Email marketing is an essential strategy in any small business’ marketing plan. It’s effective in any stage of the customer journey, from brand awareness to brand loyalty. One of the most important aspects of the email marketing process is measuring its effectiveness, which is done by keeping track of its metrics and analytics. Here, we break down 10 important email marketing metrics you need to know and how to measure them.
What Are Email Marketing Metrics?
Email marketing metrics (or analytics) are benchmarks that measure the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign. Like web traffic on websites or clicks on digital ads, email metrics help you measure the success of the various parts of your campaign, from its headline to its content, to see which parts are effective and which need to be improved. Knowing these metrics can help you build better email campaigns that promote your brand presence.
Email marketing analytics are particularly important because email marketing campaigns consist of many variables, and finding the right combination for your business takes trial and error. For instance, your email’s subject line might get recipients to open your email, but your content may not be effective at getting them to click on your call to action (CTA). You’ll need to test these different variables, and then measure them using email marketing metrics.
Below are some of the most important email marketing analytics, along with industry average benchmarks for each, to help you learn how to measure email marketing success.
1. Open Rate
This is one of the most basic email marketing analytics. Open rate is simply the rate at which your recipients open your email in their inbox, which can indicate the effectiveness of your email’s subject line or the accuracy of your recipient list. The former, because your email subject line determines whether your recipients click on your email among hundreds of others in their inboxes, and the latter because it shows whether your email is relevant to your recipients.
How to Measure Email Open Rates
Email open rates are calculated as a percentage of the whole of your recipients list, i.e., how many of your recipients actually opened your email. Therefore, it’s calculated as:
Number of unique emails opened
x 100 = Open Rate
Total number of recipients
For example: If you sent an email to 200 recipients and only 150 of them opened your email, your email’s open rate would be 75%.
Once you calculate your open rate, you may be wondering whether the percentage you get is a good or bad one. The way to determine that is to evaluate it against current industry benchmarks. According to WebFX, the current industry standard for open rates is 19.21%. Therefore, anything above that is generally good, while anything below will likely need some improvement in your subject line or recipients list.
2. Click-through Rate (CTR)
You might have heard of click-through rates (CTRs) in other marketing strategies like digital ads and social media, but they also apply to email marketing. Click-through rates are another important way to measure your email marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) because they pinpoint how your recipients engage with the CTAs, buttons, and other clickable elements in your email.
These elements can be anything from a link to a blog post or a button leading recipients to purchase your product. In short, CTRs measure the “clickability” of your email. High click rates mean your recipients are highly engaged with your email and can even indicate the specific sections they’re most engaged in. Low click rates can mean a need to change your email copies or layout.
How to Measure Email Click-through Rates (CTR)
Click-through rates are also measured in percentages. They’re calculated by taking the percentage of people who clicked on the clickable elements like links and buttons in your email out of all your recipients. Here’s how it looks in a formula:
Number of people who clicked on elements
x 100 = CTR
Total number of recipients
For example: If you sent a newsletter to 200 recipients and only 50 of them clicked on the links in it, you would have a click-through rate of 25%. Ideally, you want all your recipients to click on your links and buttons, so you might edit your content or layout to encourage more clicks.
However, a 25% CTR isn’t so bad for industry standards. For context, the average for email click-through rates across all industries is 2.44%. However, this can vary across industries: food and beverage businesses have an average CTR of 1.2%, while agricultural companies can have CTRs of up to 3.5%. Some ways to encourage clicks in your emails are by editing your call to action (CTA) copy or the visual layout of your content.
3. Bounce Rate
Bounce rates are one of your most important email marketing performance metrics because they indicate the health of your recipients’ list. Bounce rates measure the rate at which your emails did not successfully arrive at your recipients’ inboxes and therefore “bounced” back to your email. This usually happens because of a non-existent or incorrect email address, or a full inbox.
As such, a high bounce rate means most of your emails were not delivered to your recipients, and therefore your recipients list needs cleaning up and updating. Meanwhile, a low bounce rate means most of your emails successfully reached your recipients’ inboxes, and therefore your recipients list is “healthy” and organized.
How to Measure Email Bounce Rates
Bounce rates are also calculated in percentages. They’re taken by measuring the number of bounced emails in a campaign over the total number of emails you sent, then dividing it over 100 to get the percentage. Here’s how it looks in a formula:
Number of bounced emails
x 100 = Bounce Rate
Total number of recipients
For example: If you sent an email campaign to 500 recipients and only 15 emails bounced back to you, your campaign would have a bounce rate of 3%, which is a normal enough bounce rate for email campaigns. In particular, the average bounce rate for email campaigns is 2.48%, according to WebFX, so you’ll want to start updating or cleaning up your email list once your bounce rate goes above 5%.
4. Unsubscribe Rate
Before you can start emailing your recipients, they’ll first need to be subscribed to your emails—it’s an integral part of permission-based email marketing. Therefore, another KPI for email marketing you’ll need to track regularly is your unsubscribe rate—the rate at which your subscribers opt out of your emails after each campaign.
Your unsubscribe rate tells you the quality of your email content and the accuracy of your targeted email list. For instance, if your email campaign promoted a limited-time offer to a list of new subscribers and received a high unsubscribe rate, it means there’s a significant mismatch between your email content and your recipients list.
How to Measure Email Unsubscribe Rates
Email unsubscribe rates are measured in percentages, and they’re calculated by taking the number of unsubscribes your email campaign gets divided by the total number of emails delivered to your recipients. Here it is in a formula:
Number of unsubscribes
x 100 = Unsubscribe Rate
Total number of recipients
For example: If you received 12 unsubscribes from your last three monthly newsletters and you had a total of 600 subscribers to your newsletter mailing list, you would have an unsubscribe rate of 2%. While this isn’t too bad, you’d ideally aim for as low an unsubscribe rate as possible. According to WebFX, the average unsubscribe rate for emails is 0.89%.
However, in some cases, high unsubscribe rates aren’t always a bad thing, because a more streamlined email list makes for more effective campaigns. People unsubscribe from emails for any number of reasons that may not be related to your campaign. You can always win new email subscribers again.
5. Email List Growth Rate
Your email list growth rate measures the growth of your email subscribers over time, and it’s the best overall indicator of how successful your long-term email strategy is. A high growth rate means more people are subscribing to your emails as time goes on, while low or steady growth rates mean fewer people are subscribing to your emails or your recipient lists are staying the same as when you started (and therefore your email strategy needs to be refreshed).
How to Measure Growth Rate
Because email growth rates are calculated over time, they aren’t measured after each campaign like open or click-through rates. Instead, they’re measured over certain periods of time, e.g., after every year or quarter.
Growth rates are taken by measuring the change in the number of subscribers you get over a certain period and then dividing it against your total number of subscribers. Then, multiply that number by 100 to calculate the percentage. Here’s the formula for how to find growth rate:
(Number of new subscribers – Number of unsubscribers)
x 100 = Growth Rate
Total number of subscribers
Always remember to take the number of new subscribers and unsubscribers from the same time period, whether it’s the first three months or one calendar year, to get an accurate growth rate.
For example: Assume you were calculating your email growth rate from the final quarter of 2023. From October to December 2023, you received 200 new subscribers and 175 unsubscribers, and you had 600 email subscribers in total. This would mean you had a growth rate of 4.2% over that quarter.
While it seems a small amount, it’s far from abysmal. According to the leading ecommerce platform Shopify, a good email list growth rate to aim for is 2.5%.
6. Conversion Rate
While the email metrics above all measure top-of-funnel analytics for your email campaign (i.e., analytics for brand awareness or engagement), another important metric to measure your emails’ impact on revenue is your conversion rates. Conversion rates measure the rate at which your emails effectively drive your audience to do your desired action, whether it’s clicking a specific button or signing up for an event.
This therefore means your conversion rate determines the effectiveness of your call to action. It’s different from click-through rates, which only measure your audience’s clicks, while conversion rates determine your emails’ effectiveness at driving them down the sales funnel. So if you want a broader picture of how successful a specific campaign is, conversion rates are one of the most reliable email campaign metrics to answer that.
“Top-of-funnel” audiences are audiences who are at the very top of the sales funnel, i.e., are still in the awareness or engagement stages. Different stages of the sales funnel require different strategies and therefore have different email performance metrics. For instance, open rates measure top-of-funnel audiences, while conversion rates measure bottom-of-funnel audiences. Find out more about the different stages of the sales funnel.
How to Measure Conversion Rates
Conversion rates are also measured in percentages, and they’re usually taken at the end of each campaign. To calculate your conversion rate, you’ll need to divide the number of recipients who followed your CTA against the total number of recipients in your campaign, then multiply it by 100 to calculate its percentage. Here’s how it looks in a formula:
Number of recipients who completed your CTA
x 100 = Conversion Rate
Total number of recipients
For example: Assume you sent out an email campaign promoting an upcoming event out to 100 recipients, and out of that number, only 25 people signed up on the registration form. This means that your campaign has a 25% conversion rate.
Conversion rates can be tricky, as there are many different ways to convert audiences via email. One campaign with the CTA to generate sign-ups for an event can have a 25% conversion rate, while another campaign with a call to action to purchase a product can have a conversion rate of less than 5%. Therefore, it’s important to keep track of the separate conversion rate benchmarks for different types of campaigns.
Still, a good industry benchmark to aim for is 8.17%. According to email platform Barilliance, that’s the average conversion rate for emails in 2022.
7. Return on Investment (ROI)
Did you know that email marketing has the highest returns on investment (ROI) out of any other marketing strategy? According to email marketing statistics, every dollar invested in email marketing yields $36 in return, or 36% ROI. ROI in email marketing is the same as in any other marketing strategy: it refers to how much you earn from your campaigns measured against how much you invested in it. And so, the higher the ROI, the more successful your campaign.
How to Measure Email Marketing ROI
Calculating ROI is simple. You only need to divide your overall profit from your email campaigns against your total expenditure, then multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage. Of course, to get your profit, you’ll need to get the difference between your total expenditure and your total revenue. Here’s how it would look in a formula:
(Total revenue – Total spend)
x 100 = ROI
For example: If you spent a total of $300 for your 2023 holiday email marketing campaign and received $500 in revenue, you would have a profit of $200. Divided against your total spend of $300, that would give you a 66.7% positive ROI.
When calculating your ROI, be sure to always take into account every expense you put into your email marketing strategy. This includes fees for any additional staff or freelancers you have onboard (e.g., if you have a freelance email copywriter) or any fees from your email marketing software. Doing so ensures that you have as accurate an ROI as possible.
As stated above, the average ROI for email marketing is 36%, according to Litmus. However, depending on the industry, it can even go up to 45%.
8. Cost per Email
You might already know your total ROI from your email marketing campaigns, but you might also want to know how much you spent on each individual email. The email campaign tracking metric for that is cost per email. It’s also one of the most essential email marketing key performance indicators because it can tell you which of your email strategies are most cost-effective and which are burning more money than you earn.
For example: If you find your weekly promotional emails are costing more than your monthly newsletters while both are generating the same revenue, you’ll probably want to invest more time and money into your newsletters instead. Different email marketing campaigns have different costs because they have different needs, e.g., a promotional email might require the skills of a graphic designer, which you might need to hire externally.
How to Measure Cost per Email
Calculating your cost per email simply comes down to dividing your total email marketing cost by the total number of emails you sent. Here it is in a formula:
= Cost per Email
Total number of recipients
For example: As in the example above, say your 2023 holiday email campaign cost you a total of $300, and you sent it out to 1,000 email subscribers. This would come down to a cost of 30 cents per email.
It’s not too high a cost, and it’s still within the small business average, which ranges between 10 and 30 cents per email. However, what’s more important is evaluating whether the money you invested was effective at bringing in your projected revenue or clicks or new subscribers. Ideally, you want to find the right balance that gets the highest impact with the lowest cost per email possible.
9. Cost per Lead (CPL)
Aside from knowing your cost for each email, it’s also important to know your cost per lead (CPL) if you’re launching any lead generation campaigns, e.g., sign-ups for an event or a free trial. As with cost per email, knowing your cost per lead gives you better insight into how cost-effective your campaigns are and whether or not you need to edit your email marketing budget or strategy.
How to Measure Cost per Lead
Measuring your cost per lead is similar to measuring your cost per email, only you’ll substitute your total number of recipients with the total number of leads from your campaign. Divide the total cost of your email campaign by the total number of leads you get, and you’ll get your cost per lead. Here it is in a formula:
= Cost per Lead
Total number of leads
For example: Assume your monthly newsletters from the fourth quarter of 2023 cost $250 to send in total, including fees for your hired copywriters and email platform. At the end of the quarter, you received 35 leads in total. This would give you a total cost per lead of $7.14.
It’s not uncommon for cost per lead to be higher than other email marketing analytics. Leads are generally more difficult to generate than clicks or opens, so they usually cost more. According to research, the average CPL for email marketing in 2023 is $53. However, this figure is for the landscape as a whole. Expect it to be lower for small businesses and to vary across industries.
10. Spam Complaint Rate
Finally, another of the most important yet underlooked email marketing metrics to keep track of is your spam complaint rate. This is the rate at which your email recipients mark your emails as spam in their inboxes and therefore never open and read your content. Spam rates indicate the overall quality of your email, from its subject line to its content. A high spam rate often means a need to strategize your entire campaign.
However, you only need to worry about having high spam rates when it becomes a regular occurrence. It’s not uncommon, especially when you’re starting out, for a campaign or two to have high spam rates. You’ll only need to learn from your mistakes and recalibrate your campaign strategy moving forward.
How to Calculate Spam Complaint Rate
Calculating spam complaint rate simply comes down to dividing the number of spam complaints your campaign receives against your total number of recipients, then taking its percentage. You can usually find your number of spam complaints in the analytics section of your chosen email platform. Here’s how to calculate it using a formula:
Number of spam complaints
x 100 = Spam Complaint Rate
Total number of recipients
For example: If you sent your last newsletter campaign to 1,000 total recipients, and you received two spam complaints, you would have a spam complaint rate of 0.2%.
The lower your spam complaint rate, the better. While 0.2% is relatively low, aim for a 0.1% or less spam complaint rate—that’s the industry standard.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
KPI in email marketing (and any other marketing strategy) stands for “key performance indicator.” These are the metrics you use to measure the effectiveness of your email campaign and whether it was a success. KPIs are always represented in a numerical format and are defined at the start of the campaign, and they should always be aligned with your campaign’s overall goal.
For instance, if your campaign goal is to increase engagement, a possible KPI is to increase your click-through rate by 20%. Other examples of email marketing KPIs are increases in conversion rates (CTR) and return on investment (ROI), or reducing cost per email.
The three most important email marketing metrics to measure your campaign’s success are conversion rate, return on investment (ROI), and email list growth rate. Your conversion rate defines how effective your emails are at leading your audience to do your desired action (like visiting your blog), while your ROI determines how profitable your emails are. Meanwhile, your email list growth rate measures your audience engagement and acquisition over time.
CTR in email marketing stands for click-through rate, and it’s the rate at which your recipients click on the clickable elements in your email, such as links and buttons. A high CTR means your recipients are actively clicking on those elements, and therefore your copies and calls to action (CTAs) are effective. Meanwhile, a low CTR means the opposite. The average CTR for all industries is 2.44%; however, anything above 1% is generally acceptable.
Email marketing metrics are invaluable to your email marketing journey, and the metrics above are among the most important. Considering how many variables are involved in email marketing, from subject line to content tone, these metrics are the best way to determine the effectiveness of your strategies and help you craft better campaigns in the future. Use the email analytics above to help you plan an effective email marketing strategy.