Email Stats 101

Dear Email Diva,

I launched my newsletter five years ago. I've never paid much attention to any of my statistics; I just write. It's time I learned. I don't know which metrics I should focus on. Over the years, 23,000+ people have subscribed. It looks like 15,300 are actually getting the newsletter, and I'm not thrilled with the click-throughs. Can you help me?

Jill Konrath, Chief Sales Officer
Author, Selling to Big Companies

Dear Jill,

Frankly, the Email Diva is surprised you haven't been paying attention to your stats, because you are doing so many things well. Your email reads perfectly without images; begins with a compelling summary of the contents; includes a personal note with a one-to-one feel, is scan-able and benefit-oriented; expertly blends valuable content with sales messages; and includes links to main site categories. Nice job!

To answer your question about which metrics to review, you must first answer another: what are the goals of your email program? Do you want to build your brand, reach new customers, build relationships with current customers, drive repeat sales, drive traffic to partner programs, increase Web site traffic and/or drive Web site purchases?

Clarify the relative importance of these factors and identify the Key Performance Indicator that represents success for each. You may find that "squishier" information, like partner feedback, is actually more relevant than basic email stats.

There is a lot of variety in how these stats are collected across the industry, as Strong Mail's Email Metrics and Bounce Management report illustrates (go to the Email Experience Council Whitepaper Room ). So be careful about comparing your stats to others. But here are the basics.

Scrubbed (List Sent/Original List) - You say that only 15,300 of 24,000 are "actually getting the newsletter." Since your Email Service Provider (ESP) won't repeatedly mail bad addresses, I assume you are importing a list into the email program and a third is scrubbed out by the email program prior to sending. Since most ESPs charge by volume, it would be worthwhile to clean up your list. The Email ecosystem works best when you manage your list within the email application. If you're not already doing this, ask your ESP to help you integrate their tool with your Web site.

Delivered (List Delivered / List Sent) - This tells whether your messages were accepted by the recipient's server. It won't tell you whether the message made it past corporate or personal secondary filters, however. Nonetheless, it is a good measure of list cleanliness and important to track over time.

Opens (Opened / Delivered) - Open rates are flawed, as they can't be measured when images are blocked, but they are consistently flawed. Use your open rates to gauge the effectiveness of subject lines: Which seem to work best for you? Is it a function of the subject matter, the copy or both?

Clicks (Clicked / Delivered) - This is one of the most important metrics, and should be aggregated to the individual recipient, i.e., all clicks by a person count as one. This tells you how many people found something compelling in your newsletter.

Click Map (Clicks on Link A / Total Clicks) - Overlay the percentage of clicks allocated to each link on an image of the actual email, to give you a sense of what readers find most compelling in terms of offer, copy, placement, etc.

Engagement (Total Clicks / Unique Clicks) - Since you have a variety of information and opportunities in your newsletter, it will be useful to gauge the depth of involvement. The more links of interest, the higher your engagement rate.

Conversions (Desired Actions / Clicks) - The conversion rate tells you whether your goal was achieved, whether it be a lead, download or purchase. These are typically the most difficult to track, from a technical standpoint, but certainly not impossible. Ask your ESP for their expert input.

Two Big Don'ts:

1. Don't forget that the real value of the data is for reporting test results. Develop a theory, split your data in half, and test the theory against your current practice. Know -- don't guess -- what works for your audience, and continue to build your email body of knowledge.

2. Don't leave this valuable information sitting in your email application, waiting for "some day" when you get around to thinking about it. Download the data for each campaign (within a standard timeframe), onto a spreadsheet and look at the trends, best/worst, etc. What is the story behind the numbers? This is where the real learning takes place.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva



Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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