Email marketing is tricky and unfortunately, it’s not getting any easier. Brands everywhere are sending emails that fight for your audience’s attention in the inbox, and standing out has never been harder. If you’re like me, you have the list of industry email marketing benchmarks bookmarked to see how your campaigns match up, but what do these numbers really mean?
In this post, I’ll take a deep dive into the different email marketing metrics you should be monitoring and what they mean. I’ll also highlight a few ways you can test for improvement, and how you can use email to support your overall digital marketing strategy.
Email Metrics to Monitor
The numbers your campaigns generate give you a good sense of the overall health of your email strategy. While some campaigns will perform better than others, it’s important to keep an eye on these 6 numbers to ensure your emails are an effective part of your overall strategy.
Deliverability rate is the percentage of emails that made it to the recipient’s inbox compared to the number of people you tried to send to.
Your emails aren’t doing any good for your business if they’re not being delivered, right? Unfortunately, this number is ignored in many strategies and if unchecked, could render your emails useless.
Keeping an eye on your deliverability rate will give you a good sense of the quality of email addresses you’re sending to, as well as let you know if there are any issues with your DNS across email clients.
Your open rate is the percentage of contacts who open your email based on the number of people you sent to.
Once you know your campaigns are being delivered, the next step to providing your audience with value through the inbox is getting them to open your emails. Elements such as your ‘from name’, subject line, and preview text play into the open rates of your campaign.
These elements give your audience a snapshot of what they’ll get out of opening your campaign.
Your Click-Through Rate is the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email based on the number of people who opened your email.
This number is a great indication of how effective you were at aligning your subject line and the content of your email. It also gives insight into the design, layout, and copy of your email.
Depending on your email service provider, you might be shown a click-rate instead of a click-through rate. It’s important to know the difference when evaluating your campaigns.
Your click rate is the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email based on the total number of delivered emails.
Unfortunately, some email service providers miscommunicate this number as a click-through rate, so it’s important to know exactly what your email metrics are measuring.
Your click rate gives you a snapshot into the overall effectiveness of your campaign. It shows you how well your subject line, preview text, design, and copy all worked together to achieve the goal you set.
On the email level, the ultimate goal is to get as many clicks as possible, so this number tells you how effective you were.
Unsubscribes and Contact Churn
Your unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who opted out of future emails based on the number of emails you sent.
While this isn’t something you want to see, it’s better than being marked as spam. Contact churn, or the number of contacts that opt out of your email communication, is an inevitable part of email marketing. Not everyone wants to hear from you, or they’ve already made a decision and aren’t looking for extra information.
It’s important to keep an eye on this number as it shows you the quality of your contact list and how aligned the perceived and actual value are within your strategy.
On the other hand, the rate at which you grow your email list is just as important, if not more.
This is how quickly and effectively you’re adding contacts to your database. Depending on how you collect email addresses, you should always strive to grow your email list organically and not by purchasing lists.
You want to make sure people are opting in to receive emails from you. Not only is it abiding to CANSPAM regulations, but it’ll make your campaigns much more effective.
Testing for Improvement
There’s no such thing as a perfect email. In all the emails I’ve sent, I’ve never gotten a 100% deliverability rate, open rate, and click rate. While you can get close, there’s always room for improvement and the only way you can continually get better is by testing.
When it comes to testing different email elements, you want to make sure that you’re testing for something specific. Here are a few ways you can nail down tests to create better emails.
Subject lines are easily the trickiest part about email marketing. They need to be creative, captivating, and most importantly convey enough value to inspire your recipient to open your email. Testing your subject lines will empower you to increase your email open rate.
Most email service providers allow you to run experiments and A/B tests on subject lines pretty seamlessly. Put simply, your email will choose a percentage of your recipients to test on, and depending on how the test goes, your campaign will be sent with the winning subject line.
This is a very high-level explanation of subject line testing, and depending on the software you use you’ll be able to have more control over the test.
So what should you test? How can you make your subject lines more effective? Our friends over at FitSmallBusiness recently posted an awesome article that outline 25 Email Subject Line Tips with examples to help give you some direction.
Design and Layout
Testing the design of your email by using different templates will allow your campaigns to get more clicks in the future. Will you go with a single column or two column layout? Where will your links be? What colors will you use?
The process of testing for design is usually similar to testing for subject lines, however you need to make sure you have templates built out in your email marketing software.
There are a handful of purposes an email can have. You want to make sure the layout supports the purpose of your email and directs attention to the link you want people to click.
A good best practice is designing your email in a reverse pyramid layout. As people read your email, the focus narrows down to the link and it’s clear where the value is.
List Building Methods
Taking a step back, you need to make sure that the way in which you collect email addresses is as effective and efficient as possible. In order to send an email, you need someone to send it to, so implementing tests from the very beginning is a great approach to continually making every aspect of your email strategy better.
Implementing different list building methods is a great way to maximize the rate at which your database grows. However, it’s more than just changing the color of a “subscribe” button.
For instance, you can take a more inbound email approach and put valuable content behind a form to simultaneously offer value and grow your email list. Another way you can test this out is with pop-ups or slide-in forms that encourage people to subscribe.
Regardless of how you try and get people to sign up to hear from you, it’s important that you add value to the experience they have with your brand instead of annoying them with spam.
While pop-ups are becoming popular again, full screen takeovers are often annoying, hard to close, and can drive people away from your site. If you take that route, it’s best to make sure you’re offering something relevant and of value, so you don’t drive users away from your site.
What These Metrics Mean
So far, I’ve talked a lot about the different email metrics and how to continually make them better. However, your email campaigns are more than just the numbers they produce. They tell a story and depending on the numbers, it can be a good story, or one that needs a bit of work to get the happy ending.
Below are a few common situations we see in email strategies and the possible story that led to the numbers. In other words, it’s a high-level analysis of why your numbers are the way they are.
Low Deliverability Rate
A low deliverability rate is something you’ll want to fix ASAP. To realize the massive ROI email marketing can provide, your message needs to get to your audience. A low deliverability rate could be caused by the following reasons:
If you’re sending to a list you bought, you have no idea where these emails came from. While many vendors guarantee list validity, you never really know who you’ll be sending to, or even if it’s a real email address.
Your domain is blacklisted
If you discover that your emails are going straight to people’s spam folders, you want to contact your IT person right away so they can rework your DNS. I won’t get into the technicality of this, but sending to people who opt in from hearing from you is the first step to making sure you lower spam complaints.
The best way to make sure that you’re emailing someone who is real is by implementing a double-opt in process. For example, sending an initial email when someone signs up to confirm their email. This will help eliminate bots signing up for your emails and crowding your database with fake email addresses.
Low Opens, High Clicks
If your campaigns consistently result in low opens, but have a high click-through rate, you should consider running tests on your subject line to optimize for open rate. Whether it’s your subject line, from name, preview text, or time you’re sending, your emails aren’t grabbing the attention of your audience as they scroll through their inbox.
Another possibility is that people aren’t expecting to hear from you. This could be fixed by setting up a consistent email schedule and implementing automated messages to make sure that your campaigns are timely and expected.
With that being said, the design elements and actual message of your email is likely solid and shouldn’t be tampered with. If the people who are opening your messages are clicking through to your website, the value is there.
In other words, don’t fix something that isn’t broken.
High Opens, Low Clicks
A consistently high open rate with low clicks could be caused by a few issues. Unlike the previous situation, this could stem from your subject line as well as your actual message.
Subject lines that are click bait can fall into this category. For example, if they invoke fear, surprise, or another emotion, it can lead people to frantically open your campaigns only to find that it had nothing to do with the message. This is often accompanied with a high number of spam complaints and unsubscribes as it plays with peoples’ emotions.
However, if you don’t have the high number of complaints, the issue most likely lies with your email design. Take a look at whether your emails are being opened on desktop or mobile. It could be as simple as making sure your emails are responsive.
Low Opens, Low Clicks
You can find yourself in this situation in few ways, but you’ll want to get out of it quickly to make sure your emails are supporting the rest of your digital strategy.
If you’re in this dilemma, you’ll want to make sure you test almost everything in your email campaigns. Test subject lines to optimize for opens, test design and layout to optimize for clicks, and try sending at different times of day and days of the week.
This issue can stem from a lack of understanding your audience and knowing what they’re looking for from your emails. Make sure you have a solid opt in process and a strong segmentation strategy so your sending relevant information to your recipients.
High Unsubscribe Rate or Complaint Rate
This is also another situation you don’t want to find yourself in as it can lead to a strong decrease in your deliverability rate.
If you have a consistently high rate of contact churn, look at how you’re building your email list. You’ll also want to look at the consistency of your email schedule. If people haven’t heard from you in a couple months, they could either forget they signed up or have already gone with one of your competitors.
Click bait could be another reason for a high rate of unsubscribes and spam complaints. If you’re simply trying to get people to click without providing value, there’s no reason for them to keep hearing from you.
A consistent sending frequency, setting up email automation, and effectively segmenting your contact database is a great way to fix this problem going forward.
Slow List Growth
If you don’t see your database growing as quickly as you’d like, you’ll want to test out different ways of collecting email addresses. It might be because people don’t know how to sign up, or they don’t see the value in signing up.
Your email list growth starts with the content you’re publishing on your website. Whether it’s your blog or your service offering, you want to make sure that you can demonstrate the continued value you’ll be delivering to their inbox.
Thinking Passed the Click
You email marketing metrics show you how well your email campaigns perform, but it’s important to understand how email impacts the overall effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy. While getting clicks is great, if contacts are quickly bouncing from your website, your email campaigns aren’t really driving value for your business.
You need to think passed the click and set goals for your email strategy outside of the inbox.
For example, if you send a campaign enticing people to download your latest ebook, you’ll want to look at the conversion rate from email to really see how effective the campaign was.
Email metrics are extremely important, but it’s important not to get caught up in a single number when analyzing your email marketing. Set goals outside the inbox and make changes to get your emails to push you closer to achieving your business goals.
If you’re having trouble with your email campaigns, know that you’re not alone! Marketers everywhere struggle with getting noticed and consistently delivering value through the inbox. Getting yourself out of one of the situations above can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an email marketing agency to get a second opinion or tips on how to improve your campaigns.