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Will the Real Key Email Metrics Please Stand Up?

By: Favian Castillo

You received some solid data from your recent email marketing campaign, but are these the real indicators of success or are they just imitating? There are some key marketing metrics out there that, if interpreted incorrectly, could give a false account of positive return on your campaigns. That’s why it’s important to know what to test and how to test it.

In this blog, I’ll uncover some misleading metrics along with the real keys to success for email marketing to make sure you don’t lose yourself.

This Email Did Amazing! Let’s Recycle the Same Content

In college, I dressed as Batman for every party I attended. For a while, I received praise and laughs and soaked in every second of it—until one night I was greeted with, “Oh. You’re still doing that, huh?” I retired my party utility belt the next day. What’s the point of telling this story from my “party glory days?” People get tired of seeing the same thing! Learn from your successes, analyze what’s working, and apply them to new content so that you are always rotating creative. Try some new video marketing or shake things up with new writing style and tone. Be unpredictable in a good way. It’s more exciting for your audience.

Key #1: keep it fresh!

The Importance of Subject Line

You know your subject line affects your email’s open rate but are you measuring how it affects downstream metrics like clicks, click to open rate, and unsubscribe rates? Think of your subject line as the introductory handshake before a discussion—be transparent, be direct, and be interesting. Take a look at these subject line tips to help improve your copy and the recipient’s experience. A good subject line might attract a recipient’s curiosity. A great one gets their attention. High open rates do not correlate to high click-to-open rates. Therefore, we needed to look at overall engagement.

Key #2: look at the BIG picture!

Click-Through Rate to Measure Email Performance

Click-through rate is unique clicks/emails delivered. This metric lets you know how the entire email faired but not specifically how copy and imagery worked within it. CTR does NOT factor into what happened with deliverability. To measure the content and its performance in the email itself, you’ll have to use click-to-open rate. This is unique clicks/unique opened emails, meaning it tells you how the email performed AFTER it was opened.

If you’re handing out samples at Costco:

  • You’re a saint.

  • Click-through-rate is the number of approving nods you get before they try.

  • Click-to-open rate is the number of nods you get after they taste.

Sure, they might like the idea of the name Bacon Butter Batter, but if they try it and spit it out, you’re definitely not getting the sale. On the other hand, the look of the batter might gross most people out which may hide the fact that the brave few who tried it absolutely loved it. If your deliverability isn’t doing so hot, your click-through rate will suffer, but it doesn’t indicate what happens after the email is opened. A subject line that beats the control on open rate but loses on click-to-open rate is not necessarily the winner.

Key #3—don’t confuse your clicks!

Email Delivered? We’ll Keep Them on Our List

Speaking of deliverability, have you ever had a package shipped to your house and found it “cleverly” hidden under your welcome mat or in the bushes? Or maybe you were home waiting, but the driver simply left it on your doorstep without a knock or doorbell ring? Technically speaking, the package has been delivered but not properly.

Emails can suffer the same fate (in a digital sense.) The deliverability rate of your email list is vital to any and every campaign you send as it can affect future campaign deliveries. Monitor it by managing soft (temporary) and hard (permanently failing) bounces, maximize inboxing (% of emails that hit inbox), and cleaning up your lists. If you stagger your sends by engagement, you’ll see higher deliverability rates and much higher inboxing.

Key #4—handle with care!


Don’t confuse your clicks, keep it fresh, look at the big picture, and handle with care. With some testing and updates to your marketing strategy, you’ll be rocking the mic in no time. For a few more key measures, I recommend checking out this beefy list of metrics to test by our email marketing deity Michael Madden.


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