Email Marketing, Resources and Research

Email Marketing Metrics… what do they all mean and how they can help you?

Now I’ll admit it, I love looking at metrics! My colleagues will tell you they hear my gasps of excitement on a regular basis when I am strolling through Google Analytics and come across something of note. However you don’t have to be a lover of metrics to cover off some of the basics and put them to good use.

There are many benchmark reports (including our own Email Marketing Metrics Report) that you can use to help analyse your results. These are often helpful when you are just starting out and have nothing to compare with. However it’s not a good idea to rely solely on these benchmarks. If your numbers are better than average, will you stop trying to improve? No, so try and focus on your own numbers and trends, and improving them.


These metrics are easy to find, easy to understand and provide a good indication of how your emails are performing in terms of reaching and engaging your recipients.

Open Rate

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
Open Rate measures how many times an email message was opened.*

Most email marketing systems track this automatically for you.

If you send a message to 5,000 people.

1,200 of them open it.

Your open rate is 1,200 / 5,000 or 25%.

Your Open Rate indicates how well you are being recognised by your recipients. There are two main things that you can test and refine to increase your Open Rates.

  • A “from name” that the recipient knows and trusts. For example if someone has signed up for a newsletter from “ABC company” but you are sending your newsletters from the parent company name “DEF company” this may not resonate.
  • A compelling subject line that entices recipients to open your email. Your subject line should be intriguing – ask a question or state a benefit. In my experience subject lines that show a benefit perform better than purely descriptive subject lines.

*The system will identify that a contact has opened an email, when either:

  • Images within the email are viewed or downloaded (even within the preview pane of the email client, eg Outlook); or
  • When a link within the email is clicked on.

Typically, many email clients like Outlook can be configured to disable images within emails. Therefore, if the contact does not enable the display of images and if they do not click on any links, the system can not detect that the contact has opened the email.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
Click Through Rate is a measure of how many times each link in your email is clicked.

Most email marketing systems track this automatically for you. Vision6 also tracks unique CTR’s relative to the number of people who opened the email.

If you send a message to 5,000 people and 1,200 people open it.

That message has three links in it.

The number of people that click a link is 200.

Your click rate is 200 / 1,200 or 17%.

Discover which parts of your email are most popular with recipients so that you can continue to develop your email design and content. To improve your CTR’s

  • Include a strong call to action. Be clear on what action you want people to take from your email. A simple call to action with a link or relevant image can increase CTR’s.
  • Consider changing the format of your email, this can have a dramatic effect on your CTR. Your current newsletter may be too wordy, if this is the case reduce the amount of text by using ‘read more’ links and landing pages.

Unsubscribe Rate

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
Unsubscribe Rate measures the rate of people who are leaving your list. If you send a message to 5,000 people.

25 of them unsubscribe (opt out).

Your Unsubscribe Rate is 25 / 5,000 or 0.5%.

Keep an eye on who is unsubscribing, it can help you identify:

  • if your content is relevant or irrelevant,
  • if you are emailing your subscribers to often,
  • whether you are using the right channels to get people to sign up, or
  • if your content is stale.

If people are signing up and then quickly unsubscribing, you may need to adjust how you are attracting people as they are probably no longer receiving what they anticipated.

If you see long-time subscribers leaving, your content may have become stale.

Bounce Rate

What is it? Example calculation How this can help
Bounce Rate is the rate of emails that are returned to the sender, because they cannot be delivered for a given reason

They can be categorised as:

Permanent Bounces (AKA hard bounce) this usually means the email address is incorrect or is no longer in operation.

Temporary Bounces (AKA soft bounce) the email address is temporarily unavailable, often because ‘server time expired’ or ‘mailbox full.’

If you send a message to 5,000 people.

250 of them bounced.

Your bounce rate is 250 / 5,000 or 5%.

Permanent bounces should be treated like unsubscribes and removed from your list (the Vision6 system auto-deactivates contacts after three hard bounces).

If your bounce rate is regularly around 6% or higher it’s time to take note as you may be well overdue for a data cleanse. If your data is mostly made up of customers you may be able to contact them using another method (such as phone or point of sale) to update contact details.


These metrics will help you to determine the ‘health’ of your email marketing list and answer the question “is your list growing or shrinking and why?”

Email List Size

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
Email List Size  is (obviously) the size of your list.

If your list is segmented it is a good idea to track how many contacts are in each segment.

Customers who have opted in for emails = 1,500

Potential customers who have opted in for emails = 300

Email List Size = 1,800

By looking at the segments you get a much better idea of how you can expect your email campaigns to perform.

For example if you are in the automotive industry and your list is primarily made up of people who have purchased a car recently; then your emails promoting new car sales may not be effective as a purchase of a new car is usually only done every few years. You may need to expand your list growth activities and look at additional ways to collect more subscribers.

New Subscribers

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
New Subscribers are the number of people who sign up in a specific period (this will depend on how often you send out your emails).

A good way to do this is to track new subscribers, one week after your last email. For example if you send an email newsletter once a month, collate this metric once a month.

As your popularity grows, so should this number.

New subscribers per month:

January = 47
February = 45
March = 50
3 month total = 117

By keeping track of New Subscribers you can make decisions like where to place your ‘subscribe’ webforms on your website. If you increase the exposure of your sign up form the number of New Subscribers should increase.

You can also use offers and incentives to attract New Subscribers. This could be a discount code, voucher or free resource such as an ebook.

Growth Rate

What is it? Example calculation How this can help?
Growth Rate is a measure of how quickly your list is growing (or shrinking).

To get a Growth Rate metric find the number of new subscribers, subtract the number of unsubscribes and divide by email list size.

If your email list size was 5,000.

You gained 150 contacts.

45 unsubscribed.

Your Growth Rate is: (150 – 45) / 5,000 or +2.1%.

If your Growth Rate is negative then you are haemorrhaging more contacts then you are gaining. If this is the case you will need to reassess your list growth procedures as well as your email campaigns themselves.

Hopefully your Growth Rate is a positive number and you can implement many of the examples I have already mentioned.

Remember to focus on your own numbers and trends, and always try to improve on them. Just tracking the numbers is pointless unless you have a plan to positively affect these metrics.

Posted by:
Belinda Walsh
Marketing Manager

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