Tom Peters promises “What get’s measured gets done.” Whether that’s a to-do list, a business operating plan or a scale for losing weight.
Tracking, measuring and bench-marking are all code for “keep track of what you do so that you can use it to determine if you are on the right course.”
We believe that just as important as taking measurements is making sure what you measure is valid and meaningful – results you can use to make change and progress toward a goal.
Open rates have long been a primary metric to measure engagement. I hear a lot of associations say, “We have a very strong open rate. Ours is 30%+!”
At least five respected sources over the past year explain ‘away’ open rates as a no longer effective e-mail measurement. Here are three metrics to track instead that will give you both an indication about who’s reading, but more valuable WHAT they are reading.
Three Measurements Always Track
1) Click-through Rate – Your “Day-to-Day” Email Marketing Metric
- Click-through rate (CTR) helps you see the performance for every article you link to from your newsletter. Trend your click-through rates over time.
- Click-through rates give you direct insight into how many people on your list are engaging with your content and interested in learning more about certain topics or information.
2) Conversion Rate
- After a recipient has clicked a link in your email, the next goal is typically to get them to convert on your offer — in other words, to take the action that your email asks them to take. Using a unique website landing page for an offer can help you even more accurately measure conversion for an email offer. Create dedicated event or class landing pages, or legal reference pages for example.
- Conversion is directly tied to the call-to-action in your email. Your call-to-action should link to the overall goal of your email. If you make this link, conversion rate can be one of the most effective metrics for determining if you’re achieving your communications goals.
3) Bounce Rate
Bounce rate measures the percentage of your total emails sent that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox. We will not review soft bounces here. The important metric is “hard” bounces.
- Hard bounces are the result of an invalid, closed, or non-existent email address. As a result these emails will never reach the recipient.
- You should remove hard bounce addresses from your email list every month. If you don’t, you will never be able to adequately measure your performance.
Two Metrics You Don’t Need to Track Closely
It’s worth mentioning that there are also a couple of email marketing metrics that really aren’t worth tracking closely.
1) Open Rate
Most marketers bend over backwards trying to optimize their subject lines for higher open rates. Don’t stop working for relevant subject lines! But the fact of the matter is that open rate is actually a misleading metric for a few reasons. Most importantly, an email is only counted as “opened” if the recipient also receives the images embedded in that message. A large percentage of your email users likely have image-blocking enabled on their email client. This means that even if they open the email, they won’t be included in your open rate, making it an inaccurate and unreliable metric, as it misrepresents your true numbers.
2) Unsubscribe Rate
- The unsubscribe rate isn’t a reliable picture of the health of your email list. Members who are tired of receiving, or disinterested in your emails won’t bother to go through the formal unsubscribe process. They’ll just stop opening, reading, and clicking on your email messages.
- Rather than unsubscribe, it’s much more effective to measure subscriber engagement by click-through rates and conversion rates.
Five Top Takeaways from Five Industry Sources
1. Don’t pop the champagne based on your open rates.
If you are putting out quality information for your members to read, encourage them to whitelist you by adding your email address to their address book, or by selecting ‘Always Display Images from firstname.lastname@example.org.’
2. The % of readers on a mobile device is only getting larger.
We hear up to 90% read on mobile. This means the misrepresentation of open rates is likely to increase.
3. Clicks matter.
We can debate all we want about the open rate, but clicks are clicks. Either somebody clicked, or they didn’t, regardless of email client and image downloading behavior. So don’t fire your communications director over a decrease in the click to open rate: he’s probably not lost his touch. Be sure to consider the open rate argument and use clicks as intel for future content decisions.
4. Since clicks are key:
– Include a call to action in all messages to properly track campaign performance.
– Lots of traffic is from mobile: make sure your landing pages are mobile-ready.
5. Be intentional with what metrics you’re tracking.
When you can determine who is interested in what topic (clicks), if your email list is healthy (remove hard bounces) and know you’re making progress on your communications goals, you’re on the right track for more effective email marketing.
Credits: Constant Contact, Pinpointe, Mailup and Hubspot. And since many of you use MailChimp, they concur with this information too!