Marketing automation will give you all kinds of data to show the effectiveness (or otherwise) of your marketing.  Email marketing in particular, has 4 key measurements that we get excited about;

  • Opening Rates,
  • Click-Through Rates,
  • Unsubscribes
  • Bounce Rates

email performance rates and totals

Below we are going to explore these terms a bit further and look at what we should concentrate on.  Starting with the most important!

1  Click-Through Rates (CTR)

Are you surprised this is the most important?  It’s the only measurement that indicates that your email has been opened and a probability of it having been read…… The recipient has engaged with your content and done what you wanted them to do, click that link!

The CTR is expressed as a percentage of the number of people who clicked on one of the links in your email (Engagement).  Link clicks are an easy and accurate measurement to report on.  Its best practice to only count this once per recipient (and a good email marketing system will have those filters for you).  Some people will open your email and click the link many times if they are really engaged with your message, but these secondary clicks should be filtered out as they are distorting your effectiveness.

If your CTR is higher than 10%, then you’re in the Premier League of email marketers (or you’re not filtering out multiple link clickers). The average CTR is fairly low, so don’t be shocked when you see 2% – 3%.

Ways you can improve your CTR:

  • Put your CTA (call to action) close to the top of the message
  • Segment your contacts so that only people who would find the email subject, content and call to action relevant are mailed.
  • Keep the text short and the click links few.  You should be clear what you want the reader to do
  • Keep the subject, content and what’s on the other end of the link relevant.

2  Bounces

Bounces are at the opposite end to CTR on the email marketing success metrics.  They indicate that something’s wrong with the quality of your source email list!

Bounce Rate is the percentage of your audience to whom your email could not be delivered.  The ideal number here is 0%.  Even only 2% should give you cause for concern.  Any higher and your sender reputation is suffering.  You get bounced when your message cannot be delivered; an invalid email address, a full mailbox, an employer no longer works at that company….etc.  A bounce can be either soft or hard.

Soft bounce – happens for temporary reasons, like the recipient has a full inbox.

Hard bounce – when the email can’t be delivered for permanent reasons, for example; an invalid email address or the recipient’s server not accepting emails.

It’s imperative that you keep your bounce rate below 2% so if you have a new email list that you have not sent to before, then:

  • Validate the email addresses using a cloud-based debouncing service, especially if it’s a purchased or 3rd party list
  • Send out to new lists (especially purchased lists) in small batches over an extended time period.  If you’re still getting high bounce numbers to stop the campaign immediately and question the data source before you damage your brand reputation further.

3  Unsubscribes

Obviously, this is another number that you want to keep as close to zero as possible.  Unsubscribes to a new mailing list indicates that they have no interest in you or your products or services.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s just how it is and it’s better than a bounce or spam mark.  That’s why organically grown email lists are so much better and, normally would have very low unsubscribed rates, because people have already expressed interested in your products and they’ve targeted you in their search.

A sudden jump in unsubscribe numbers indicates that you have done something different (or wrong). Maybe your targeting criteria was wrong, or just too much or too often.

4  Open Rates

Non-marketer types always want to know how many emails were opened, believing that this means they have been read and people are interested in what you are saying.  While the opening rate is a good guide, it’s nothing more than that.  Opened does not always mean it has actually been opened and certainly does not mean its been read.

Opening Rate is not a particularly accurate stat. as many things are not what they appear. Some people just look in their preview pane and read and delete.  Not opened but read.  An email is considered open when the images are downloaded. However, some devices download images on arrival, others don’t.  Not all browsers or devices work that way.  So you should just use Opening Rate as a guide.

If you regularly see an opening rate of 30% but suddenly it drops to say 10%, then something has gone wrong and you need to evaluate what’s changed or what you did that’s different from the past.

To increase opening rates,

  • Use AB Testing or multivariate testing with different subject lines and preview lines.
  • Try personalising the subject line.
  • Segment your lists to smaller ones to micro-target them with multivariate emails, after all we are not all the same.  Find what works best with a particular audience


Don’t get fixated on Opening Rates, it’s not the straightforward metric that should make you feel good about your marketing activity.  Concentrate on CTR, click-through rate.  It tells you so much more.

Many of the fixes outlined here are about segmentation of data.  Target the email to people who want or have shown interest in it.  Even Newsletter messages should never be about throwing paint up a wall to see what sticks – Target, Target Target!  Sending people messages that don’t interest them is the easiest way to get unsubscribed.

Want to know more about email marketing or data segmentation, then schedule a call with us at Lead Intuition.