When your campaign gets serious about online marketing, the tools you’re using, like social media and email platforms, are going to be generating lots of metrics. The vast majority of them – at least nine out of ten – don’t matter.
I like to talk a lot about the difference between macro, micro, and vanity metrics and you can read more about that here, but this is what you need to know:
- Macro metrics drive your strategy.
- Micro metrics help you diagnose problems with the execution of your strategy
- Vanity metrics don’t matter and are a distraction.
Metrics are dangerous. Yes, it’s great to get real-time feedback on how your efforts are working, but if you don’t have the right context or understand what’s important, metrics will distract you.
For campaigns, when it comes to email, the only macro metrics that matter are the donations and dollars raised. The goal of your email efforts is to raise money. On your way to building an effective online fundraising program, you’ll measure progress by key email marketing metrics.
Here’s a breakdown of the email marketing metrics you should be familiar with and how to understand them:
List size is an illusion. You can’t send an email to all of the people in your “list.” Most email platforms include inactive and bounced emails in the overall list size. What you should be paying attention to our active subscribers – those who have opened an email in the last 30, 60, 90, or 180 days. And within these segments, which emails do you have names or ZIP codes for?
Bigger is better, but only if they’re active.
For email marketing platforms, the deliver rate means how many successful handoffs happened to the recipients’ email service providers? Sending email to old, outdated lists that you haven’t used in a while or got from some other campaign will result in bouncebacks and lower your delivery rate.
Delivery is not the same thing as inbox placement or “deliverability,” which means a supporter actually saw the email. An email that ends up in the spam folder or promotions tab still counts as “delivered” by email marketing platforms.
You should be close to 100%. Some bounce backs are natural. Too many and your program will suffer.
The open rate for a given email is defined as the number of subscribers who opened an email divided by the number of successfully delivered emails. Your open rate is a good way to measure deliverability (emails landing in inboxes get opened more) and how well sender name and subject lines perform.
Should always be trending higher. Compare across specific segments within your list to determine what is “good.” You may have segments that consistently get 40% open rates and others that are in the 10-15% range.
Click Through Rate
Different email marketing platforms report click through rate differently. Generally speaking, it’s defined as the total number of clicks divided by recipients. A single subscriber can click multiple different links and multiple different times in an email. Email service providers, like Google, analyze click through rates for a sender to judge engagement and determine whether or not an email should make it to an inbox.
You may also see a unique click through rate that measures how many individual subscribers clicked any link. It’s calculated as the number of recipients who clicked divided by the number of recipients who opened.
A higher click through rate is better because it indicates you’ve written compelling copy and have a strong call to action. Engagement emails, like petitions and surveys, will have higher click through rates than donation emails. As with other metrics, pay attention to the trendline within a segment.
This is the number of subscribers who opted out of receiving additional emails from your campaign. You should never email them again unless they specifically re-opt-in for email communication. Some platforms may also calculate an unsubscribe rate per email.
Don’t take unsubscribes personally. They’re actually good for the overall health of your email list. First, it’s a sign that you’re making it into inboxes and not just spam. Second, you only want to be sending email to supporters who will engage with it, so unsubscribes improve your click through rate by decreasing the size of the denominator.
Every email you send will have unsubscribes. It’s normal. Be on the lookout for huge spikes as a sign that your campaign has done something wrong.
The abundance of metrics is one of digital marketing’s greatest strengths, but it can be a weakness when you’re overwhelmed or distracted. Following metrics is important but it’s more important to have the context you need to make good decisions about your campaign’s digital strategy.