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Email Marketing: Measure What Really Matters

From open rates to unsubscribes, there are several key metrics to help you analysis success. And this analysis gives you the power to pivot quickly to improve things in real time.

What Can You Measure? When it comes to measuring success, the first thing to do is revert to your goal(s). What are you trying to achieve with your email marketing and are you delivering against this?

With every email you send you should be thinking: What do I want my audience to think and do?

In this post, we will therefore look at some of the email marketing metrics to help with this analysis:

  • Open rates

  • Click through rates

  • Click to open rates

  • Engagement levels

  • Unsubscribes


Open Rates

This is probably the most widely used metric. It is simple to calculate. However, it can be misleading and should be used more as a guide. Getting people to open your emails is the first hurdle, which is why your subject line is important. But use it as a guide.

Why can it be misleading? In can be misleading because an email is only counted as "opened" if the recipient also receives any images embedded in that message. And some of your email users may 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 and a little bit unreliable metric for marketers, as it underreports on your true numbers. But as I say, it acts as a guide. Nonetheless, you can get some value out of open rate as a metric if you compare your own open rates (try and avoid comparing versus industry averages, as this is meaningless) against each other. By comparing the stats across all recent sends, you can get a feel of what works best, all things being equal that is because you need to factor in elements such as time of day email was sent for example.

Open Rates Low? Here are some reasons why...

Subject line not relevant

Sender name not right

Preview text needs work

Not segmented your list

Timing wrong

Measuring Clicks

There are two metrics you can look at here:

  • Click through rate (CTR)

  • Click to open rates (CTOR)

Your click through rate shows how often a link, a call to action, or image was clicked at least once, as a percentage of the total number of times that message was received.

Your click to open rate shows number of unique clicks to unique opens. For example, you sent 1000 emails, of which 300 were opened and you had 100 unique clicks. Your CTR = 10% and the CTOR = 33%.

Click Through Rates

This gives you an idea about how engaged in your email your audience were. It can help you get a sense of the type of content your audience is interested in. It gives you a high-level understanding of the email’s performance overall.

Click To Open Rates

This gives you a good measure of the relevancy of a given email. It can help gauge the effectiveness of design and how the call to actions resonate with an audience. This is a good indicator of how interesting the content is to subscribers as a high CTOR demonstrates you are connecting with the active members of your audience. CTOR does provide a more detailed and actionable analysis and is probably the one to really focus on.

Low Click Through Rates?

Content is not aligned to the subject line

Content is too long

Email trying to do too much

Click through button itself is not the right size, colour or in the right position.


me email marketing systems will show you how engaged your individual audience is. Those with a low engagement can be ring-fenced for an alternative approach, with a different type of subject line - jolting. Moreover, if you can, use lead scoring. This is power at your fingertips.

Unsubscribes This is the percentage of email recipients who unsubscribe from your send list after opening a given email. You really want this to be zero; if you hit 1% - press the panic button and rethink what you are doing.

As with open rate, 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.

That's why it's much more effective to measure subscriber engagement by clickthrough rates and general engagement.

Summary With email marketing, it is essential to keep analysing and keep improving. Use metrics as a guide with a real focus on your CTORs.


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