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The Online Marketing Road Map: Step 7 – Email Marketing (Part 3)


In Step 7 of the “Online Marketing Road Map” we’ve explored Email Marketing, first discussing why email marketing is important and how you can get started (or restarted) with it, then talking about how to use it to convert web traffic to customers. Now, in Part 3, we will outline some key metrics to keep your eye on as you move forward with your email marketing initiative.

Email marketing metrics (or standards of measurement) are important because they help you monitor the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts. The specific terminology for each metric may differ slightly depending on the email marketing service provider (EMS) you’re using, however these are some of the most common email marketing metrics:

  1. Sent Mail/Message Sent/Recipients: A measure of the number of emails you actually sent. Your EMS will likely outline how they measure this statistic, but ultimately, this represents the number of emails that were sent from your provider.
  2. Delivered/Delivery Rate: This rate provides the number of emails that were sent and not rejected by a recipient’s mail server. It can also include the time and date your campaign was sent from your EMS. This metric doesn’t always mean the message landed in their inbox, it just means it wasn’t rejected as spam or deemed “undeliverable”.
  3. Bounced/Bounce Rate: Bounced emails are emails that were rejected by your recipient’s mail server. They are the exact opposite of the “Delivered” metric. There are usually two types of bounces: 1) Hard bounces which are messages that were permanently rejected; This can be the result of emails denied due to an invalid email address or because the recipient’s server has blocked your server, and 2) Soft bounces which indicate a temporary deliverability issue causing your message to be rejected like the recipient’s mailbox is full, their mail server is down or offline, or your message exceeds the size limit set their email service provider will accept. Note: Your email marketing service provider may attempt to send the message several times over a specific number of days, however too many soft bounces on one address may eventually result in a permanent hard bounce, which can negatively affect the health of your mailing list.
  4. Opens/Opened/Open Rate: The Opens/Opened metric monitors how many recipients opened (or viewed) your email at least once. The Open Rate is calculated by taking the number of opens and dividing it by the number of messages delivered. Some email marketing services will note every open and include it in the Open Rate. Others will strategically choose how they notate an “open” for their service, but they should detail that in their reports to you, and tell you how you fare against others in your industry. Note: Opens and the Open Rate are still hotly contested metrics in the email marketing sphere, as some contend that the rates are misleading given that they track when an email is opened based on whether a pixel (or image) inside the message is delivered. Because many email providers automatically block images in inboxes, it’s possible that a recipient could read your message, without enabling images, but it would not register as an “Open” since the pixel being monitored isn’t technically delivered. Those that argue against the use of the Open/Open Rate as a valid metric for some measures in email marketing do admit that there’s still value in using as a comparative metric against historical campaigns.
  5. Clicks/Clicked/Click Rate/Click-to-Open (CTO) Rate: The Clicks or Clicked metric records when a subscriber clicks on a link, button, or image in your message at least once. Counting the number of clicks you receive is a good way to measure of how many subscribers are truly engaging with your content. The Click Rate equals the total number of Clicks divided by the total number of emails delivered. The Click-to-Open (CTO) Rate is the total number of Clicks (per subscriber) divided by the total number of Opens. For many email marketers, more attention is paid to the CTO Rate than the Click Rate, since the CTO Rate is a better measure of if your recipient found your content compelling, in comparison to clicking alone.
  6. Conversion Rate/Response Rate: The percentage of recipients who responded to the call-to-action in your email gives your Response Rate or Conversion Rate. This rate can be achieved by a recipient completing a desired action (e.g. completing a form, purchasing a product, downloading an app, etc.), and will likely become the most important metric in your email marketing campaign when it comes time to calculate your return on investment (ROI).
  7. Unsubscribe Rate: The Unsubscribe Rate monitors the number of subscribers who clicked to unsubscribe and opt-out of your mailing list. Your goal should be to have as few unsubscribes as possible, as a high Unsubscribe Rate can negatively affect the health of your mailing list and can alert your email marketing service that you may be engaging in unsavory practices that can get your account suspended or shutdown.
  8. Marked-as-Spam Rate/Spam Complaints/Abuse Reports: The Marked-as-Spam Rate is the number of subscribers who reported your email as spam, divided by the number messages that were delivered. Spam Complaints and Abuse Reports provide a similar metric for the number of complaints that were filed by recipients who received your email. As with your Unsubscribe Rate, your Marked-as-Spam Rate, Spam Complaints, and Abuse Reports should be as low as possible, with the ideal number being zero (0). The best way to keep from being marked as spam or reported by subscribers is to ensure that they want your content and that you obtained their email addresses legally and with their expressed permission.

These eight (8) email marketing metrics are the primary ones you should keep a watchful eye on. Chances are your email marketing service provider (EMS) will provide these, as well as some service-specific measures to help you get the most out of their service, along with some industry benchmarks to enhance your understanding of your statistics in conjunction with those sending similar content in your field.

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