After the hours you spent crafting the perfect email campaign, how did it do? What did your email metrics reveal on the success of your efforts?
If this part of the process is something new to you or a task that has been given little to no attention, you likely are having one of two responses:
- Doubt that this is even something worth thinking about
- Panic that you may be missing out on something pretty important
In either case, this article will help. Tracking key email metrics is definitely a step that should be included as part of your larger email marketing strategy. Why? Simply put, the more you know about past email performance, the better you can craft future emails and supporting marketing efforts. Creating emails without a plan to measure email campaign success is like taking an extended road trip without a map. Sure you’ll get somewhere, but it may not be where you really intended to go.
Email metrics you should be tracking
Now that I have your attention, what email metrics should become part of your normal KPIs? Every marketing tech stack offers a few different features, but the platform you use to send your emails should provide most of this email marketing data to track your results.
This is your most basic of all email metrics and one that is pretty straightforward. It simply tracks the number of times your email was opened. The value is that it reveals the effectiveness of your subject line, or the level of interest in your message. Was your subject line clear, attention-worthy and actionable? Your open rate will give you some clue.
Keep in mind that this metric can be a bit misleading and can vary greatly depending on your industry and audience. Therefore, it is best used as a comparative metric. Tracking this as part of your ongoing email metrics will reveal how your messages were received so you can compare what was different between your highest and lowest performers.
Formula: Your open rate is calculated by the number of email opens divided by the number of emails sent. Then multiply your answer by 100 to get a percentage.
There are a couple of click rate email metrics you can look at. The primary metric is your click-through rate (CTR) which reveals the percentage of email recipients who clicked on one or more links in your email. Knowing this reveals the engagement level of your audience in the content you are sharing. Basically, it tells you who wants to know more.
Formula: To calculate this metric take your total number of link clicks, and divide by the number of delivered emails. Then multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.
If you want to dive a little deeper into click rates, you can also look at clicks per link. Most emails will have multiple links depending on the content. A newsletter, for example, may have several – each one linking out to a full article. The number of clicks per link will measure the interest level between the various articles you are sharing.
Tip: The click-through rate of your emails is also your go-to metric when conducting A/B testing on calls to action (CTA’s).
The conversion rate of your emails may be the most valuable of all email metrics. Beyond the common correspondence emails, the purpose of your marketing emails is to engage with a contact in order to help them move through the buyer’s journey. The ultimate goal, of course, is to bring them to the decision (and action) of completing a sale with you.
The conversion rate measures the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link and completed your desired action. This may be exchanging their information for a piece of content or making an actual purchase. Your conversion rate metric is what really indicates the success of your email and if a final sale is made, your ROI.
Formula: To calculate this metric take your total number of recipients who completed the desired action, and divide by the number of delivered emails. Then multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.
As with click rates, there are two bounce rates you will want to review – soft and hard bounces. Both of these email metrics are indicators of the overall health of your email send list, so they are important to monitor. They are also important because they measure your reputation as an email sender. Too many hard bounces could flag you as a spammer and greatly reduce (if not eliminate) your ability to send future email marketing campaigns.
A soft bounce means there is a temporary problem in one of three areas:
- There is a problem with a valid email address (like a temporary server problem)
- The recipient’s email inbox is full
- The recipient’s server is blocking your email message
Some servers will hold soft bounce emails for a couple days and attempt to deliver the message again. Your other option is to resend the email yourself. However, many email service providers that track this will stop sending emails to these addresses after a couple attempts in order to keep your status as a sender in good standing and avoid a spam rating.
A hard email bounce is a much stronger warning and could mean:
- The email address is incorrect (there’s a typo somewhere)
- The email address is non-existent
- The email account has been closed
Any email addresses flagged as a hard bounce in your email metrics should be corrected in the case of an error or removed from your contact list completely and quickly.
Formula: Calculate bounce rates by taking the number of bounced emails, divided by the total number of emails you sent, then multiplying that answer by 100 to get a percentage.
The unsubscribe rate or number is easy to understand – initially. It’s the number or percentage of email recipients who elected to no longer receive any future emails from you. The challenge is in understanding why.
Some contacts may convert somewhere on your website to get some information. After receiving a follow-up email, they decide your product or service just isn’t what they were looking for or what they needed. It’s not a great feeling, but not a huge letdown either.
The harder pill to swallow is when a contact has been on your send list for some time suddenly decides to break ties with you. This is when you need to take a harder look at your emails. Was the content too forceful or offensive? Were you sending emails too frequently that they felt overwhelmed and pushed into doing business with you?
You may never fully know the reasoning behind an unsubscribe, but if you notice a sudden increase in your email metrics after an email send or change in your send habits, take a closer look at where you could make some adjustments.
Formula: Your email service may simply provide a number of unsubscribes per email send for you. However, to calculate this as a percentage, take the number of unsubscribes and divide by the number of opened emails. Then multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage.
This email metric is similar to unsubscribes in that it measures the level of dissatisfaction in your email audience. The difference is that the recipient has actually flagged your email as spam. Note, this isn’t measuring emails that have landed into someone’s spam folder, but contacts that have flagged your email themselves. Again there could a number of reasons someone would flag your email this way:
- Your emails are being sent too frequently
- A recipient doesn’t remember you
- Your subject line was misleading (they were expecting something other than what you provided in your email)
- Your email doesn’t include an unsubscribe link (all emails must have this)
- They are just having a bad day and needed to let it out on someone
Tip: The easiest ways to keep “bad” email metrics at bay is to offer clear email opt-ins or subscription forms, be clear (while attention-worthy) in your subject lines, adhere to email regulations, and send content truly worthy of your recipients time.
Formula: While you may not like this email metric, you can determine your spam rate by taking the total number of spam flags and dividing by the total number of email opens. Then multiply by 100 again for the percentage.
Forwarding / Share Rate
Your forward rate measures how many times email recipients have forwarded your email or shared it on social media.
The deeper picture revealed in this metric is how many contacts have felt your content or message was so great it was worth sharing with someone else. And that means the potential for more new contacts, leads and eventually sales for you.
Big tip here: Make it easy for your email recipients to do this. Invite and encourage them to share by including clear and simple forwarding and social sharing icons in your email design.
Formula: To find your forwarding rate, take the total number of forwards and shares and divide by the total number of email opens. Multiply your answer by 100 to get a percentage.
Time spent is an engagement metric that indicates how long contacts are spending with your content. Are they quickly glancing at your email message before closing the email or actually taking the time to read what you have to say?
Not all email services will provide this specific metric, but may offer some sort of time indicator. Take a look as it may provide some other level of important detail that can be helpful in creating your email marketing strategy.
HELLO Marketing uses the HubSpot platform, which provides details into how long recipients spend with each email:
- Read: percentage that opened and viewed the email for 8 or more seconds
- Skimmed: percentage that opened and viewed the email for 2-8 seconds
- Glanced: percentage that opened and viewed the email for 0-2 seconds
HubSpot also provides a helpful line graph in their email metrics showing the level of engagement by opens and clicks over the first 24 hours, first week and first month after the email was sent.
List Growth Rate
Sadly, the reality is your email send lists have a natural decay that occurs over time. Email addresses become invalid due to job changes. Roles and interests change so there is no longer interest or need for your product or service. There are a host of reasons for list decay, but it happens. The goal is to add to your lists to not only minimize decay, but also to have new prospects and customers you can develop a relationship with.
Tracking this metric provides insight into your reach as a subject matter expert. So even if math was not your favorite subject, it’s worth the time to do these calculations pulled from your email metrics.
Formula: This is the longest formula with a couple steps involved. First take the number of new subscribers you have (for the month, quarter or year) and subtract any unsubscribes and spam flags over that same time period. Now divide that number by the total number of email addresses in your list. Then simply multiply by 100 for your growth rate percentage.
Opens by Device
At first this may seem like an odd metric to review, but there is a very good reason for including it in your email metrics. It shows you how content viewing differs across various devices, like mobile, desktop, and even tablet. It is helpful to know what your email recipients are using most frequently so you can design your emails with those devices in mind.
Even better, take this a step further to find out what email platforms your audience is using. Fonts and layouts can sometimes look different across platforms like Outlook vs Gmail vs an Android device.
While you may not look at this metric for every email message you send, what you are watching for is trends over time. Mobile device use has been greatly increasing over the past couple years and will likely continue. But that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore designing for desktop.
What you may notice from your email metrics for certain send lists is that you get more opens on mobile devices, but more clicks on desktop computers. Recipients may quickly review your email while away from their desk, but return when they have more time to digest your content and follow your links from a desktop.
The real value of key email metrics
As email services and platforms continue to develop, your availability to essential email marketing data will too. The real value comes when you use that information to shape and develop future campaigns to connect on a deeper level with recipients and expand your reach as a subject matter expert.
Continue to measure email campaign success (and even those missteps) and over time you will see your email metrics improve and you positively react to what you learn.
Want to know what other B2B marketing metrics to track? Visit our website for a list of what metrics you shouldn’t do marketing without.