email marketing metricsCompanies often list email as one of their most powerful marketing channels. To this day, the size of your email list is a demonstration of your reach and thought leadership. To assess your email marketing performance, you must watch ongoing trends of several key metrics in order to compare each campaign’s performance against your own averages.

Your email service provider (ESP) should provide a wealth of reporting on each campaign and on your ongoing email marketing performance. Here are some of the most important email metrics to measure and how you can use them to improve the performance of your email marketing program overall.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox, known as a “bounce.”

Use this metric to uncover potential problems with your email list. There are two kinds of bounces to track: “hard” bounces and “soft” bounces. Soft bounces are the result of a temporary problem with a valid email address, such as a full inbox or a problem with the recipient’s server. The recipient’s server may hold these emails for delivery once the problem clears up, or you may try resending your email message to soft bounces. Hard bounces are the result of an invalid, closed, or non-existent email address, and these emails will never be successfully delivered.

Delivery Rate

The percentage of emails that were actually delivered to recipients’ inboxes is the delivery rate. This gets to the core of your email marketing. After all, for your message to engage a customer or prospect it must first get delivered to their inbox.

Strive for a delivery rate of 95% or higher. If your delivery rate is slipping over time, it could indicate a problem with your list (e.g. too many invalid addresses). If a particular campaign has a lower than average delivery rate, examine the subject line and content of that message. It may have been flagged as spam and blocked by corporate firewalls or major ISPs.

Open Rate

Open rate is a metric that many marketers use to measure the success of their campaigns, but it’s an unreliable gauge for several reasons.

An email is counted as ‘opened’ only if the recipient also receives the images embedded in that message, and a large percentage of your email users likely have image-blocking enabled on their email client. This means that even if they open the email, they won’t be included in your open rate, making it an inaccurate metric for marketers, as it under-reports your true numbers.

The flipside of under-reporting is the fact that open rates can be manipulated by writing catchy, even sensational subject lines that get recipients to open a message but then leave them feeling mislead by the message’s content. For that reason, it’s better to focus on click-through rate as a better measurement of a successful email send.

Click Thru Rate

Click thru rate (CTR) shows the proportion of your audience who clicked on a link in your email message. The CTR can indicate whether your message was relevant and the offer compelling enough for a recipient to take action. But CTR can vary widely by the type of message sent. For example, email newsletters often have higher CTRs than promotional messages, and transactional messages – such as emailed purchase receipts – often have the highest CTR of all the messages your business sends. For that reason, it’s best to compare your CTRs with other similar types of emails you send.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the ultimate measure of an email campaign’s effectiveness, as it shows he percentage of recipients who completed a desired action, such as filling out a lead generation form or purchasing a product. The higher your conversion rate, the more relevant and compelling the offer for your audience. However, conversion rates also depend on factors beyond your email message, such as the quality of the landing page your email links to.

Measuring conversion rate requires integration between your email platform and your web analytics. Do this by creating unique tracking URLs for your email links that identify the source of the click as coming from a specific email campaign.

List Growth Rate

Growth rate is a measure of subscribers to your list. Many of the addresses on your email list will naturally “go bad” over time, as people change jobs, switch ISPs or email programs, or just forget their passwords and create new accounts. This churn can be 25% annually or higher, which is why you must continually work to add new contacts to your email database.

Unsubscribe Rate

As with open rates, the unsubscribe rate isn’t a reliable picture of the health of your email list. Many subscribers who are tired of receiving email messages from your brand won’t bother to go through the formal unsubscribe process. They’ll just stop opening, reading, and clicking on your email messages. Again, tracking your click-through rates and conversion rates is a better way to monitor subscriber engagement and interest. But checking your monthly unsubscribe rate is helpful for calculating your overall list growth rate, and to watch for sudden spikes after a particular email campaign.

Email marketing is a powerful channel for driving real business results. Measuring and watching the trends of these metrics over time can help you evaluate the success of your email marketing.