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How To Understand Your Email Marketing Reports

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One of the most frequent questions I hear in regards to the amount of reporting features our email platform offers is, “What does it all mean?”

Everyone likes seeing high open rates, and everyone enjoys the perks of seeing an uptick in traffic due to email click-throughs. But what can the other metrics tell you, and how can you apply that information to boost the coveted open and click-through rates?

The Basics

  1. Open Rate: This one is self explanatory. It’s the unique number or percentage of users who opened your email.
  2. Click-Through Rate: Based on the number of users who opened your email, this is the number of, or percent of users who clicked a link in your email.
  3. Soft Bounces: This is the number or percent of users who are temporarily unable to receive your email. This could be due to a full inbox, their service being unavailable, or a number other reasons. Typically, email service providers will automatically try to re-deliver this email over a number of days.
  4. Hard Bounces: This is the number or percent of undeliverable email addresses for permanent reasons. It could be a fake email address, the server may reject incoming mail, whatever the case, these emails should be removed immediately which most email service providers will do automatically.
  5. Complaints: This is the number or percent of users who opened the email and clicked on the “Report as spam” link. These email addresses will also be automatically removed from receiving future emails.

Now that we have an understanding of what each metric means, let’s look at what you can learn from each one.

Common problems…

Are your open rates low?

It’s no secret that open rates have plummeted over the last several years. However, you can still fight this trend a number of ways. I usually focus in on Timing, Frequency, Recognition, and Subject Lines to boost my open rates.

Timing: Think about the time of day your email will hit the inbox of your intended user. How does that compare with the time of day this same user is actually reading their emails? It’s easy to say users check their email as soon as they grab their phone in the morning. But are they actually reading and engaging with emails at this time, or just scanning subject lines? Think about when your specific audience will be consuming emails and align your sending times to match.

Frequency: How often would your audience like to hear from you? Daily, Weekly, Monthly? Start testing your frequency and watch your open rates over a period of time to learn how much is too much, and how much is too little. Starting with once every 2-weeks is always a safe bet.

Recognition: How often do you receive an email and don’t recognize the sender? How quickly does that email end up in the trash? Use a recognizable From name and From Email Address. Identify quickly within the content of the email who you are and why the user is receiving the email. The quicker your emails are recognized in a sea of other companies, the quicker they’ll get opened.

Subject Lines: This is where I see most people struggle. Writing a compelling and engaging subject line is not easy for most people because it differs drastically from writing copy in other areas of their business. Think about which subject lines and headlines you click on throughout the rest of the internet. What makes you click those? Because you are curious? Because it was open ended and to get the answer you needed to click-through? It was relevant and timely? These are all good practice, and we’ve identified 35 more subject line ideas right here.

Are your open rates high, but click-through’s low?

This one again comes down to just plain execution. Every element of an email marketing campaign has only one job. The subject lines lone job is simply to get someone to click. In most cases the singular function of the email body is to provide just enough information to lead the reader on and leave them wanting more, and to get more they must click-through.

Often times this can be done by outlining a number of problems the reader may be facing, and provide the solution only after they click-through to your website.

Many times I see email campaigns report low click-throughs simply because they give everything away right in the email. The reader should never be fully satisfied by the email content. They should never be disqualified, priced out, or any other emotion that turns them away – until they click-through to your website.

Do you have a lot of bounces?

Email marketing lists depreciate at a rate of 25% each year. Meaning if you have 10,000 members on your list, next year it will be down to 7,500 valid addresses (discounting any new opt-ins). This is due to users changing email addresses to avoid spam, users changing domain names and with it their email extension, employees leaving companies, and so on.

There is nothing you can do about soft bounces. Most platforms will attempt to deliver to these email addresses and at a certain amount of failed attempts they will turn into hard bounces and be removed from your list.

We’ll cover hard bounces below…

Are your complaint rates high?

In most cases, like 99.9% of them, when a business owners complaint rates soar it’s due to how their list was acquired. Where did it come from? Was it purchased? Did they all truly opt-in and acknowledge that they would like to receive email marketing messages from you?

No matter what someone tells you, there is no such thing as a “purchased” list of opt-in email addresses. Unless the user went to your website and entered their email address, threw their name in a fish bowl at your business location, or otherwise accepted and acknowledged that they want to receive email from you – you are spamming them and they will complain.

With a purchased list you will see very high complaint rates and very high hard bounce rates.

  1. They never asked to receive email from you and they will complain about it
  2. You’ll have a lot of hard bounces because these lists were accumulated long ago and have depreciated

Running a list with high complaint rates hurts your sender score, hurts your business, and you run the risk of having your IP address blacklisted by all major email distributors.

In Summary

At the end of the day seeing an improvement in email marketing metrics comes down to a few simple things. Grow your list of email addresses organically and with permission. Write a compelling subject line. Use engaging copy in the body of the email and couple it with a strong call to action. Last but not least, send emails in a frequent and timely manner using a recognizable name.

If you can do all of the above, I promise that you’ll see an improvement in every single metric we’ve mentioned here.