A Beginner’s Guide to Email Analytics

Minute read
A Beginner’s Guide to Email Analytics

Most email broadcast systems come packed with standard analytics. Just to be clear, here’s what we care about:

Recipient volume

This is the size of the segment your email was sent to. Boost this using list-building strategies (but don’t sacrifice quality for quantity). Your aim is to maximize a quality segment, otherwise your open rates and click rates (and general engagement) will suffer.

Open rate

Of those who received it, how many opened it? Several factors will be impacting your email open rates. Most of this is riding on your subject line. Preview text and ‘from name’ play supporting roles. According to industry benchmarks, Not for Profits outperform all other sectors, at about 20%. Go us! Still, who’s happy with 20%? Use split testing to optimize subject lines.

Click-through rate

Of those who received it, how many clicked on it; or Click-to-Open rate: of those who opened it, how many clicked on it? Work on making emails engaging and well-structured to boost this metric. For some emails (like ‘thank-you’s’ or updates), click rates may be meaningless. Only measure this when it matters.

Unsubscribe rate

Of those who received it, how many unsubscribed? Minimize this by improving the overall quality of your email strategy—from segmentation to content quality and email frequency optimization.

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This is the measure of how many emails you send actually make their way into an inbox. Not opens. Delivery. It’s easy to assume this should be 100%. It never is. Deliverability is influenced by your list quality, email content, and a host of other factors that feel a bit like smoke and mirrors. Most email broadcast systems will report your deliverability rate. Get into the habit of monitoring this. While deliverability is unlikely to vary dramatically from email to email—if it does, you’ll want to know immediately. Learn how to maximize your deliverability rate.

Hopefully, your email broadcast system will also offer you a click map of every email you send. This gives you a visual indication of which links people are clicking on or ignoring.

Establish some performance benchmarks

It’s a good idea to set benchmarks for the open rates, click rates, and unsubscribe rates you believe you can hit. Industry benchmarks are a good place to start. However, if you follow best practice, it should be possible to consistently outperform the status quo.

Setting realistic performance targets enables you to:

  • Anticipate and manipulate the responses you can generate through your email broadcasts
  • Quickly notice high performing content—so you can consider sending it more broadly
  • Quickly notice underperforming content—so you can identify any problems and consider if tweaks are required

You may need to set a series of benchmarks depending on how ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ your target segments are. For instance, open rates for engaged donors will be higher than that of your full list. It won’t help to judge messages to these segments against the same benchmarks.

Make a habit of assessing your broadcasts against internal benchmarks. This will help you capture insights and learn more about your audience and what they respond to.

Emails don’t perform in a vacuum. List health acts like a force of inertia on email performance. If your list is burned out, even the most amazing emails will have to fight for attention. However, what’s good for one email is good for your list, so keep at it.

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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