Take a closer look at your email metrics


iMedia Connection

Get a better understanding of what certain email metrics mean with this four-point guide.

You can read just about any email marketing industry newsletter today and find good information from industry experts on a variety of topics. However, in all this goodness there is a growing frequency of comments highlighting the lack of standardized reporting and reduced confidence in certain metrics. Unfortunately, these are the metrics we have to work with, so what do we do?

Relax. While the industry is changing, the baseline metrics we use today are still the foundation for practical campaign analysis. They remain indicators of how your programs are performing. Because reporting varies across ESPs, and because no report is 100 percent complete, you must analyze the numbers by asking yourself a few basic questions and applying fundamental best practices. For example:

What is my database attrition rate?
Manage your opt-outs like any other baseline metric. Knowing your attrition can provide insight into your acquisition strategy. Is it organic? Append or list rental? Third-party co-reg? You then need to drill down to the source of the list attrition. Are you receiving a large number of opt-out requests? Do you receive a lot of spam complaints? Are you losing data to bad data formatting, or do you have old data? Each source tells a different story. It is important to examine the difference. For example, if you have email addresses containing keystroke errors, the loss of data could be remedied by utilizing a validation script at the point of subscription or leveraging a double opt-in message, never allowing the bad address to make it into your database. However, an unsubscribe exhibits a customer that does not want to receive your email because you have not delivered on a promise. Frequency and relevancy issues tend to drive unsubscribes.

What is my database growth rate?
The idea is that you are growing your database more quickly than you are losing data. If your attrition rate is outpacing your data growth, then there may be some issues with your acquisition practices. Identify the sources of your data and determine where you see the most growth. Looking at your acquisition numbers in conjunction with your attrition analysis is going to provide you with the greatest insight and help you drive the strategy of data growth.

What is my open rate?
Your open rates aren’t likely as high as they once were. With the further adoption of image suppression by email clients, more and more email marketers are seeing this metric in a downward spiral. But rather than worry about it, let’s find a positive application for this behavior. First you need to look at open behavior by receiving domain. So let’s look at an audience of AOL recipients for this exercise. You’d first look to see how many of those AOL recipients opened your most recent message. Say you find that 15 percent of your AOL audience opened your message, what does this tell you? It tells you that 15 percent of your AOL audience viewed your email with images on. The AOL email client defaults to images off — so that means that 15 percent of your AOL audience took some action to see your message. I would bet that same audience is more engaged with your brand than the 85 percent that didn’t take the action.

What is my clickthrough rate?
Clickthrough rates don’t lie. Someone had to physically take action for that click to record. But what does it tell you? Looking at unique clickers is a solid indicator of recipient behavior, and drawing trends against that behavior will help to drive success of future campaigns. Is it the location of the link, the creative treatment or the actual words that drove the recipient to click? As you begin trending this information, the drivers behind the behavior become more transparent and can even help you identify new audiences within your customer base. Coupling clickthrough data with web analytics can take that analysis even further — but you have to crawl before you can walk.

While these metrics are basic in nature, there’s always more you can glean. You just need to look a little deeper than you once did — break out the magnifying glass and get to work.


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