7 Email Marketing Metrics You Should Track (and What They Mean)

You just finished writing the perfect email to your subscribers. Way to go! Now, how do you know all that time you spent crafting it was worth it?

The answer lies in your email analytics.

Analytics are an essential (and often overlooked) part of your email marketing strategy. When you know things like how many subscribers are opening your emails and what links they’re clicking, you get a look into how your subscribers feel about the content you send them. And as you discover the story told by your analytics, you can identify opportunities to make improvements and bring more value to your readers.

So what should you be looking for to measure the impact of your emails? Here are seven email marketing metrics you need to track (and what they mean):

Open rate

Your email open rate measures the effectiveness of your subject lines, as well as the best times to email your subscribers. With this insight, you can identify how you can get more people to view your emails.

Open rates are calculated by taking the unique opens (i.e., the total number of unique subscribers who open your email) and dividing it by the total number of recipients. For example, if I send an email to 100 subscribers and 30 of them open it, I would have a 30 percent open rate.

Here’s a piece of advice as you track your open rates: since you want to know how many subscribers are actively engaging with your emails, you’ll want to track unique opens instead of total opens.

Total opens represents the number of times an email is opened, which can be misleading because a subscriber may open your email multiple times.

Take the previous scenario for example. If the 30 subscribers who opened your email opened it twice, that would mean you have 60 opens and you’d have a 60 percent open rate. Not an accurate metric, right?

Unique opens, on the other hand, only counts the number of subscribers who opened your email – regardless of how many times they opened it.

While observing your unique opens provides a more accurate picture, tracking email opens isn’t fool-proof. Every open is detected when an invisible tracker image embedded within the email is displayed. However, if your subscribers have disabled images in their email client, it won’t track their opens, which impacts your open rates.

To help resolve this, ask your subscribers to add your “from” address to their address book. This not only guarantees that your emails will arrive in the inbox, but it also will ensure that opens are being tracked (remember that little invisible tracker image I mentioned).

Click-through rate

Your email click-through rate tells you whether or not your email content and call to action is relevant to your subscribers. The insight you gain from your click-through rate metrics can help you optimize the content of your emails; if you notice a lot of people clicking a link to one blog post instead of another, you can assume they’d prefer to receive more content on that topic in the future.

Similar to open rates, click-through rates can be calculated based on unique clicks or total clicks. To get a more accurate idea of how many subscribers are engaged with your emails, you’ll want to look at the total unique clicks (i.e., the number of subscribers who clicked on a link in your email) and divide it by the total number of recipients.

Again, don’t fall into the trap of calculating click-through rate based on total clicks (i.e., the number of times a link was clicked). This is misleading because a subscriber may click the same link multiple times, counting those as “clicks.” Instead, check your unique click-through rate to determine exactly how many subscribers are engaging with your email content.

You can also use your click-through rate to see what type of content your readers find compelling, and what they’re less interested in. With this information, you can focus more on content you know your subscribers will enjoy instead of sending random emails.

Web traffic

If a goal of your email marketing strategy is to increase traffic to your blog or website, you’ll want to track your web traffic results as well.

Web analytics will not only show you how many people are coming through to your website from your email, but also how long they’re staying on your site, where else they’re going on your site, where they’re leaving your website, and more.

To track web traffic to your site from your emails, I recommend using Google Analytics. Adding UTM tracking codes onto links in your emails allows you to capture and analyze email referral traffic within Google Analytics. (If you’re an AWeber customer, here’s how to integrate Google Analytics with AWeber.)

If traffic is low, for example, that might mean you need to make your email content more engaging. Or perhaps the content you’re sending them to isn’t compelling enough, and you should try sending them a web page or blog post related to a different topic.

Sales

Are you selling a product or service in your emails? To see how much revenue your emails are generating, you can track the sales that resulted from each email.

Sales from your email are tracked when someone opens you email, clicks through to your site, and makes a purchase.

To get this information, use Google Analytics to set up sales goals and tracking conversions. This is typically done using a destination goal within Google Analytics with your destination being a landing page where buyers land after making a purchase.

By using the appropriate UTM tracking codes on your email links, you’ll be able to track sales conversions from your emails. However, this approach won’t allow you to tie the revenue to specific subscribers, limiting your ability to segment and target those subscribers in the future.

AWeber Pro Tip:

Did you know you can track sales in your AWeber account? This allows you to tie a revenue amount to each subscriber, giving you the ability to build segments and send more targeted emails to different types of buyers, or those who haven’t purchased anything yet.

All you need to do is install email web analytics on your website, set up your sales tracking in your AWeber account, and presto – start seeing the actual revenue your subscribers are generating.

Unsubscribes

Losing subscribers is difficult for any email marketer to cope with. You want to have as many people on your list as possible, but you also want to send to people who truly want to hear from you.

Rest assured that unsubscribes are a normal and common part of maintaining a healthy email list.

There are many reasons someone may unsubscribe from your emails. Maybe your email content isn’t satisfying their needs anymore. Or perhaps you’re sending too frequently.

Subscribers typically have a few different options when unsubscribing from your list. They can click the “unsubscribe” link in your email, or use an app like Unroll.me to get the job done. In Gmail, people also have the option to click the “unsubscribe” link next to your name and email address. Regardless of how they choose to remove themselves from your list, you should make it easy for them to do so.

To learn why people are leaving your list, ask them for their feedback. This will help you better understand the reasons why they left and what you can do to bring them back or prevent others from leaving.

If more people are unsubscribing than they are joining your list, it might be time to re-evaluate your email content strategy and your open and click-through rates. If they’re low, you might need to see how you can send more relevant and compelling content.

Bounce rate

Bounces are a good indication of the health of your email list, and they’re calculated by taking the total number of bounces and dividing it by the total number of recipients.

Bounce rates are broken out into two categories: hard bounces and soft bounces.

A hard bounce means a recipient’s email account is closed or invalid. Most email marketing providers will automatically unsubscribe someone who hard bounces.

A soft bounce means a recipient’s email account is temporarily unavailable. This typically happens when a server is unavailable or a recipient’s inbox is full. Most email marketing providers will continue to send to a soft bounce several times before automatically unsubscribing them from your email list.

Ideally, you want to aim for a bounce rate that is less than five percent. To do so, my advice is to maintain a clean, active and engaged email list.

Complaint rate

Complaints occur when a subscriber marks your email as spam. Your complaint rate is calculated by taking the total number of complaints and dividing it by the total number of recipients. Your goal should be to keep your complaint rate no higher than 0.1 percent.

A consistently high complaint rate can have serious consequences on your deliverability and potentially get you into trouble with your email marketing provider. Again, sticking to email marketing best practices will help you “>maintain a low complaint rate.

How are your emails doing?

Focusing on your analytics is essential to improving your email marketing game. With them, it makes it easier to gauge whether your emails are delighting subscribers.

What email marketing metrics are you tracking? Share in the comments below or tweet them to us at @AWeber.

To learn more about email marketing metrics and get tips for improving your stats, download our free guide Understanding Your Email Stats.

2 Comments

  1. Katrina

    12/10/2015 5:28 pm

    Great article. Thanks for explaining all these metrics so well. You talked about unique opens and my question is about total opens. Are they a reliable indicator of subscribers engagement? For example if they open the email 3,5 or 15 times is that an indicator of engagement or is it an email server thing?

  2. Brandon Olson

    12/11/2015 9:40 am

    Hi Katrina! Thanks for your question. In my opinion, total opens is not terribly valuable. Subscribers may be using a preview pane in their email client that records an open every time they casually scanning their emails. So total opens isn’t going to tell you much. Another great indicator of subscriber engagement is your click-through rate. Open rate tells you they were willing to open it, but you click-through rate tells you they wanted to learn more – they were engaged in your content. I hope that helps.