Editor’s note: this post was updated for accuracy and freshness in September 2021.
Email marketing can take time to master. It involves keeping best practices in mind for every campaign you create, overcoming common rookie mistakes, and optimizing emails for increased engagement.
However, these practices alone do not ensure success. You must also understand how to measure the results of your efforts.
These metrics, like the rest of email marketing, are ever-changing, too. When features like Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection are released, there’s potential for change in how we view success in email marketing. So, it’s important to stay up-to-date.
Before you delve too deep into learning everything there is to know about email marketing, take a step back, determine what your goals are for email marketing, and then decide how you will measure your success.
Each email marketing campaign can be different, especially if you have different goals for different campaigns (e.g., generating leads and growing a subscriber base), but there are some basic metrics every email marketer should learn how to track.
Email Marketing Metrics Every Marketer Needs to Know
1. Open rate
Open rate has long been one of the simplest, and most universally used metrics by email marketers. Tracking the percentage of subscribers who open a specific email, open rate gives us insight into how engaged our subscribers are, as well as how effective different subject lines are.
That said, when Mail Privacy Protection is made publicly available by Apple, the feature will effectively disable open-tracking for users who opt in to using it, making open rate a relatively unreliable metric. And with more inbox providers set to follow suit, open rate will only become more and more unreliable.
Good thing there are plenty more metrics in this list for tracking success.
2. Click-through rate (CTR)
CTR is another common metric that can help you determine how well your campaigns are performing. CTR measures how many people clicked on the links in your email. For example, if you included a link to redeem an offer, the CTR would measure what percentage of subscribers clicked on your links.
When crafting an email, there are a few ways to increase click-through rates. For instance, include links throughout the email in appropriate places and add an eye-catching and conspicuous call-to-action button that subscribers can click on to redeem your offer.
Click-through rates are typically much lower than open rates. The average click-through rate for most campaigns is slightly over 4%.
3. Conversion rate
Your click-through rate measures how many people clicked your link, while your conversion rate will assess how many people clicked on the link and then completed a specific action. For example, if you included a link in your email for your subscribers to participate in a Black Friday sale, the conversion rate would tell you what percentage of the people who clicked the link made a purchase.
Conversion rates give you unique insight into your return on investment. When you know how much you have spent and how many subscribers are converting, it’s easier to determine whether or not the money you are putting into your campaign is paying off.
4. Bounce rate
When sending an email campaign, you also want to track the bounce rate. Bounce rate measures how many subscriber email addresses didn’t receive your email. Soft bounces track temporary problems with email addresses and hard bounces track permanent problems with email addresses.
Measuring bounce rates against open rates will give you a more solid idea of the quality of your subscriber lists. If you have a high percentage of hard bounces, your list may be full of fake email addresses, old email addresses, or addresses with mistakes in them.
You can preemptively decrease your bounce rates by requiring a double opt-in, which asks subscribers to verify their email address and confirm that they want to receive emails from your brand. A double opt-in requirement is a great option to help ensure higher quality email lists and lower bounce rates.
5. Number of unsubscribes
Measuring unsubscribes is very simple. Any email provider will tell you how many people unsubscribed upon receiving an email from you. This email metric can usually be found in your main dashboard or your metrics dashboard.
A high number of unsubscribes can be discouraging. However, email marketers prioritize this email marketing metric and often view unsubscribes as a good thing because they indicate that you are fine-tuning your subscriber list.
Additionally, clearly giving subscribers the opportunity to unsubscribe lets them know they have a choice as to what kind of content they will receive from your brand and when, which helps to build trust.
6. List growth rate
List growth rate is the metric to track the rate at which your list is growing.
You can calculate this by taking the number of new subscribers minus the number of unsubscribes, then divide that by the total number of email addresses on your list, and then multiply it by 100.
It’s natural to experience some attrition, so focus on ways to continually grow your list, engage subscribers, and find new loyal subscribers.
7. Spam complaints
It can be very discouraging for your emails to get marked as spam. You may prefer to ignore these instances but it’s important to pay attention to spam complaints.
Email service providers want to ensure quality and track spam complaints. If this rate gets too high, it’s possible your email service provider will take action against you and block your account.
Your email service provider will likely track this number for you, but you may want to keep an eye on it yourself to make sure that nothing is technically wrong with your emails and that your copywriting meets your desired standards.
8. Forwarding rate/email sharing
Forwarding rate/email sharing measures the percentage of recipients who either shared your post via social media or forwarded it to a friend.
Forwarding rate or sharing is a helpful metric to track because it gives you an idea of how many brand advocates you have. It tells you what percentage of subscribers are recommending your emails to others.
Developing brand advocates through email marketing is a great strategy, especially considering 81% of consumer’s purchasing decisions are influenced by friends’ social media posts.
9. Engagement over time
Tracking engagement over time will give you information on the best times of day to send messages.
You can utilize automation in your email service provider to send emails based on customer behavior or trigger, but tracking engagement over time will tell you when you get the highest click rates for emails that are not automated.
Some email service providers automate this feature and will gather the data for you. However, it’s not a bad idea to track this metric on your own and determine when the best send times are for your industry and your subscriber base.
10. Overall ROI
Overall ROI is an email metric every marketer should track. It tells you the overall return on investment for your campaigns.
You can calculate this by taking the money you made in sales from the campaign minus the money you spent to execute the campaign, divide that by the money invested in the campaign, and then multiply that by 100.
Email marketing can be an investment but it also has the highest ROI out of any digital marketing strategy.
11. Email sharing rate
The email sharing rate indicates how many times a recipient shared your email through their social media, but has nothing to do with sharing the email through email.
This metric is calculated through the “share this” button on your email. To find this rate, divide the amount of “share this” clicks by the number of total emails delivered, then multiply by 100.
This stat allows you to establish some helpful email benchmarks as well.
12. Mobile open rate
This metric works in the same way that regular open rate does, except that it applies specifically to mobile devices like phones and tablets.
Unlike desktop open rates, which are more likely to occur during the weekday while people are at work, mobile open rates are more popular during the weekends.
Note, however, that this metric will also be affected by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature — and not just because of the inability to track opens. MPP blocks our ability to see what kind of device or operating system a user is on, meaning we’ll no longer know if users are opening on a desktop device or a mobile device when they opt in to MPP.
13. Mobile click rate
Mobile click rates work the same as their desktop alternatives but are related to mobile devices like phones and tablets.
Mobile click rates are usually much lower than desktop click rates because users regularly operate multiple windows and other complicated browsing maneuvers, and these habits are much easier on a desktop than on a phone.
Similarly to mobile open rate, mobile click rate will be affected my MPP. But, if you’re primarily looking to reach your audience on their mobile device, it’s worth keeping in mind that weekends are typically the best time to do that.
14. Domain open rate
This rate is extremely important to ensure the success of your deliverability, which makes it one of the most important email marketing stats.
This rate allows you to see what percentage of people are opening your emails on a specific email provider. By doing so, you might be able to tell if you’re running into problems with a specific domain’s spam filter.
Again, you won’t be able to track this metric accurately for Apple Mail users, but it will still work for those who don’t opt in to MPP.
15. Domain click rate
Like the domain open rate, this will allow you to see how many people are clicking on your emails in a particular email provider.
This metric will help you see if there are any problems with an email domain’s spam policy by comparing the click rates between providers. All you have to do is find the average click rate between all providers, then compare it with the individual providers.
16. Revenue per email
The ROI will show you your overall return on investment, but analyzing the revenue per email will show you the individual success of the emails.
Determining this figure can help you easily figure out which emails are performing best and if there are any that are bringing down the total ROI.
Source: Really Good Emails
Focusing on metrics like clicks, web traffic, and conversations is the best way to track the ROI of a given email.
17. Revenue per subscriber
Like some of the other email marketing performance metrics, calculating revenue per subscriber allows for a more microscopic look at your ROI.
What sets this apart from revenue per email is its ability to parse out which demographics are resulting in revenue and which aren’t. By finding this out, you can either change the emails, focus less on a particular demographic, or reallocate your resources and concentrate on a particular demographic.
Those are the top 17 email marketing metrics every marketer should track. And, though some of these metrics are facing big changes, they’re all still worth knowing.
In terms of tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns, look for email marketing metrics that always:
- Provide valuable data to direct email campaigns
- Provide insight into user activity
- Help keep your team focused on the goals of the campaign
As you set up campaign goals, these email metrics will help you measure your overall success as well as help you make necessary adjustments to your strategy.
For a rundown on all things Mail Privacy Protection, check out our comprehensive guide.