Five Email Metrics You Should Be Tracking

Email has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing channel, but many entrepreneurs don’t know how to measure their email’s performance. The good news is, we’ve got you covered!

Bounce Rate

What is it? The number of emails you sent that bounced. There are two types of bounces you should be aware of:

  • Hard Bounce: These are addresses that are returned as permanently undeliverable. This usually means the user mistyped their address, they gave a fake address, or their address no longer exists.
  • Soft Bounce: These bounces mean that the email wasn’t deliverable at this time. That could be because the user’s inbox is full, the message was too large, or the email server that received your message was down.

How is it calculated? This one is really simple: it’s just the number of bounces divided by the number of emails you sent (Bounce Rate = Bounces / Emails Sent)

Why does it matter? Bounces affect deliverability. If you’re seeing a high number of bounces (over 5-8%), your deliverability can see a huge decline. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may see that you are sending a high number of invalid emails to their users and may flag you as a spammer. Eventually, this could even lead to a blacklist of your IP/domain. The best way to avoid this is to:

  • Remove people who haven’t opened one of your emails in the last six months
  • Suppress/unsubscribe any addresses that have hard bounced.

Open Rate

What is it? The number of people who opened your email. It works like this: your email marketing tool (also called Email Service Provider, or ESP) inserts a tiny, invisible graphic into your email. The image lives on the ESP’s servers, so it counts how many times that tracking image is accessed.

How is it calculated? Different ESPs calculate open rates differently. But the best way to gauge your email’s effectiveness is to calculate:

  1. How many people received the message? (Received = Emails Sent - Bounces)
  2. How many of those people opened it? (Open Rate = Opened / Received)

Why does it matter? It’s a good gauge to see who is interested enough to open your email, but it doesn’t always give a full picture for a few reasons:

  • It relies on an image being opened and some email clients don’t open images by default
  • Gmail started serving cached images to its users in 2013
  • A person who glances at the email and deletes counts the same in this metric as someone who actually reads the content

Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

What is it? The number of people that received your email clicked on a link in it. Most ESPs calculate unique clicks. So if one person clicks multiple links or if someone comes back to the email and clicks again, it only counts their first click.

How is it calculated? Again, different ESPs calculate this differently, but the general rule is that it’s the number of unique clicks divided by the number of recipients. Don’t forget to remove those bounces from your recipients first! (CTR = Clicks / Received)

What does it matter? I tend to use this as a gut-check for my open rate more than anything else. If the CTR is high, but the Open Rate is low, then it’s an indication that there are a fair number of opens the ESP didn’t calculate. However, its main drawback is that it’s dependent on the Open Rate. As you get more opens, you should see more clicks, and vice versa. But what you really need is a metric that tells you how people are behaving after they open.

Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR)

What is it? The ratio of people who clicked a link versus how many opened the email. This is your best measurement of how people are interacting with the content inside your email..

How is it calculated? This one is really straightforward, and most ESPs that calculate it will do it the same way. This is just the number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique opens (CTOR = Clicks / Opens)

What does it matter? Unlike the CTR, the CTOR really shows how people interact once they view your email. Even though it’s based on the number of opens, this metric doesn’t rise and fall with the Open Rate. Instead, as you see more opens, your CTOR should stay roughly the same, which allows you to gauge the effectiveness of your email copy and CTAs.

Unsubscribe Rate

What is it? The rate people are unsubscribing from your emails.

How is it calculated? Just like the Open Rate and CTR, the Unsubscribe Rate only calculates those people who actually received your email, excluding bounces. (Unsubscribe Rate = Unsubscribes / Received)

What does it matter? There are a lot of reasons people unsubscribe to emails, but they all boil down to one thing: the unsubscriber doesn’t want your content. This could be because:

  • They don’t know why they’re on your email list
  • They weren’t interested in your emails to begin with
  • You send too many emails
  • They don’t see your email’s value
  • Their needs have changed since signing up to your list

Not everyone is going to be perfect fit for your emails, so you should expect some unsubscribes. A low number of unsubscribes helps keep your email list clean. But a high unsubscribe rate (over 1%) means that your emails are not providing value to your subscribers.

The most important thing to remember is that none of these metrics live in a vacuum. They are all generally related, so the best thing you can do is look at these metrics together. This will give you a full idea of how your email program is performing.

Have any questions about email? Let us know in the comments!