23rd November 2020
Welcome back to part 2 of this 3-part subject looking at the popular metrics that are commonly misunderstood, leading to inaccurate analysing data.
In this series, we will break down the basics of Web, Email and Social Metrics. This article will look at email metrics. If you are interested in jumping to Web Analytics and Social metrics you can do so here: Web | Social
Email Marketing Software
Email marketing is a fundamental channel for any business looking to communicate with their customers and to nurture and engage potential customers. Combined with email automation and audience segmentation, email marketing can help keep customers engaged, track their customer journey, and generate sales. The popularity of email newsletters, which enables brands to reach subscribers directly via their inboxes, helps ensure high visibility and engagement. Having a tool that can address email marketing needs is critical for any business – regardless of their size.
There is a range of email marketing software available, all with various features and capabilities to suit different sectors and business needs. Some focus on marketing automation where email is a part of the channel mix, others focus on positioning themselves as a CRM communications tool combining SMS and Social communications with the more standard email newsletters. Some of our favourites include Dotdigital, HubSpot, SharpSpring, Mailchimp, Campaigner and Campaign Monitor.
Getting to know the metrics
Email marketing takes time to master. You must keep in mind best practices, continuously test language/layouts/send times, and generally optimise emails for increased engagement. To ensure you are making the right decisions, you must understand how to measure the results of your efforts.
Let’s get to know the key metrics before we dive into some of the common mistakes made when analysing the data.
Open rate – tracks how many subscribers have opened the email you sent. A vital metric to understand how well your subscribers are receiving your messages.
Click-through rate (CTR) – measures how many people clicked on links in your email.
Bounce rate – measures how many email addresses did not receive the email. There are two types of bounces: soft bounces and hard bounces. More on these a little later.
Unsubscribes – tracks how many recipients have unsubscribed after receiving an email from you.
Spam complaints – tracks how many subscribers mark your emails as spam.
Forwarding rate – measures the number of subscribers who have shared the email to another email address.
There are many more metrics; the metrics you track will depend on what you are trying to achieve with your email marketing. Now that you know the basics, let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions.
Low open rates are due to poor subject lines
We have seen a number of surveys and polls circulating where a large proportion of people claim open rates are dictated by subject lines. While it is true that the subject line is a fundamental contributor to open rates, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
Firstly, let’s have a look at your subscriber list. Email marketing has been on a journey; a few years ago the ultimate goal for many was simply to grow a subscriber list without much thought into understanding who the subscribers were, why they subscribed, and what they expected from subscribing. Fast forward to today, and advances in technology alongside the drive to improve customer experience has brought a host of improvements to how brands manage their subscribers. Audience insights and segmentation based on preferences and interactions have drastically changed the level of understanding of subscribers, thereby giving brands the ability to create email campaigns that are more catered to the subscribers’ likes and wants.
Next, you need to consider how your email is viewed by the email provider. We haven’t yet mentioned yet metrics relating to domain open rates and domain click rates. These are extremely important metrics to consider as they have a real impact on your deliverability. Here’s how. These metrics show what percentage of people are opening/clicking your emails on a specific email service provider e.g. Outlook, Gmail. Low performance at an ESP level can result in that provider marking all of your emails as spam, regardless of whether the recipient is a fan of your content or not. To avoid your email going straight to spam, we highly recommend tracking domain open and click metrics and comparing email service providers. By finding the average open rate and CTR between providers, you will be able to highlight any anomalies between providers.
As well as poor value (but large) audiences and being marked as spam, open rates can be influenced by numerous other factors including preview text, time and day of send, sender name and the position in the inbox. In order to increase your open rates, focus on creating relevant content that subscribers want to open and read whilst tracking technical elements to ensure emails are firmly placed in their inboxes.
Poor emails mean unsubscribes
This is technically true; however, it isn’t the only reason you are seeing unsubscribes. We have already spoken about about the evolution of email marketing and the reducing trend of blast-to-all campaigns.
It may well be that an email that is slow to load or that contains unpopular content could be the cause of unsubscribes. However, before you assume an unsubscribe is the result of an email you have just sent, you need to look at the surrounding metrics. Look back at your other email marketing campaigns and compare open rates and click-through rates, for individual emails as well as on ESP and device level.
With ESP-specific data, you will be able to see if the problem is domain-specific, which could indicate that content is going straight to spam. There is a multitude of other reasons for unsubscribes: it could be that subscribers are no longer receiving the content that they originally signed up for or expect; a change in preference, such as someone leaving their job and joining a different industry so no longer find your B2B emails relevant; or a shopper who has relocated and no longer wants/can visit your store. The list goes on and these are all legitimate reasons as to why you are seeing these unsubscribes.
Don’t jump to the conclusion that your emails are not valuable or engaging by looking at unsubscribes alone. Continue your drive to build great content by connecting with subscribers who continue to be loyal to your brand and giving them relevant, compelling information.
Soft bounce vs hard bounce – a bounce is a bounce, right?
While a soft bounce has the same outcome as a hard one, the journey to get there is very different. Let’s start by understanding the differences.
A soft bounce refers to an email that gets as far as your recipient’s mail server but bounces back undelivered before it gets into the inbox. The main causes of these tend to be that the recipient’s inbox is full, the email being sent is too large, or the server is down. An email that soft bounces can be re-deliverable at another time with most email marketing platforms re-sending automatically.
A hard bounce refers to an email that has failed to deliver for permanent reasons. The main reasons tend to be the email address is invalid due to the domain name being incorrect, the email address isn’t real, or the recipient is unknown. In most cases, bounced email addresses are suppressed from your list and they will be automatically excluded from future sends.
Both soft and hard bounces can have a detrimental impact on your email deliverability and need to tracked carefully.
Three tips to reduce bounces
There are various things that you can do to reduce the number of soft and hard bounces.
- Let’s start with the subscribing process. How do fans subscribe to your emails? Are there any pre-checks designed to eliminate human error or those adding fake email addresses? Various tools can help eliminate human error and try to restrict fake email addresses from getting through the sign-up process; platforms such as NeverBounce and Verifalia offer APIs that integrate with your forms to help spot common fake email addresses and errors being inputted on sign up.
- Double opt-in is another way to help. Double opt-in means a confirmation email is sent to all new subscribers requesting that they confirm their email address. This helps make sure that your recipient’s email address is valid. Use with caution, however, as we have seen many examples where legitimate recipients are not receiving or not noticing these confirmation emails, rendering their sign-up invalid. Ensure that subscribers are clearly made aware that they need to confirm their email address before they can begin receiving your email communications.
- Try to avoid spam triggers when creating your email campaigns. Spam triggers are designed to protect inboxes from malicious or unsolicited emails. Some of the common red flags include:
- The use of certain words e.g. 100% FREE
- Links to sketchy websites
- Messages in ALL CAPS
- Broken HTML code
- Emails without an unsubscribe button
As always, focus on valuable content sent to the right audience. Your emails must be designed in a way that they pass spam filters to avoid being bounced back as a soft bounce.
It may initially seem like a straightforward channel however, in reality, the best marketing teams have their hands full managing the email marketing. With so many factors to bear in mind, it is critical to ensure that you are building a list of subscribers who will engage with your emails. Your goal should then be to always send the right content, to the right person, at the right time.
With quality taking priority over quantity, it is increasingly challenging to make sure that compelling, industry-relevant and compliant information reaches your subscribers. Our experience and tools enable us to break your subscribers down into segments and ascertain what content they are most likely to engage with, and when, to ensure that your email marketing makes a splash.
Before you go
Don't forget this is part 2 of this 3-part subject looking at the popular metrics that are commonly misunderstood, leading to inaccurate analysing data. Make sure you read part 1 and 3: Web | Social