each of these metrics? And to be honest, we almost included those numbers in this ebook. But we ultimately decided against it. Not because benchmarks are unhelpful, but because cross-industry benchmarks are. The truth is, every industry is different and every list is different. The best thing you can do is set your own benchmarks over time and try to improve upon those standards. Don’t get too caught up in what other people are doing — they’ve got different lists, different methods, and different products. Trying to compare your own metrics against another person’s benchmarks is comparing apples and oranges. Use your own benchmarks as a marker of success instead.

You now understand which metrics are important to track for your email campaigns. You even know some quick tricks for improving each of those metrics if they’re suffering.

From Chapter 5, you understand what goes into creating and launching a successful email marketing campaign.

And now, it’s time to dive into more detail about exactly how you can improve your open and click-through rates, two of the most vital metrics you’ll measure.

Next chapter
Chapter 7 – Tips for Increasing your Open Rate and Click-through Rate
14 min
Chapter 7 – Tips for Increasing your Open Rate and Click-through Rate
14 min