Understanding Email Marketing Metrics

If you’re new to email marketing, you’ve probably seen reports including graphs, pie charts, and tonnes of facts and figures. You’re also probably tearing your hair out wondering how to analyses it and what you can do with the results.

If that describes you – don’t worry. You’re in the right hands. We’ll take a look at the most common email marketing metrics, and help you understand the mind blowing facts and figures you’ll be presented with.

First of all, reports are an integral part of an email marketing campaign. Without reports, you may as well be using direct mail – a batch send, with no way of analysing your return on investment, how the contacts have reacted, and where your leads have come from.

Email reports will usually tell you about the number of opens, unsubscribe, and click throughs. Other reports delve into more detail, such as which email client the contacts are using, and which device they opened it on. These reports help you grow, and improve your email campaigns after each and every send.

Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin.


One of the first things your marketing manager will ask you is ‘How many opens did it get?’. Open rates lead onto other metrics. Without an open, you cannot have a click through, a share, or a sale. So opens, whilst they don’t necessarily create cash for your business, they are very important.

An email campaign’s open rate is measured by how many people open, or view a campaign, out of the total contacts on your list. The rate is normally presented as percentage:

Open rate = Emails opened / emails sent – bounces

For example, a 20% open rate means that for every 10 emails sent, 2 were opened.

However, with open rates, there is a catch. An open is only defined as one, when the contact has opted to download the HTML imagery within the email. If the email has been sent as a plain text, or the user reads it but doesn’t download the images, then it will not be classed as an open. It is very, very rare to achieve open rates of 100%.

What is the average open rate?

In general, your open rate is a rough estimate, and should be treated as such.

Unfortunately, there is not a general open rate at which brands should aim. There are hundreds of variables within each email campaign, so it is difficult to measure an average when the results are so diverse.

Usually, non-profit organisation achieve the highest open rate, around 17% on average, and industrial manufacturing services achieve the lowest open rate, around 15%. So as you can see, there isn’t a great difference between the two.

If you are achieving open rates of around 18 – 40%, you’re probably around average.

How can I increase my open rate?

As previously said, there are hundreds of email marketing variables, and it would be impossible to test each one. Instead focus on three key areas:

-     Subject line. Test which subject lines achieve the highest rate, as this is what your contact will see first.

-     The day of the send. The best day to send emails depends on your brand and your list. Consider changing the time of the send and see if the opens improve.

-     Show them the good stuff. Outlook is one of the biggest email clients in the world, and it includes a preview pane. If the good stuff isn’t in the preview, they won’t open it in full.


Your campaign’s click through rate is a percentage of how many subscribers clicked at least one link within your email campaign. As mentioned above, opens have a ripple effect on click throughs. Of course, if someone hasn’t opened the email, they won’t be able to click on a link within it.

Unlike opens, click through rates are a fairly accurate representation of how many people clicked a link within your campaign. If a contact clicks a link, but bounces straight off the page, this will still be counted as a click through, but the user may not have spent any time on your page. So for this reason, they are no 100% accurate.

What is the average click through rate?

Click through rates are surprisingly low. On average, consumer products gain the highest click through rates at around 3.3%, and computer hardware achieves the lowest rate at 1%.

Although they are low across the industry, it doesn’t mean you must stop striving for higher rates. Many campaigns achieve higher click through rates by providing high quality content to engaged contacts.

How can I increase my click through rate?

In the same way that opens are linked to your subject line, click through rates are linked to the internal content of the email.

Offering a fantastic offer, a free download or a simple message can all help you achieve a higher click through rate. Higher levels of click through means a higher number of visitors to your website, so it’s important that you continue to drive this metric as well.

Try these tactics to increase opens:

-     Change the position of your call to action. If you place your CTA near the bottom of the email, it may not get seen if the user doesn’t read the whole thing. Consider moving it to nearer the top, or in the middle of the content to ensure it is seen, even if they don’t scroll.

-     Create a relationship. This is harder than said, but it is the key to a successful campaign. Send your email as though it is being sent to one person, not hundreds of people. People are likely to respond if they feel a personal connection.



Bounces refer to emails that cannot be sent for a number of reasons. We won’t go into those reasons to much here, but you can find an article regarding bounces in our Knowledge Base.

Sometime the email is not delivered as the inbox is full, the server is down, or simply because the email address doesn’t exist anymore. Bounces are referred to as hard and soft bounces, depending on the situation.

Most email marketing systems, like ours, include a bounce handling service, which ensures that emails are not repeatedly sent to addresses which have bounced. For example, if an email hard bounces, the address is suppressed to stop any future correspondence being sent. If an email soft bounces more than 4 times, it is also suppressed.

If you were to send emails to bounces repeatedly, you would be wasting money, and you can seriously damage your sender reputation, which in turn affects your future deliverability.

What is an average bounce rate?

If you’re sending an email to a cold list or to a list for the first time, you would expect a bounce rate of around 20%. As previously said, your bounce handling service will ensure this number is reduced.

How do I reduce my bounce rate?

To reduce your bounce rate, you must ensure your list remains clean. This is known as having good email list hygiene. Alongside your email marketing service, it may be worth manually checking for typos and mistakes within your list. This may take some time, depending on the number of contacts on your list, but it’s a lot better than paying for sending emails which never arrive.

We would also recommend:

-    Using a double opt in process. When you create your sign up form, set it as a double opt in. This means the subscriber must click a confirmation link, once they have received your first welcome email, before they are added to your list.

-    Testing your emails. As all things with email marketing, testing is the only way to ensure things are done correctly. Send a test version of the campaign to yourself and some colleagues. Try to send it to a variety of email clients to see how it renders in each one.


Unsubscribes refer to those contacts who have chosen to not receive any further correspondence from you. To a certain degree, unsubscribes are better than being moved to the junk folder. If your email is moved to the junk folder, or your contact makes an ISP complaint against you, this can affect your deliverability, so it is better that a contact unsubscribes, before they complain.

It’s easy to be offended if you receive a few unsubscribe requests, especially after you’ve built a great email. But try to think of the bigger picture – your other contacts are engaging!

Consider improving your relevancy, changing your email frequency, or set up a preference centre so that the contact can choose how often they receive messages from you.

What is the average unsubscribe rate?

On average, an industry standard for unsubscribe rates is below 2%. As mentioned above, you would expect this to be higher when hitting a new list.

Here in the UK, it is the law to include an unsubscribe link in each and every email you send. If a contact wants to unsubscribe, it’s best to let them unsubscribe quickly and easily. One of my biggest pet peeves, is sending an email to request an unsubscribe – it’s such a waste of time. If the contact finds that they are missing your emails, they will be more likely to sign up with you again if you made the process easy.

How can I reduce my unsubscribe rate?

The main reasons for contacts unsubscribing comes down to either proving irrelevant content or sending emails to frequently. A survey conducted earlier this year found that 73% of contacts would resent a company if they were bombarded with email, which shows that frequency has more of a negative affect than content.

Try this:

-     Ensure you are targeting your audience with the correct content. Target your contacts based on their interests. There’s no point sending vouchers to contacts who wanted eguides or webinar invitations.

-     Avoid bombarding contacts. The frequency of emails depends on the industry you’re in. As a rule of thumb, an email should be sent every 10 – 15 days.



There are many more metrics provided within an email marketing system, but these are the ones you’ll need to analyse first, before delving into more detail.

Your campaign may be focused on the number of downloads your eguides produce, so you’ll be analysing click through rates. If you’re trying to promote brand awareness, you’ll be analysing the number of opens your campaign achieves. Have your campaign aims and objectives in place before sending.

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