When you bake a cake, you mix up the batter, put it in the oven, frost it once cooled, and serve it up to your friends and family. And said cake is not thought about again.

Email marketing is not like that—at all. Nope, you have to pay attention to what happens after the send—a lot of attention. After you bake that email marketing cake, it will be akin to watching your friends and family to see who eats the frosting off the top first, who only eats half a piece, who cleans their plate, who pushes the cake away uninterested in dessert, who wants seconds, who posts about the cake on Facebook afterward, who asks for the recipe and so on.

If you analyzed the cake eating that way, you’d be considered a stalker, but that’s exactly how you must approach your email marketing campaigns! After you send an email or campaign, you need to know how many people (and who) ate or didn’t eat that cake, and in what way.

If you’re new to email marketing campaigns—or you want to improve your tracking so you can improve that marketing—read on for a high-level introduction to the topic, as well as some more advanced information that will help you get even more from your email reporting results.

When we talk about how to track your email marketing campaigns, we are talking about several different pieces. First, you must pay attention to what happened per email send, then by campaign. Finally, you need to compare campaigns to understand the bigger picture. Through it all, you need to be clear about what it is you hope to learn by tracking your email marketing campaigns.

Track your marketing on an email-by-email basis

After each email sent as part of a campaign, you’ll want to take a look at the results. How your email reporting works is based on which email marketing platform you’re using, but in general, you should be able to see all of the basic metrics you’ll need including:

  • Emails Delivered
  • Opens
  • Click throughs
  • Soft bounces
  • Hard bounces
  • Spam reports
  • Unsubscribes

Your email reporting should also tell you your click-to-open rate, as well as which device was used to view your email (tablet, iPhone, Android, desktop), and which domain your recipient uses (meaning Gmail, Comcast, etc.).

Track your marketing by campaign

Tracking your emails as each is sent is necessary, but so is looking at the bigger picture of the entire campaign and compare results between sends. This is when you look for trends. Trends might be good or bad; they aren’t necessarily one or the other. Trends might be an increase in spam reports or a decrease in deliverability. They can be sudden like if you see a huge drop in deliverability to your Gmail addresses. Or they can be gradual helping you spot list fatigue, or realize it’s time for some list hygiene. On the other hand, they can show you your deliverability is improving, your subscribers are getting more engaged, or that your decision to switch your send day was one that paid off.

Why these metrics matter
Above we mentioned the basic metrics you want to look at, metrics that are likely tracked by your email marketing platform and reflected in the reporting. Now let’s dig into each and why each matters…

Emails delivered

You want to know how many emails were delivered each time because any email not delivered is essentially an email that didn’t exist, and you want to compare between emails and campaigns to watch for any dips in deliverability. On the other hand, if you’re actively striving to improve your deliverability, you’ll want to see an upward tick in that number…but that’s information you’ll gather by comparing email results over time.


You also want to know how many emails were opened to gauge subscriber interest. Your open rate can be a tricky nebulous number, so be careful not to take it too literally. Any emails sent to subscribers using Preview Panes can be counted as opens even if the subscriber didn’t actually click on the email. And text only emails can’t be recorded as opened unless a recipient clicks on a link. But still, this is an extremely useful metric, however vague, for understanding the level of interest people are showing in your email. More opens mean more interest, and fewer opens…well, you can figure that out.

Click throughs

When someone clicks on a link in your email—any link, even the unsubscribe—this is recorded, and unlike opens, this is a concrete number. Click throughs tell you what people are interested in. (And if most of your clicks happen on that unsubscribe link, we need to talk!) Use your click throughs to gauge interest but also location. If you have the same call to action in two different parts of the email, for example, yet one gets significantly more clicks than the other, you’re learning something here about placement and design.

Soft bounces

Soft bounces are emails that weren’t delivered for any number of reasons. It could be the recipient’s mailbox was too full, the server was down, or the message size was too large. Some email marketing platforms will continue to try and send the email by default for a set period of time.

Hard bounces

Hard bounces happen when an email address is no longer valid. Any hard bounces must be removed from your email list right away. If you’re getting a lot of hard bounces, chances are you haven’t scrubbed your list lately or that you’re not following best practices when building that list. Take note and take care!

Spam reports

People will report your email as spam because it is, but remember that spam is in the eyes of the beholder. I doubt any decent marketer has ever sat down at their computer, logged into their email marketing platform, and rubbed their hands together while laughing an evil laugh thinking, “I’m going to spam these people.” But…there will be recipients who think that’s exactly what you did. It’s a valid email in your eyes, but unwanted junk in theirs. And keep in mind that people who are tired of getting email from you, who were legitimate subscribers willingly signed up to hear from you, will often flag your emails as spam rather than unsubscribe, just because it’s the easy way out. The spam reports are important information for several reasons. For one thing, like a hard bounce, a lot of spam reports can indicate a low-quality list. You also might see a spike in spam reports if you’ve started sending emails with a higher frequency, changed your email design, or in some other way caught recipients off guard. Finally, they can indicate list fatigue.


When people unsubscribe, they are actively telling you they are no longer interested in your content (as opposed to reporting your email as spam which is a passive way of doing the same thing). Like spam reports, this is a metric to pay attention to as an indicator of discontent because you’re sending too often, a need for a good list scrubbing, a poor quality list, or list fatigue. By list fatigue, I mean your list is simply weary of hearing from you. You’ve worn them out and failed to engage.

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Click-to-open rate

For your click-to-open rate, you combine two metrics: your opens and your click throughs: How many people who opened your email actually clicked in a link? This is an important metric because it measures the effectiveness of your subject line combined with the quality of the content or offer. You could have a stellar open rate of 43% and a horrid click-through rate of just 1%. On the other hand, you could have an abysmal open rate of 6% and a really high click-through rate (CTR). Your goal is for these two metrics to line up and here’s why: Your open rate shows how many people cared enough to open your email. Your click-through rate reflects the appeal of your offer. A high open rate with a poor CTR means you didn’t deliver on the promise that got people to open the email. A great CTR coupled with a low open rate means your offer was great but you did a poor job of engaging at the inbox.

Comparing campaigns

Beyond looking at the reporting for specific emails and entire campaigns, be sure to compare campaigns too. Watching trends and comparing campaigns can help you determine if you’re sending too often or not often enough, and which days and times get the best results. Tracking your email marketing campaigns should be a regular part of your processes. Keep your email tracking at the forefront, not on the backburner, and you’ll benefit from all of that knowledge.

Finally, use all of this information!

Speaking of all that knowledge, that’s why you’re doing this, remember? You want your email marketing campaigns to constantly and consistently improve, and you make that happen by paying attention and reacting to what you’re learning.

And really, you could take this same approach to cake baking if you were trying to win a contest or get on a reality TV show. Paying attention to who eats what and how would tell you whether to bake chocolate or vanilla, to use a fruit filling or not, to make the slices bigger or smaller, and more. But really, I think delving into and learning from email marketing numbers is a lot more fun…

Maropost for Marketing‘s advanced analytics feature gives you a 360-degree view of your customers and provides real-time reporting, therefore, giving you an in-depth look at your customer, resulting in higher ROI.

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