10 Essential Email Marketing Metrics and KPIs


So you’ve launched your email marketing campaign.

Whether it’s highlighting a new product or persuading leads to re-engage, it undoubtedly took you some time to determine the right copy and images to use.

Before you start tracking — know why you’re measuring.

Not all email marketing campaigns are about generating sales (although that’s likely your ultimate goal). Other goals might centre around re-engagement, generating brand awareness, growing another email list, collecting more data about subscribers, and so on.

Now learn the next steps by tracking your campaign’s performance effectively.

Far too many marketers are tracking just 3-5 KPIs, but there’s actually 10 you need to watch in order to get the full picture. To help you truly optimize your campaigns, here’s Maropost’s 10 essential metrics and KPIs for email marketing.

#1: Number of emails delivered

Just because you have 10, 100 or 1000 names on your email list, doesn’t mean your emails are being delivered.

That’s because a 100% deliverability rate is actually impossible.

For example, if 85% of your emails make it into the inbox, that means 15% might as well not exist. So if you have 1,000 names on your list, that means 150 people never got your email.

Secondly, you need to know if there’s a sudden dip in deliverability. Sometimes, through no fault of your own, a marketer can suddenly be blacklisted by an ISP, especially if you have a shared—rather than dedicated—IP. If you suddenly can’t email anyone with a Gmail address, for example, you need to act immediately to find out why and fix the problem.

One caveat: There’s a difference between an email being “delivered” and actually making it into the inbox. It could very well be delivered, yet go straight to a recipient’s junk folder. That’s why more marketers are starting to use the Inbox Placement Rate (IPR) as a KPI, so they can measure how many emails actually make it to the inbox.

#2: Number of emails opened

Simply making it into the inbox isn’t enough.

You’ll also want to note how many emails are opened. If you get 85% of your emails delivered, and you have IPR of 79%, that still doesn’t mean subscribers are paying attention to your message. That’s why you need to track the open rate.

Much like deliverability, you want to track trends in the open rate and adjust accordingly.

You might want to compare your open rates to what’s typical for your industry to have a benchmark. Make sure the comparison is industry-specific since some industries like finance and hospitality typically see higher open rates (which makes sense given that people are going to open emails from their banks and the hotels they frequent) — so don’t compare to a broad standard.

Keep in mind, some people use preview panes for their email. This can register email opens that aren’t actually opened. Also, text-only emails won’t register as opens, even if they are.

#3: Click-through rate

The click-through rate (CTR) indicates how many people clicked on a link in your email.

However, unlike opens and deliverability, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. For each campaign, you need to know not only which links interested them the most but also where those links were located.

For example, if most of the clicks are above the fold, then you’re passing the blink test.

Let’s say you offered the same link but worded two different ways and one performed better than the other, then you can optimize your text CTA accordingly. Also, compare buttons to text links.

Remember to track what recipients actually clicked on. Clicking on the unsubscribe link might count as a click — that’s a BAD sign!

#4: Click-to-open rate

Your click-to-open (CTO) rate is the number of opens compared to the number of click-throughs.

Of the people who opened your email, how many actually clicked on a link? This metric tells you how well your subject line and content are working together. If your subject line generated a lot of opens but few clicks, there was a disconnect. If you had a lot of clicks but few opens, you had a great offer but didn’t nail the subject line.

Other factors can influence your open rate, such as the quality of your list, the email address of the sender, the day/time you send, etc.

#5: Unsubscribe rate

Seriously, this KPI is a must!

There’s so much you can learn from your unsubscribe rate. For example, it means people didn’t report your email as spam, they just weren’t interested in your emails anymore and probably had them on the wrong list.

Watch for trends in your unsubscribe rate, especially after you make a change like segmenting, a template redesign, or a new sending schedule. If the number of unsubscribes suddenly goes up in response to the change, you’ll need to reconsider the alteration.

Remember that people who unsubscribe don’t want to be on your list and they are voluntarily leaving, which is much better for the long-term health of your deliverability.

#6: Bounce rate (hard and soft)

A hard bounce is a permanent bounce while a soft one is temporary.

Hard bounces are usually caused by invalid email addresses. This happens when someone leaves a job (deleted email address) or when an email address is entered incorrectly (ex: with a typo).

Pay attention to hard bounces because it indicates that you’re falling behind on your list cleansing. It may also indicate that you should use a double opt-in or some other method for verifying email addresses are entered correctly.

When you get hard bounces, you need to remove those addresses from your list ASAP because those email addresses will never work.

Soft bounces, on the other hand, are temporary and caused by an issue on the receiving end. For example, it could be the inbox is full or a server is down. Depending on the email service provider or the email marketing platform you’re using, the system will automatically try to resend the message only so many times.

#7: Spam complaints

Monitor spam complaints in conjunction with your unsubscribes because there are people that simply report emails as spam rather than go to the trouble of unsubscribing.

If both KPIs are trending the same direction — that is telling you something. Also, watch this number if you made a change.

#8: Social shares

This KPI indicates engagement on social media and is a good indicator of the quality of your content. So make it easy for your readers to share your content by adding social buttons to your emails.

One email blog I read produces such great content but makes it nearly impossible to share to the point that it’s comical. The only link in the entire email links back to their homepage, then you have to click and weave through various sub-menus to get to their blog.

Complicating things further, they send out the article by email days before they post it on their blog, so the only way for me to share it is to set myself a reminder to come back to their blog in a couple of days to see if they’ve posted it, THEN I can share it.

#9: Forwards

This KPI is kind of like social shares, but with one key difference: People on the receiving end of email forwards tend to be more receptive to the content compared to people who receive content shared with them via social channels.

This is because a forward is like answering a phone call or receiving a physical letter in the mail…it stands out because it’s rare. Again, this is measuring the level of engagement and the share-worthy quality of your content, both of which you want to increase.

#10: Conversions

Finally, the KPI that matters the most: conversions.

Now, don’t assume this means dollars. Depending on the goal of your email campaign, a conversion might be a sale or it could be a registration for an event, a subscription, registering for a demo, downloading a piece of content, or something else.

Ultimately, you can have different goals for your email marketing campaigns. Knowing why you’re measuring is as important as knowing what you’re measuring, and this is particularly true when it comes to tracking conversions.

Time to start tracking these email marketing metrics

Now that you know the 10 essential email marketing metrics and KPIs, start testing to optimize your campaigns going forward. This way you can set new goals unrelated to conversions, such as increasing your subscriber rate or lowering the number of spam complaints.

To learn more about optimizing your email marketing campaigns, download the free Guide to Email Marketing we did with the help of our friend Neil Patel:

Neil Patel Guide

Blog Author - Corey Savard
Corey Savard Digital Marketing Specialist at Maropost

Corey Savard is the digital marketing specialist at Maropost. He has a broad knowledge of digital marketing strategies and tools, with a focus on SEO and content marketing. Corey is also a former editor and reporter.

October 20, 2016
Marketing Sales