Word of the Week: Metrics

Posted by Tom Sather on

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” goes the saying and marketers live and die by their numbers.  What we measure helps determine how successful our email program really is.  These metrics include bounces, opens, clicks, inbox placement, render, delivered, rejected, unknown user, spam trap, inactive, conversions, unsubscribe, deliverability, and the list goes on.  I’ve gathered articles from the past couple of weeks that discuss email marketing metrics and how to measure and use them.

Raymon Ray for Business Insider discusses four popular metrics that all email marketers use:  open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and most importantly ROI.  While he calculates open rates by total number of sent emails multiplied by ten and then divided by total sent, others may actually divide opens by total successful delivered. Still others may even use opened divided by inbox placement rate, which in my opinion is a better gauge of how many people actually received your email in their inbox and were actually interested enough to open it.  I do realize this can be skewed by those subscribers that actually move email from the spam folder to the inbox.  The calculation of ROI in the article is simplified to understand and can be more complex depending on your situation, but the idea is straightforward.

In a Business2Community article, they dive more deeply into the open rate, and calculate it by emails opened divided by emails sent and bounce emails which is more accurate.  However, they bring up a point that has been a point of contention for most marketers.  Most email readers and webmail providers suppress images by default which means your open tracking device isn’t registering an open for most of your subscribers.  They could be reading the text with images off in the preview pane, or maybe the brand impression of the email prompted them to go directly to your website without actually clicking through on the email.  This means that open rates can be tricky, and not entirely accurate.

There’s more you can do with these metrics to help boost ROI.  MarketingProfs recently published a great article summarizing a MailerMailer report that showed opens are more prominent in the morning (my guess is that most of them are mobile readers), that shorter subject lines had higher response rates, and that personalization had three times the opens of emails that didn’t.

My colleague George Bilbrey also presented some of the most commonly confused definitions of email metrics for his Email Insider column.  It’s a must read for anyone in the business, even if it’s just for a refresher.

Have you written or ran across any great articles about email metrics?  Leave them in the comments below or email me so I can feature them in another post on email metrics!


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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