Understanding Your Email Metrics

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Whether you’ve just launched your first email marketing campaign, or you’ve been sending emails to your subscribers for a while, you want to keep improving your results. You’ll want to keep monitoring your metrics and make changes where necessary. Some metrics are more useful than others.

But what metrics are the most important?

Open rate

Number of Emails Opened / Number of Emails Delivered

As you might’ve guessed, the open rate indicates how many people open your email. Getting recipients to open your email in the first place is an early but important step. If you are looking for information on the “average open rate” you should expect to see, it’s really going to depend on the type of email you are sending, and who you are sending it to. No matter what you are sending out, you should look to improve this continuously, and try to avoid falling below a 25% open rate.

Word of caution, open rates can be misleading. They are tracked through a tiny, invisible pixel image that gets downloaded upon opening the email. Some recipients will have images blocked by their mail client and will not count as “opened”, and it will become more prominent with the upcoming releases like iOS 15. Open rates are best used comparatively to test your subject lines and find out which one attracts recipients most.

Clickthrough rate

Individuals Clicking Within Email / Number of Emails Delivered

Your clickthrough rate is the percentage of people clicking a link, image or video in your email. If you do include any of those in your email body, it’s a good metric to see if your email body is engaging your audience. The average clickthrough rate is around 2.5%. If somebody clicks two links in a single email, it will only count as 1 click. Hence why clickthrough rate is calculated using individuals clicking as opposed to total clicks.

Clickthrough rate gives a good indication of how well your overall email is accomplishing the call to action.

There’s a similar metric, click-to-open rate (CTOR). This metric shows the number of individuals clicking within an email, out of the total number of opened emails (rather than comparing it against the number of emails delivered). This way, you see how engaging your actual email body is for people who opened and read your email. The average CTOR is around 15%.

Bounce rate

Bounced Emails / Number of Emails Sent

The bounce rate measures the percentage of emails you attempted to send that failed to deliver. An acceptable bounce rate is below 2%. Anything above that, you’ll want to investigate.

High bounce rates can be caused by things such as failed attempts at buying email lists or by using an opt-in form without confirmation. For more information on what causes bounces and why it matters, check out this article about bounce rates.

Unsubscribe rate

Number of Unsubscribes / Number of Emails Delivered

While it can be demoralizing when people opt out of your emails, it can tell you when your content just isn’t working for your subscribers. The average unsubscribe rate is around 0.2%, although it depends heavily on the industry. Keep in mind, even with an above-average unsubscribe rate, your campaign can be performing great. If your unsubscribe rate suddenly spikes or is unusually high, however, it’s probably time to rethink your strategy.

List growth rate

(Number of New Subscribers – Number of Unsubscribes) / Total Subscribers

You’ll want your list to be continuously growing to expand your audience. Additionally, email lists have an average decay rate of 22.5% per year. That means you’ll want to keep eyes on your list growth rate to make sure it’s growing healthily.

The common misconception about list growth rate is that you always want the number to increase, however it is much more important to have quality rather than quantity. It’s better to have a list of 1000 engaged subscribers that are opening and clicking, rather than 100,000 unengaged subscribers. Having unengaged subscribers on your list will actually make it harder to reach the inbox of your engaged subscribers. Make sure that you clean your list and remove prospects who have not engaged with your content in the past 3 months.

Conversion rate

Number of Conversions / Number of Emails Delivered

So what exactly is a conversion? That depends on your goals. A conversion is who took the action you set as a goal. If you are trying to generate leads, a conversion could be somebody who booked a call with you. If you are trying to sell products through a promotion, a conversion could be somebody who clicked through the email and ordered something on your site. It’s an important metric to gauge the success of your campaign. Your conversion rate can tell you whether your copy is captivating or whether your campaign was worth the effort and resources.

Spam complaints

Email service providers track spam complaints to protect their users. A complaint rate of less than 0.1% is considered normal. It’s important to take action if your complaint rate gets too high, as this can hurt your reputation as a sender and cause deliverability issues down the line.


(Revenue Gained Through Marketing – Marketing Costs) / Marketing Costs

Email marketing is one of the most popular forms of marketing because if done well, it can give an astonishing Return on Investment (ROI). In the big picture, this is possibly the most important metric. As a business, you want to know whether your marketing efforts have been profitable or draining resources.

If you made an additional $20,000 in sales through your email marketing campaign and you spent $3,500 on the campaign itself, you would have an ROI of 471%. 

(20 000 – 3500) / 3500 = 471%

The median email marketing ROI is around 120%. Four times higher than any other digital marketing channel.

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