No matter what email marketing solution you use, it’s sure to come with a set of email campaign metrics that will help you judge the success of your campaigns.
The most common metrics built into the reporting dashboard in email solutions are:
- Accepted rate – What percent of your messages were actually delivered to someone’s in-box, and what percent were diverted before they reached their target? (Diversions can be caused by an email gateway, a spam filter, or some other filtering mechanism such as a domain unsubscribe filter.)
- Confirmed open rate – How many times was your email message opened? An important note: confirmed open rate is not the same as “unique open rate”. A confirmed open rate should be higher than your unique open rate, because open rates simply tally the number of times the message was opened, while unique open rates discount it when the same user opens the message more than once. There are times when unique open rates matter more than confirmed open rates – and times when the total matters more. For instance, someone who opens the same message more than once may be more engaged than someone who opens it just once…and that may or may not be important to know, depending on your goals for the campaign.
- Click through – How many of the people who received your message clicked on a link in the message? (If your campaign has a low click-through rate, it should trigger some action on your part to address the appeal and placement of your links, as well as a review of your database and list source.)
- Unique confirmed open rate – How many accepted messages are triggering some kind of engagement?
- Open-to-click ratio – How effective was your call to action? If a lot of people open the message, but not many click on the link, it’s back to the planning stage before the next message goes out!
- Unsubscribes – How many people asked to be dropped from your mailing list through the CAN-SPAM unsubscribe link?
- Bounce rates– A bounced message is one that was not deliverable. It could be a “soft” bounce – meaning that the recipient’s mailbox is full, or there is an automatic vacation message turned on, or even that their mail system is having a short-term problem. A “hard bounce” happens when the recipient’s mail server rejects the message permanently – for instance, when someone leaves a job and their business email address is turned off. Treat hard bounces as unsubscribes and remove them from your mailing list.
The key fact to keep in mind about email marketing is that the most common email marketing metrics can be misleading if you don’t have a clear goal in mind for the campaign. For example, sometimes the click-through rate is vital – and sometimes it isn’t.
A lot of marketers want to compare their results to industry averages or “standards” they find in published research. That can be a good way to see how you’re doing, but it’s difficult to know how your campaign actually compares to the “averages” because most of the averages are aggregates drawn from huge samples. Is it reasonable to expect the same click-through rate for your B2B campaign for enterprise software as the “average” B2C campaign offering a discount on a product people buy every day? Should a campaign targeting “Twilight” fans with news of a new trailer be compared to a newsletter from a trade association? Of course not – but the trouble with “industry averages” is that you seldom know what went into the results.
The best way to figure out how well your email campaigns are performing is to define clear goals for each campaign based on which result is most important to your company. Once you know whether your goal is a specific action, ongoing engagement, exposure, lead generation, or a specific transaction, you can easily identify the most important metric for judging how successful your email program is, and take steps to test and measure your campaigns.
For more information on email marketing, download Email Subject Lines: Why Testing Isn’t Optional or Email Evolution: New Trends in a Proven Marketing Communications Channel .