Explaining Email Marketing Metrics

|by Demi-Leigh Donohoe

How much attention do you pay to your email marketing metrics?

Every aspect of your email marketing campaign can be tracked and measured.

When looking through your performance reports, there are hundreds of metrics to consider. But which ones should you take an interest in? Is there a single most important metric? Can you get away with monitoring just one or two?

In this blog post, we'll highlight the key email marketing metrics and what they mean for your campaigns.

Why your email marketing metrics are important

We’ve previously talked about how you can build a healthy email list and how to create effective campaigns.

However, there’s more to a successful email strategy than that - you also need to know how to analyse your email results.

There’s not much point in putting time and effort into sending email campaigns if you aren’t seeing results. This is why analysing your emails’ performance is so important.

Successfully measuring your performance requires you to know exactly what it is you’re looking for. That's where your email marketing metrics come in. For each aspect of your email that you want to analyse, you can track an associated metric.

Analysing your email performance enables you to continuously improve your email marketing campaigns. You can identify what strategies and tactics make your emails a success, so you can then repeat them in the future.

How to measure your email marketing metrics

The good news is that analysing campaign performance isn’t a resource-heavy task.  You can start analysing your email marketing metrics in a few easy steps:

1. Utilise the reporting features in your email marketing platform

To analyse your email performance, you first need to tap into the power of your email marketing software.

Your email marketing system should allow you to look at key performance metrics in real time. You can use these metrics to analyse your campaign in-depth or simply to take a top-level overview.

Having access to real-time information about your marketing campaigns gives you the ability to quickly change and adapt your emails to increase their effectiveness.

Another useful way to measure your performance is to review historic data. This can help you to establish trends and identify what previously worked well (and what didn’t).

Having easy access to key metrics saves time and helps you focus on the elements that matter. We suggest customising your reports to focus on the metrics that you want to track for each campaign.

2. Set clear goals for your campaigns

Before you can analyse your performance and declare a campaign successful, you need to identify what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Setting a campaign goal gives your campaign focus. You can then measure your performance metrics against your expectations and decide whether your strategy has been successful or not.

It’s true that all metrics associated with your campaign are important. However, depending on your goal, the importance of each metric is likely to change depending on the result you want to achieve.

A well-structured goal identifies how success will be measured and should note relevant campaign metrics. This gives you something to measure your performance against once the campaign is complete.

3. Set time aside for evaluating email performance

The final consideration you need to make is to set time aside for analysing your campaigns.

We recommend planning a set amount of time after each campaign to review your processes. You can then identify any improvements you can make.

It’s best to factor this into your schedule so that you don’t forget or overlook it. Think of this time as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Even as an experienced marketer, you can still gain lots of insights from your analytics data.

Why analysing your email performance is essential

Does your marketing team make enough time to analyse your campaign results?

It can be tempting to skip over the analysis stage in a rush to create your next killer campaign.

But how do you know when your campaigns are succeeding if you don’t take the time to look at their performance?

Creating email campaigns without looking at how your previous campaigns have performed means you’re trying to second-guess your recipients. You can’t possibly know which tactics are the most effective. Such a careless approach rarely results in long-term success.

Defining key email marketing metrics

There are hundreds of different email marketing metrics that you can analyse.

Here are the key ones that we recommend you should track for your emails:

Email delivery rate

If your campaign doesn’t arrive in the recipient’s inbox, it won’t perform. Although it’s not one of the most glamorous parts of an email marketer’s job, the delivery rate needs to be resolved before any other steps are taken.

Email delivery rate can be calculated as: 

Total number of emails sent / Total number of emails delivered x 100

All marketers should aim for a delivery rate of 100% as this means that all intended recipients receive the email campaign.

However, this is sometimes not possible due to soft bounces, meaning there was a temporary problem with the email delivery. Reasons for soft bounces include a full inbox, a temporary issue with the email server, or issues with the email file size.

You shouldn’t worry if you see a small number of soft bounces. It’s perfectly normal.

Hard bounces, however, are more problematic. These can become a serious cause for concern if they aren't quickly dealt with as they are permanent issues affecting email delivery. Reasons for hard bounces include sending to a non-existent domain name, non-existent email address, or an unknown email address.

Having a low email delivery rate can be detrimental to your sender reputation. To optimise your email delivery rates, perform regular data hygiene checks to ensure that the contact list you are sending to is up-to-date.

Spam rate

The spam rate indicates the percentage of email recipients who flagged your email campaign as spam. Both your data hygiene and the email content can impact spam rates.

Spam complaints happen. They're a part of every email marketer's life. However, a high spam rate will have a negative impact on your sender score. This, in turn, will harm your future email delivery rates as your email address may become blacklisted.

Reducing email spam rates is easier once you have an understanding of their underlying causes. You can then understand how you can go about improving your email campaigns.

To reduce your email spam rates consider:

  • Segmenting your contact list to deliver more targeted content: The more targeted your email marketing campaigns are, the more relevant it is to the recipient. Segmenting your contact list allows you to hone in on the exact contacts you need to message.
  • The quality of your email content: Having low-quality or repetitive email content will quickly become boring for your subscribers. Make sure that each of your email campaigns delivers good value and is different from the last.
  • Your email subject lines: Don’t make your email subject lines sound too desperate. Make sure you communicate the value of your email campaign in the subject line and demonstrate how it's relevant to the recipient. This reduces the chance of your emails being marked as spam before they're even opened.

Your spam rate can be calculated as: 

Total number of spam complaints / Number of emails delivered x 100

Unsubscribe rate

Your unsubscribe rate determines how many recipients of the email chose to opt-out of receiving future messages from you. For every email you send, you should aim to keep your unsubscribe rate lower than 1%.

You can often predict when somebody is ready to unsubscribe from your email campaigns by monitoring your campaign engagement. If your contacts have previously opened and clicked on the majority of your email campaigns but fail to engage with your content for a few months, this can indicate that your content is no longer relevant to them.

If you receive a high number of unsubscribes, take a look at your content strategy. Consider whether you're delivering on the promises you made when the subscriber first signed up.

Don’t take offence at a high unsubscribe rate - use it as a learning curve and adapt your content approach, tailoring it to the needs of your contacts.

To calculate your email unsubscribe rate: 

Number of contacts unsubscribed / Emails delivered x 100

We also recommend allowing your subscribers to change their own email preferences. Instead of unsubscribing, your contacts then have the option to specify the type of emails they'd like to receive from you. This might not prevent all of your unsubscribes, but it will help in the long term.

With email marketing software like Conesso, you should be able to create a preference centre which you can link to in your emails, enabling your subscribers to click and update their own preferences. 

Open rate

The open rate determines the performance of the email in the inbox.

Once your campaign has been opened, it has the opportunity to perform and encourage the user to perform the desired action.

To optimise your email open rate, focus on the elements that can be viewed in the inbox before opening your email. These include the subject line, the preview text, and the from name.

Your email open rates also concern factors outside of the email itself, including:

  • Frequency of email sends: Subscribers might choose not to open your emails if they feel like you're sending too many.
  • Time of email send: Think about the time when your contacts are most likely to engage with your email campaigns.  There's not much point in sending your emails in the middle of the night when your contacts are likely to be in bed.
  • Day of email send: Look at your performance data to identify the best day to send to your contact list.

To calculate email open rates use the formula: 

Emails opened / Emails sent – Number of Bounced Emails x 100

Click-through rate

The click-through rate is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link inside of the email campaign after the email was delivered.

Having a high click-through rate is a positive indicator that your email drives people to take action.

To calculate the click-through rate: 

Number of unique clicks / Number of emails delivered x 100

Click-to-open rate

Perhaps one of the most revealing metrics is the click-to-open rate. This percentage is the clearest demonstration of the effectiveness of your email content.

Emails can’t convert on their own. You need your email recipient to take action, generally on a landing page or your website. This requires your recipient to click through from your email campaign.

As this metric is calculated as a percentage of those who opened the campaign, it specifically reflects the campaign content within the email. This differs from the click-through rate which also takes into account the email recipients who didn't open the campaign.

It's important to note that the structure of your email content has a big impact on the number of people who click. Placing your call-to-action at the bottom of an inverted pyramid structure helps funnel your reader from the top to the bottom of the email content.

Focusing on the copywriting techniques that you use can also improve your click-to-open rate. Your content needs to compel the recipient to take action. This will a higher percentage of clicks.

To calculate your click-to-open rate: 

Click-through rate / Email open rate x 100

Conversion rate

Your email’s conversion rate is the percentage of people who received the email who then went on to perform a desired action. This could be signing up for a webinar, visiting a landing page, or purchasing an item.

According to Marketing Insider Group, you can expect to see different conversion rates based on the type of email you send:

  • Newsletter: 1%
  • Order follow-up: 5%
  • Inactive customer: 2.6%
  • Abandoned cart:  5%
  • Member follow-up: 2.7%

Statistics are based on at least 100 email sends per category of email

On first viewing, these statistics appear disheartening. What’s the point in sending an email if less than 5% of emails, on average, trigger a desired action?

Well, even with these apparently low conversion rates, email marketing has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel. Each of the conversions measured in the statistics above has the potential to be of high value. By optimising email campaigns over time, you can ensure that they have the highest conversion rate possible.

Return on investment (ROI)

On average, email has the highest return on investment of any marketing channel.

For every pound that marketers spend on email marketing, they gain the highest return from email campaigns.

To calculate your return on investment, use the formula: 

Return on investment = Total profit / Cost of investment x 100

To increase your return on investment, you need to optimise each part of your email campaign to make the most out of your marketing budget.

Why you shouldn’t analyse email metrics in isolation

There are some email marketing metrics that can make or break an email campaign, we don’t think any of them can be judged as a measure of campaign success on their own.

Although individual metrics are often powerful indications of your performance, looking at them in isolation risks missing the bigger picture.

It’s much more helpful to think about your email metrics in groups. They each contribute towards your campaign success, ultimately leading to a high return on investment. As a result, you should take a look at inbox metrics as a whole.

Looking at the bigger picture

Benchmark your average email performance. This allows you to identify any significant shifts in performance before they become a problem.

Before you dedicate your time and resources to improving a single aspect of your email campaigns, you should be asking yourself whether the results will justify your efforts.

Benchmark your average email performance so that you can identify any significant shifts in performance before they become a problem.

The pinnacle of all email marketing metrics is return on investment. Focus on the changes that you can make that will help you achieve the biggest improvement to your bottom line. Without a high return on investment, all of the other email metrics become irrelevant.

Whilst you can optimise for every single email metric, decide what matters most on a campaign-by-campaign basis. The fundamentals remain the same - you need your email to be delivered for it to have any chance of performing. There's a fair chance that your email won’t have the impact you want if it isn’t opened.


Analysing your email marketing metrics gives you the insights you need to optimise your future emails. Paying close attention to email performance pays off.

Decide which goal you want to achieve and how you're going to measure it, then optimise your campaign to achieve it.

Need some help with analysing and optimising your email campaigns? As an email marketing agency, we've got you covered. Our automation platform includes a comprehensive reporting suite, empowering marketers to translate data into insight and make better marketing decisions. Book a demo to find out more.

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