Performance analysis and continuous improvement must be part and parcel of every email marketing strategy. In fact, the world’s most successful agencies and marketers make a habit of regularly measuring the success of their emails.
Assessing the performance of your campaigns lets you uncover a number of important insights, including:
- Whether your email even reach your target audience
- How it performed
- What was the return on investment
It all starts with the right data. Marketing platforms today provide an abundance of analytics to help measure the success of your campaigns.
In part three our ongoing The Building Blocks of Email Campaign Marketing series, we leverage expert insights from Vendasta Director of Content Marketing Dan McLean, Snov Labs Localization Manager Helen Holovach, and Aweber Marketing Specialist Kelly Forst on the three core email marketing metrics to track.
Table of Contents
- Email campaign marketing metrics: Key metric #2 - The click-through rate
- Email campaign marketing metrics: Key metric #3 - Unsubscribe rate
- Bonus tips
Email campaign marketing metrics: Key metric #1 - The open rate
Open rate is the ratio of opened emails compared to the total amount of sent emails (bounces excluded). As an example, if you send 118 emails, 18 of them return as hard or soft bounces (due to an invalid or full email inbox), and 10 messages are opened, your open rate will be 10 percent.
McLean says your email’s subject line is the biggest determinant of whether a subscriber opens your email.
“It needs to catch the reader’s attention and should be relevant to the business owner,” he says.
Holovach suggests setting an initial open rate target of 20 percent and following campaign statistics regularly to monitor any sudden changes.
The following bar graph from HubSpot also provides a useful point of reference for open rates across various industries, and can be used to compare your performance against peers. The top performing sectors in the context of emails opened tend to be those who offer products and services which consumers become highly emotional about, such as real estate (an average of 26 percent) and education (23 percent). Business emails rank slightly lower with a 20 percent open rate average.
Pro tips on increasing open rates
The best email subject lines give your subscribers instant value by telling them exactly what they can expect from reading your email, according to Forst.
She uses a series of formulas to ensure her subject lines are descriptive and state the intended goal of the campaign. For example:
- [Number] ways/strategies to [desired end goal]
- Example: 10 ways to get more email subscribers
- How to [desired end goal] even if [barrier to accomplish desired end goal]
- Example: How to design a website even if you don’t have coding skills
- [Action verb] with/by [lead magnet/desired end goal]]
- Example: Kickstart your business with our Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing
McLean recommends using online tools such as subjectline.com, that uses algorithms to evaluate and give a score out of 100 to your subject lines.
“It bases the effectiveness of your subject lines on various factors such as character length, structure and keywords used,” he says.
Preheaders, sometimes known as “preview text” or “Johnson’s box,” give subscribers greater context for the email message or let marketers subtly add in a call to action.
“Pre-header is the part of an email displayed in the Inbox right after the subject line. If you leave it blank, your email will hardly look professional, and the desire to open it will be low. Use it as an extra element that converts people,” she says.
Take for example a selection of emails below. The black-bolded text in the middle is the subject line, while the text marked in the red fields are preheaders. Each augments the message by adding more value to the subject line or by giving a more personable “feel” to the email.
Email campaign marketing metrics: Key metric #2 - The click-through rate
The click-through rate (CTR) measures how many subscribers clicked on an asset link which was included in the email such as a hyperlink, call-to-action button or an image. It’s calculated by taking the total number of clicks an email receives, and dividing that number by the total number of delivered messages.
This rate will always be less than the open rate and vary dramatically based on the type of email sent. Content-oriented emails generally have higher open and click-through rates as compared to sales and re-engagement campaigns.
The average CTR rate across industries calculated by Hubspot is provided below and shows a different story to open rates by sector. In the case of click-through rates, manufacturing-related emails receive the most clicks (9.31 percent) followed by health (8.94 percent)), whereas the least engaging campaigns are from the financial (6.82 percent) and telecommunications (7.11 percent) industries. Business emails average at 8.01 percent.
“If your CTRs are strong, then your content is resonating with the audience and this is a good step toward conversion,” McLean says.
Pro tips on increasing CTRs
Forst says the most common mistake marketers make is succumbing to the temptation of including multiple calls to action (CTA) in the hopes that subscribers will click on at least one.
“Too many links can distract and overwhelm your subscribers, decreasing CTRs in your emails. To get optimal click-through rates, only include one call-to-action in your email to focus your subscribers on taking a single action,” she says.
For example, the below email from EOFire provides one clear CTA for subscribers, and in turn time-starved readers appreciate only needing to decide on one thing.
McLean says if your CTRs are declining or below the industry average, you might be making the potential mistake of not understanding what your audience wants to hear from you, which he discussed in our first blog in this series.
“You might be doing something right in getting them to open the email, but if they’re not clicking on it that might be an issue with the underlying content you’ve provided for that segment of your audience,” he says.
He suggests going back to the drawing board and investigating factors such as:
- Is the content you’re sending relevant to your audience or the particular segment being targeted?
- Is your call-to-action too low in your email? It should appear no lower than the second paragraph.
- Are you recycling the same old messages, sales offers, and content assets?
- Is there too much content in the email and subscribers are feeling overwhelmed?
- Have the needs of your readers changed?
Holovach says another reason why some emails don’t achieve satisfactory CTRs is because they don’t use simple language and keep it short.
“Do not demonstrate your whole vocabulary of idioms and difficult words. Compose your emails as if eighth-graders will read them: be simple and easy-to-understand,” she says.
If you doubt whether your email is clear, use a tool like Hemingway. It will check the text readability and help you simplify it.
Email campaign marketing metrics: Key metric #3 - Unsubscribe rate
The unsubscribe rate is the ratio of people who click the unsubscribe link or button in the email to the number of people who received and opened an email.
“An unsubscribe rate of around 1 percent is considered okay if you are a novice. But professionals stand their ground: an unsubscribe rate of over 0.5 percent. This means that you need to work on your emails and reduce the rate. The perfect unsubscribe rate is 0.2 percent,” Holovach says.
The following graph from HubSpot shows the average unsubscribe rate by industry per email. It could serve as a useful reference point for agencies on what to expect, with business emails achieving an average unsubscribe rate of 0.5 percent.
While agencies and marketers may loathe seeing subscribers opt-out of their mailing list, it’s important to remember that, by and large, losing people from your marketing list is inevitable.
Small and medium businesses (SMB) unsubscribe for many reasons - their business may no longer be operating or they could have been deciding between several agencies. Where it becomes an issue is if your unsubscribe rates are repeatedly spiking well above industry averages.
Pro tips on reducing unsubscribe rates
McLean says dealing with the issue of elevated unsubscribe rates comes back to the issue of messaging, segmentation, and frequency.
For agencies dealing with this issue, he suggests asking the following questions with respect to your strategy:
- Do your emails put the customer at the center or are they a blatant sales pitch?
- Is what you’re saying in those emails right for the segment you are targeting?
- Are you sending too many emails to the point where readers are getting turned off?
“If the emails have no value for SMBs or you’re carpet-bombing them with messages, you might want to revisit your strategy,” McLean says.
Holovach encourages marketers who notice surging unsubscription rates to stop the bleeding by slowing down on their emails.
“Email frequency and timing are two other things marketers forget about. The rule the more, the better doesn’t work. According to the Campaign Monitor research, 69 percent of customers unsubscribe because of too frequent emails. That’s not the percentage you’d like to join,” she says.
In particular, she recommends waiting at least one week in between sending emails for nurture campaigns and cold sales outreach emails.
Forst says that as your marketing list grows, it can be hard to ensure you understand what type of content all your segments want to consume.
“A good way to identify these subscribers is by sending out a survey. Ask questions about the type of content they’d like to receive and how frequently, as well as what they expect from your emails. With the feedback you receive, you can learn a lot about your list,” she says.
Email campaign marketing metrics: Bonus tips
Believe it or not, there are ways to boost the performance of your email campaigns with little to no additional extra effort. Check out these bonus tips, below, from our experts.
Bonus tip #1 - A/B testing
Throughout your email campaign marketing journey, McLean recommends A/B or split testing. This entails dividing your audience or segment into two groups and sending the same core message with slight variations, such as to the subject lines or send times.
“This can be immensely helpful in gauging those nuances which can lead to a substantial performance uplift of your emails,” he says.
Bonus tip #2 - Make it mobile friendly
Research shows that 85 percent of consumers use smartphones to access email. Given this, First says it’s critical for marketers to ensure their email campaigns are “mobile friendly” rather than merely “mobile responsive.” This is an important distinction as the former scales emails down to fit the size of the screen, but doesn’t adjust for layouts or fonts.
She points to the below example of a mobile friendly email which is difficult to read due to the layout containing too much information with small fonts.
Compare that to this mobile responsive email, below, where fonts and images are resized for the small screen and double columns converted to single columns:
By measuring the success of your emails, you can identify ways to improve and make your campaigns more engaging and drive higher conversions. However, it’s important that agencies monitor the right data and on an ongoing basis.
- Open, click-through, and unsubscribe rates are the three most important data points to track
- If you’re underperforming across all these metrics, you may want to pause and double-check if you really understand your audience
- Direct subject lines, pre-headers, and a small batch of high-quality content with a clear CTA are the key to getting readers’ attention
- Ensure your emails are mobile friendly, not just mobile responsive
This article was part of our ongoing The Building Blocks of Email Campaign Marketing series. In the next article, we’ll discuss one of the most overlooked aspects of email campaign marketing.
- Access part one ‘4 common mistakes to avoid in email campaign marketing’ here.
- Access part two ‘5 steps for effective email campaign marketing’ here.
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You can also check out Vendasta’s email marketing solutions here.