More than ever, email marketing is one of the best ways to reach current customers, reminding them of who you are, what you have to offer and how you add value to their lives, even when they aren’t making a purchase. Now that first-party data is more important than ever, email marketing offers a solid, integrated strategy within your wider marketing efforts.
As with every other area of your business marketing, including tracking the return on investment (ROI) from your social media campaigns, measuring email marketing success is critical to improving as you go.
Use the following metrics to assess the success and health of your email marketing efforts. Benchmark your data and work to improve month-over-month until you have it down to a perfectly executed science.
Laying a solid foundation for your email marketing analytics strategy will ensure you benefit from continual growth while earning a consistently solid return on investment (ROI). To do so, tracking and measuring these essential email marketing metrics is essential.
You may be wondering why the first metric summarized in this guide isn’t open rate–isn’t it synonymous with email marketing? Maybe, but look at it this way: would you rather measure the effectiveness of a promoted post on Facebook by how many likes it got, or by how many people clicked through to your website?
Open rates can be a valuable email marketing metric to track if you’re doing A/B testing of subject lines, or comparing the performance of your newsletter on a weekly basis, but if you really want to gauge how recipients are interacting and engaging with each email you send, and whether or not they are converting, then clickthrough is the metric for you. Clickthrough rates can provide you with a detailed understanding of how many subscribers are engaging with your content, and the type of content they’re interested in consuming, be it a blog post or product offer. These are the insights that can really help you to adjust and optimize your email marketing efforts.
Comprehensive reports on your open and click through rates can be accessed via your Email Service Provider (at the Digital Marketing Institute, we’re fans of Mailchimp).
A logical progression from honing in on clicks is to track your conversion rate. A well-crafted marketing email should always contain a compelling Call To Action (CTA) and now is the time to measure whether or not your subscribers have acted! Whether your CTA is to download a brochure or subscribe to a podcast, your conversion rate will help you to ascertain to what extent you are achieving your goals.
You can set up a view within Google Analytics to specifically monitor the traffic to your website that is generated by email referral. Better still, you can create goals to track conversions and further categorize your email marketing success!
Top tip: Marketers using Google Analytics need to start learning about GA4 - and using it today. Read our essential guide to GA4 to get started.
It’s important to track both the growth and decline of your subscriber lists. List growth is essential because it extends your reach and maximizes the likelihood of subscribers engaging with your emails and, ultimately, converting. Subscriber list decay, however, is inevitable. According to HubSpot, email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% each year.
If you notice a significant growth in your subscriber list over time, you should always try to pinpoint this success: are your recipients particularly receptive to a content type or topic? Does the growth correlate with marketing activity you’re carrying out through additional digital channels? Similarly, if you’re experiencing more subscriber drop-off than you would like, you can analyze these factors as well as making sure that:
Top tip: Read how to grow and build your email marketing list to boost your subscribership and earn more ROI from your email marketing efforts.
A classic email marketing metric, bounce rate is the percentage of emails that could not be delivered to subscribers and were sent back to your Email Service Provider. But did you know that there are two kinds of bounces that you should be monitoring?
Hard Bounces: messages that are permanently rejected due to an invalid email address or because the recipient’s server has blocked your server.
Soft Bounces: messages that are temporarily rejected because the recipient’s inbox is full, the server isn’t working, or the email exceeds the size limit set by the recipient or Email Service Provider.
Bounced email, regardless of how comfortable they sound, brings us back to the essential concept of cleansing subscriber data. You should remove any hard bounce email addresses from your subscriber lists immediately, or run the risk of damaging your sender reputation, as your email might be triggering spam filters. It’s also helpful to check if your hard bounces are coming from the same domain; if they are, it might mean that a specific ISP or company server is blocking you, something that you can resolve politely and with ease. Unless you’re spamming, obviously.
A breakdown of bounces per email campaign can be reported within your Email Service Provider. You can even find out which email addresses bounced and amend or remove them accordingly.
The rate at which your subscribers share and forward your emails to their own contacts is a valuable insight for a number of reasons; it lets you know the extent to which subscribers were entertained or engaged by your email content and the extended reach that content can enjoy.
Tracking forwards also provides you with an additional opportunity to grow your subscriber list with contacts who are predisposed to receiving and reading your emails. You can generate new leads by encouraging your readers to share your email or forward to a friend; Email Service Providers like Mailchimp allow you to incorporate a “Forward to a Friend” button or link into your email template.
Email forwards don’t take into account users who copy and paste links to your email within emails of their own, or instant chat messages, for example. Nor do they encompass recipients who use the native forward button in their own email client. So while this metric is a useful one, we just have to accept that there is a level of data that we’ll never be able to track.
The level of understanding you can gain from analyzing how subscribers interact with your emails is a lot more detailed and meaningful than whether or not they opened it in the first place. If a recipient engages with your email, then you can be confident in the knowledge that you are on your way to achieving your email marketing goals. Email engagement as a metric can be broken down and analyzed in two ways:
Everyone wants to know the ideal time of day and day of week to send their marketing emails; it makes sense to give your campaign the best fighting chance. In reality, there is no magic time or golden hour, it varies based on a number of factors, from industry to geography to customer persona. That’s why it’s useful to test your success! Experimenting with your scheduling, at different times of the day and different days of the week, can provide you with comparative data that lets you know when subscribers are more and less likely to engage with your emails.
When it comes to content marketing, we can measure how long a user spent engaging with content on a particular web page using Google Analytics. With email marketing, the length of engagement with email content is equally important, and the longer a subscriber spends reading your email, the better. This kind of insight will allow you to tailor the content of your emails to guarantee maximum engagement.
If you send your emails using Hubspot, for example, they will report on the time a subscriber spent viewing your email, and break it down into categories (glanced, skim read or read) based on how long they spent viewing it.
Read: Our practical guide to customer segmentation and targeting to deliver extra value with your email marketing content, increasing engagement in the process.
A key principle of email campaign design is to test how that email displays on both mobile devices and different email clients, both from a creative and content-centric perspective.
Increasingly email recipients are using mobile devices to view email content for better flexibility and expediency. If you’re aren’t already doing it, you should be optimizing your emails for mobile to reach the widest audience
Read: What marketers need to know about digital accessibility and reach the widest possible audience.
When it comes to email clients, different clients support and display different email content in different ways. Not only can you use your Email Service Provider to test how your email will look to recipients using different clients, many ESPs report on your subscribers’ preferred email clients, too.
Another useful email marketing metric to track is email forward or share rate. This insight will show you the percentage of your audience or recipients that were compelled to share your email content with their peers.
This marketing metric will give you a solid gauge on how valuable and entertaining your email content is to specific segments of your audience. If you see a sharp spike in your email forward or share rate, you’ll gain the insight needed to create future communications in a similar format or style.
Typically, email forward rate is calculated by dividing the amount of forwards or shares with your overall number of emails sent or delivered over a specific timeframe, but most email marketing tools will calculate this for you.
Top tip: One of the best ways to improve your email shareability is through personalization. Find out why content personalization is so important in today’s digitally-driven age.
Now that you know which email marketing metrics to track for ongoing growth and success, let’s look at some concrete ways of boosting your performance.
Read: Check out how to write a marketing email to boost the performance of your campaigns and communications.
Email marketing is a digital competency that requires equal measures of creative and analytical thinking. If you’re looking to level up your email marketing skills and get ahead of the pack, our flexible email marketing short course will deliver.