All Email Service Providers (ESP) provide reports as part of their platform or offerings, but they all do it a bit differently. If you want to be able to navigate your campaign data in any setting, here are some of the concepts you should be familiar with.
It’s unlikely that you’re going to going an email out to everyone on your list. Most of the time, your campaigns are going to report back with bounced emails that were unable to be delivered. So, if you have a list of 20,000 email addresses, you might be able to reach, say...19,398 of them. This is the number you should be using to calculate unsubscribe and open rates (more on this later).
Bounced emails come in two forms: hard bounces and soft bounces. A hard bounce is an email address that can NEVER be delivered. These can be deleted usernames of inactive domains, which ESP’s usually automatically scrub from your list so you don’t keep trying to send to them. A soft bounce is when an email doesn’t get through on a one-time basis. For example, if a user’s mailbox is full, they might not receive your emails until they clear up some room. Generally, if a soft bounce occurs 3-5 times in a row, they are categorized as a hard bounce and removed from future campaigns.
Your unsubscribe rate is a pretty simple way for you to monitor the health of your email campaigns. Too much frequency and lack of relevance are the top two reasons people tend to unsubscribe from mailing lists. Relevance is a big one –– if you don’t add any value to your audience, they aren’t going to be interested in anything you have to say. Frequency, on the other hand, is more flexible. If your information is solid, customers won’t mind hearing from you often. Things like coupons and deals are well-suited for daily emails, whereas product updates and branded communications should be sent out less often.
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Spam complaints are a data point you want to keep a close eye on. A general best practice is to stay below a rate of one complaint for every thousand emails. If you’re beyond this level, it’s time to review your opt-in process and lead sources to understand why your messages are resonating negatively. This is important, because if your spam complaint levels get too high, you’ll run into problems with your ESP’s deliverability team.
Open rates get a lot of attention when it comes to email campaign data, and this makes sense, because a high open rate indicates that you’re doing something right with your subject line or segmentation strategy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that open rates are only one element of good email marketing. If you’re getting a bunch of opens but no sales, then you need to re-examine your email content to see why it’s not converting. When you do look at open rates, make sure you’re tracking unique opens. Multiple opens don’t offer much value, since it’s unlikely a reader will intentionally visit your email more than once.
Click tracking is an exceptionally valuable way to understand audience behavior. At the end of the day, when you send an email, it’s because you want your readers to take a specific action (one that is probably linked in the email content). It doesn’t matter if people on your list open your email if they don’t follow through on your CTA, which is why clicks are so important. Tracking them gives you insight into not only how many readers are taking action, but also helps fine-tune design and pinpoint the best-performing features of your emails. For example, if you include the same link in your email in three separate places, which location gets the most clicks, and why? This knowledge can help you craft more effective emails moving forward.
If you’re working with your own mailing list, take some time to look at the actual email addresses that have opened and clicked on your campaign. I like to do this and notice who is engaging with my messages. Some emails perform strongly with new leads while others resonate more with previous customers and enthusiastic followers. Sometimes it will lead to a conversation, and more than once it leads to a new client!
Mitch Tarr is the author of Email Marketing Mastery: Accelerate Your Business Using Email Marketing.