Key Performance Indicators for Email Marketers

7 of the most important email metrics to track

Let’s just get this out of the way from the jump: there is no one-size-fits-all way to measure the success of an email. Different marketers have different goals when it comes to sending business emails. Heck, specific emails within the same campaign typically have different purposes behind them. Having a solid grasp on all the most important metrics to track and analyze your progress is the best way to set yourself up for success in any email marketing situation.

What is a key performance indicator?

Let’s say you just designed a multi-email drip campaign for a new subscriber list. You have a few onboarding emails, you’ve offered valuable content, and you’ve masterfully weaved in calls-to-action directed at products and services in which your readers will no doubt have interest. You’ve done pretty much everything to make this a fruitful campaign, but the question remains: How will you know if it’s working?

A key performance indicator – or KPI for short – is a metric used to answer that very question. Before you launch any sort of marketing effort, email or otherwise, you need to identify the KPIs that will be measured and ultimately used to make crucial decisions about what actions to take next. Without clear KPIs, you’ll be walking through the forest without a map.

7 email marketing KPIs everybody needs to track

The most popular email service providers today, like Mailchimp and Aweber, offer standard measurement capabilities, so the good news is you won’t need professional developers to build a new tracking system from scratch. Here’s an overview of the most often-used KPIs in email marketing and what they mean.

Open Rate: The most basic of email measurement criteria, the open rate tells you how many people in your list opened an email, expressed as a percentage of all the subscribers you sent the message to. A 30% open rate, for example, would mean that out of every 100 people who received the email, 30 opened it. Here are benchmark open rates broken down by industry.

Click Rate: Another very standard KPI is click rate, which tells you how many people clicked a link inside your email, again expressed as a percentage of total recipients. High click rates demonstrate strong interest in your email content.

Total Opens & Unique Opens: The former shows how many times your email has been opened and the latter shows how many individual subscribers opened it. Total opens is one way to gauge just how “sticky” your email content is.

Clicks Per Unique Open: One of the most underutilized metrics (in my opinion), clicks per unique open tells a slightly different story than simply looking at overall click rate. This metric shows how often your emails are clicked but as a percentage that includes only subscribers who opened your emails.

Shares: Most email services include built-in sharing mechanisms and tracking by email and social media, so you can see how many subscribers went out of their way to let others know about your content.

Bounces: A bounced email is an email that couldn’t reach its intended recipient. There are two classifications of bounces. A soft bounce means the email is legit, but for some reason it couldn’t reach the inbox at the time. Most email service providers will make another attempt to deliver that email. A hard bounce, on the other hand, means the email cannot be delivered permanently, and that email is typically removed from your list immediately. Hard bounces are very bad for your email sending reputation, which makes cleaning your email list of utmost importance.  

Unsubscriptions: After every email you send, there will undoubtedly be some subscribers who decide they no longer want to receive messages from you. It’s part of the game. But you must keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate, as it is indicative of the overall health of your list.

A media company may care more about it’s open rates while an ecommerce company might look primarily at click through and its effect on sales. But ultimately, the choice is yours based on your understanding of these measurement areas. Every email marketer should explore these metrics and decide which KPIs are most important to his or her business objectives.

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