Breaking Down Five Key Email Marketing Metrics

The most crucial element of all your email marketing efforts is RESULTS. Yes, that beautifully aesthetic infographic with your brand colors looks great, but your efforts will be fruitless if people aren’t opening your emails and taking action. After all, effective email marketing is about converting prospects into customers, and turning one-time buyers into repeat customers and brand advocates.

To achieve these goals, you must take a thorough look at your email key metrics. Although email strategy varies by industry, brand, product, and many other variables, the same key metrics apply to all email campaigns. In my experience, with content and email marketing, the most challenging task is putting aside your personal opinions and preferences and simply studying the results. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the types of results you should be keeping an eye out for.

What Kind of Results Should I Be Looking For?

You can measure results via open-rates, clicks, SPAM marks, and form submissions; the options are plentiful. Sifting through terms and numbers in reports has its challenges, and in reality, aren’t always quite as helpful as they appear.

Look at the “Email Analysis Report” headers in Eloqua, a basic level report without any additions or custom columns. (Note: these appear in one column in the report, but I have separated them for readability purposes in this article.)

When exporting results from Eloqua Insight, the above is received. In the past, I looked at such reports and had little idea how to determine the success of the email. However, there are some key indicators here and discrepancies that are important to note. Let’s take a look at these below:

Eloqua Insights
Eloqua Insights 2
note: (these would all be one column in a report but have been separated out for readability for this article)

Key Metrics Defined

A common mistake made during analysis is thinking the “Open Rate” is a significant indicator of success. Not to say that the open rate doesn’t matter, but big picture, it is minuscule regarding email campaign performance and ROI.

Below I have outlined five primary metrics and their definitions, and why it is crucial to understand the differences. I have given each metric a rating on a 1-5 scale in terms of overall importance, five being the highest.

Please note: this scale is my professional opinion, not a universally defined right or wrong.

1) Open Rate: The percentage rate at which emails sent are opened
Indicator Rating: 1
Key note: Generic open rate (OR) is often over-emphasized. It’s not without its errors; for example, I could open the email fifty times, but this does not mean that fifty individuals opened the email! A subscriber could open the email, with the only intention of hitting the ‘’unsubscribe’’ button, yet this still counts as an open.

Furthermore, new technology in ios15 activates tracking pixels from a remote server due to “Protecting Mail Activity” of first-time users opening the email app on their iPhone.

This means that a person may never even see the email, yet mail activity counts it as an open. Ultimately the OR still matters, but it is nowhere near as relevant as it once was.

2) Unique Open Rate: The number of unique recipient opens divided by the total opens
Indicator Rating: 2
Key takeaway: Any unique metric is always worth more as it indicates the number of people, not the number of opens. When measuring success, it is far more advantageous to know how many people opened it vs. how many times. Again, opens can be exaggerated, and an open to unsubscribe is accounted for here.

3) Unique Click-through Rate: The number of unique recipient clicks divided by the total clicks
Indicator Rating: 3
Key takeaway: The same concept as a unique open rate, but the clickthrough activity is a key measure of engagement. Purchases, signups, etc., usually can’t be achieved without a clickthrough, so this measures the number of people who felt motivated enough by the message to move to the next steps.

4) Click-to-Open Rate: Compares the number of people who clicked on an email link to the total number of people who opened that email.
Indicator Rating: 4
Key note: A number I always weigh heavily; this indicates the number of people who first opened the email and then felt compelled to take action and click through. A prospect may open an email based on a subject line, but that’s only step one. The message may need work if no action is taken within the email itself and no clicks occur. A campaign with an open rate of 60% and a Click-to-Open rate of 3% is less successful than a campaign with an open rate of 40% and a Click-to-Open rate of 18%.

5) Conversion Rate: Percentage of contacts who clicked on the email and followed through with a form submission or desired action.
Indicator Rating: 5
Key takeaway: Conversion rating is not a term generated in the Eloqua report example above, but the concept is the same as Unique Form Submissions. Ultimately, the goal of an email campaign is action. Therefore, it’s the conversion rate that is the most crucial. List and sample size are always relevant, but when I look at an email’s success, the conversion rate is always what I emphasize the most.

In an ever-increasing remote environment, the relevancy of email campaigns continues to grow. The cost of adequate resources and tools to succeed can also be high, so it’s crucial to understand results and decipher the numbers correctly.

In this article, I merely covered five metrics related to the content; I did not get into bounce messages, deliverability, and other metrics that can be just as important as a conversion rate. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking ”email is email,” and that results can be universally applied. Understand your message, metrics, and results to successfully execute email campaigns. I hope this blog helps you as a starting point to effectively measure your email campaign goals!