Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


Email Marketing Metrics 101

How are you going to know if your emails are doing more and more of what you want them to do? Numbers, dear reader. Just like that useful collection of web metrics, there's a handy-dandy collection of email metrics waiting for you to apply to your mailings and newsletters.

The success of your online biz depends on building relationships with your customers. And that's the beauty of email. Do it right, and those who interact with you through email are even more likely to become long-term, loyal customers. So let's give some of those email metrics the once-over. 'Cause they're what's going to help you do it right.

Email List Metrics

You'll need a handle on the size of your list, its rate of growth and the nature of attrition. Your basic data collection should include:

Total number of subscribers. The number of people currently on your list who have agreed to receive mailings from you.

New Subscribers. The number of people who have opted-in to your list since your last mailing.

Unsubscribes. The number of people who have asked to be removed from your list since the last mailing (and whom you have dutifully and graciously removed).

Ideally, your list is growing by leaps and bounds - an indication you are bringing in suitable traffic and engaging interest. But unsubscribe rates that increase by leaps and bounds indicate you're not meeting your readers' needs - in which case it's back to the drawing board.

Nervous though you might get over unsubscribes, it's important to consider if opt-outers were recent subscribers or people who've been around for a while. You'll want to consider some possibilities:

∑ Is your list suffering from burn-out?

∑ Are you targeting appropriately?

∑ Have you made significant changes recently?

∑ Were the unsubscribers long-term, active customers?

Until you get answers to these questions, you won't really know if the loss was detrimental. Mark Brownlow reminds, "Itís quality, not quantity, that counts. If you lose 10% of your readership by changing your newsletter, but your impact and influence on the remaining 90% has improved tremendously, then the loss is a welcome one.Ē1

Basic Email Campaign Metrics

These are the basic numbers you want to identify for your mailings. The last two tell you the most about your conversion efforts.

Number sent. The total number of emails you sent. This could be different from your total number of subscribers if you're segmenting your list for testing purposes.

Number received. The total number of emails that were delivered. Calculate this by subtracting the number that bounced back from the total number sent.

Bounce Backs. The total number of emails that were rejected and not delivered. Email can be rejected because the email address is no longer valid, because a server filtered it out, or possibly because the receiver's mailbox was full and over quota (this often happens when you send email over the weekend to free email accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo).

Open Rate. The total number of emails that were opened divided by the total number of emails delivered. These results are only accurate in HTML emails.

Response Rate. The percent of unique readers who clicked on unique links embedded in the email. You can calculate a response rate for a unique link in several ways: the number of people clicking on the link divided by the number of emails

o opened.

o delivered.

o sent.

You can also calculate response rate on a global level using the number of individuals who clicked on any link. It's less important which way you calculate the metric, more important that you calculate it the same way every time.

The Venerable Open Rate

Open rates get lots of press, but do you know what your open rate is really telling you? Quite simply, the number measures how many of your HTML emails registered as opened. Does it mean the opened email was read? No. Does it indicate the recipient even skimmed the first line of the opened email? No. If we continue in this vein, all we can say for certain is that all emails that were read were opened. Who needed a number to tell us that?

So much for the open rate? Hardly. Look at it from the conversion point of view. Every good email communication should start by focusing on one action: persuade the recipient to open it. When the recipient opens that email, you have your first successful conversion. And once the mail is opened, the recipient is primed to move to the next micro-action in the conversion process.

Here are some of the factors - all of which the recipient evaluates before committing to that very first click - that affect open rates:

∑ Does the recipient recognize the sender?

∑ Does the recipient acknowledge a relationship with the sender?

∑ Is this relationship valuable to the recipient?

∑ To whom is the email is addressed?

∑ To which email account is the email sent?

∑ Does the recipient recognize where the sender got the address?

∑ Is the email personalized in a way the recipient understands and accepts?

∑ Does the subject line matter to the context of the relationship?

∑ Does the subject line tell them something they need to know?

∑ Does the subject line arouse their curiosity?

∑ Does the subject line speak to an emotions-based need?

∑ Has the mail been sent at the best time?

Everything that goes into getting a recipient to open an email constitutes a first test for the successful implementation of AIDA. Did you grab attention, arouse an interest, stimulate desire and provide a call for action? You know the answer is no if the email isnít opened.

There's a wealth of information in these metric babies. Just keep in mind my sacred metrics rule: a number is a number, but a trend is a thing of beauty. You can know very little about what is happening until you know if you are doing better or worse over time. So start a long-term relationship with some pretty neat numbers.


1 "Keeping The Key." Mark Brownlow, 2001. 


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