Top 5 Email Metrics To Track Consistently (And Why You Should Care)


Remember those email goals you set in the second week of this series? Now is the time to determine which metrics you will need to analyze to ensure you’re effectively measuring performance and moving the needle toward those goals. In this post, we’ll identify the top five email metrics to continually track and why they are important.

1. Click-Through Rate
What is it? Click-through rate is the rate of message recipients who click at least one link in your message.

Why should you care? Links are the gateway connecting your messages to your website content, your social channels, your campaign points, your event, etc. Click-through rate is an important metric to evaluate when conducting a split-test of your message’s content, as it will tell you which elements are more compelling for audience engagement.

2. Conversion Rate
What is it? Conversion rate is the rate of message recipients who take the action you desired for the message to accomplish. This can be responses, donations, event registrations, volunteer mobilization, etc. (ultimately, your goals).

Why should you care? Conversion rate shows you the effectiveness of your call-to-action. Conversions can be tied to revenue when you place a specific dollar value on an action, allowing you to calculate revenue generated directly from an email send.

3. Bounce Rate
What is it? Bounce rate is the rate of messages that are undeliverable to recipients. There are two types of bounce rates: 1) soft bounces and 2) hard bounces. Soft bounces are temporarily-undeliverable messages (e.g., when a recipient’s inbox is full). Hard bounces are permanently-undeliverable messages (e.g., when a recipient’s email address is invalid or no longer exists).

Why should you care? For soft bounces, the recipient’s email client may hold the message until the inbox has room, and some email service providers will automatically re-send your message a number of times before the address becomes classified as a hard bounce. If you are evaluating these on your own, you’ll want to monitor these for engagement and decide if the address is worth keeping in your active recipient list. Hard bounces, on the other hand, should be removed from your lists immediately because hard bounces are one of the key factors Internet service providers use to determine sender reputation. Check with your email service provider to see if it automatically removes hard bounces for you.

4. Subscription Rate
What is it? Subscription rate is the rate at which your audience grows and shrinks. This includes both the amount of new subscribers you receive as a result of your efforts to increase your audience base and the amount of subscribers who unsubscribe from your database or mark your message as spam.

Why should you care? There will always be a natural ebb and flow to your audience size, and it’s not detrimental if a handful of people unsubscribe from each message. Where you find trouble is if a large number of subscribers lodge spam complaints, or if you notice an inordinate number of unsubscribes in a particular message. These could indicate your message has gone off-topic and no longer satisfies the expectations you set forth in your welcome series.

5. Sharing Rate
What is it? Sharing rate is the rate of recipients who forward your message or share it on their social networks.

Why should you care? Since you’re following email design best practices and providing ways for your audience to easily share your content with their friends and colleagues, you will need to monitor how they are doing so? Which channels are they using? Which calls-to-action generate the most shares (hint: this is a great testing opportunity)?

A Note About Open Rate: You may be wondering why open rate is not on the list. It was not left off by oversight, but rather because it is a tricky metric that can be unreliable at best and misleading at worst. Open rate represents the rate of recipients who open your message, but due to the methods email clients use to report opens, the use of preview panes, and the rising use of image-blocking software, this figure can be easily skewed. Do not discount it all together, though. Open rate remains the key metric in reviewing the success of your subject lines, pre-header calls-to-action, timing and frequency, and “from” information (basically, anything that affects subscribers before they open your message). The use of the top five metrics listed above are more important for determining your message’s true impact on your audience, while using open rate is more of a loose barometer for success.

Share in the comments the goals you’ve set and how you plan to use the metrics above to analyze your email marketing performance.

Amber V Hammond is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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The challenge I am facing is sending mass mailers to federal agencies like the DoD. Their firewall strips any image I have embedded in my emails and do not allow HTML, so it makes it difficult to do any tracking. Any pointers you can tell me?