Email Marketing: Campaign Analysis, Metrics, Best Practices

RedOrange With all the sexiness oozing out of social media it might seem insane to write about email. It’s been relegated to the “OMG that cesspool of spam that no one cares about because everyone is using Google Wave and Facebook!”

Not true. Email remains an immensely credible and profitable channel, with an immense reach to boot. To not have it as an active part of your marketing portfolio is sub-optimal.

The only requirement is that your mental model (and indeed, company culture) should be solidly rooted in permission marketing. Every fiber of your being. Every thought that crosses your mind. Every person in your company. Embrace permission marketing and email will be a surprising and loyal BFF. I dare say even more than Search (and without a shred of doubt, more than Social Media). Because you control everything. The message, the customer data, the ability to reach current and prospective customers, drive new sales as well as repeat sales, experiment with new ideas and offers, and so much more.

So… Email = totally worth dating, engaging, marrying and having babies with.

You just have to have the right mental model (see Seth Godin above) and you have to… wait for it… wait for it… measure everything you do! Just to ensure you are executing against your right mental model.

Analyzing email campaigns requires three important insights:

      1. You must use metrics that are unique to the medium.

      2. You can’t track everything. Sorry.

      3. You need to think end-to-end, and not just your silo.

Seems simple enough, right? Amazingly, and sadly, I see examples of failure simply because the above three “simple” things are not clearly understood or executed against.

One of the core challenges with email is that you have to deal with multiple data sources. There are three primary sources:

      1. Your campaign data. How many emails went, to whom, what happened to them, yada, yada, yada.

      2. Your website data. What happened after someone clicked on your email links?

      3. Your company cross-channel outcomes data. Multi-channel customer purchase behavior, customer lifetime value. You know, Analysis Ninja territory!

This means that the key enabler of gorgeous analysis is your ability to ensure that for #1 your email campaigns are tagged correctly (with tracking parameters), for #2 your website landing pages are tagged completely (with the correct JavaScript tag) and finally, for #3 you’ve thought of the primary key that you need to pass into your backend database.

Do that, and you’ve met the minimum requirements and the possibility of achieving awesomeness.

Ready for the best email marketing campaign metrics?

Macro Perspective: End to End means ABO.

For everything you do it is important to measure your effectiveness of all three phases of your effort:

      Acquisition. Behavior. Outcomes.

ABO. I’ve found it increasingly easy to use the ABO acronym to ensure that I’m thinking end to end.

If your measurement effort is missing one of those three, you’ll be less successful than you deserve to be. So for our email campaign analysis let’s look at metrics using that framework.

sale fishing hooks

Optimal Acquisition Email Metrics.

You’re trying to measure how well you are doing to: Send emails. Get people to read them. Click.

The key metrics you’ll measure will typically come from your email service provider (so make sure you check they can provide these metrics before you sign up and fork over the cash!).

A secondary thing would be to ensure, or your mom will really be mad, that *every* link in your email is tagged with campaign tracking parameters your web analytics solution needs (without this you can’t do the B and O analysis). Most good email providers will do this automatically for whatever web analytics tool you use. Here’s a post detailing vendors and process for Google Analytics: Tips for Tracking Email Marketing Campaigns.

Beyond the standard tactical stuff like number of emails sent etc., here are the metrics I’d recommend to analyze your acquisition greatness:

      Delivery rate = (# of emails sent – # of bounce backs) / # of emails sent   

This is your bread-and-butter outcome metric when it comes to your campaign; it answers the following simple question: did we stand a chance at success? Note that the increasing use of junk and spam boxes means that bounce backs are not the cleanest way to measure deliverability. The emails might have just ended up in the junk email box where they never stood a chance of being opened. But life and lemons and lemonade. Right?

[Bonus, from Yahoo!: What can I do to ensure that my email goes to the right folder?]

[Update: John Duffy, in comments below, has a great tip: Segment delivery rates by Email Service Provider (ESP). Try different ones every now and then and see which one works best.]

Up next, the excitement of the first engagement:

      Open rate = # of emails opened / # of emails delivered    

Allow me to rush and point out that this metric is usually just directionally accurate. Most email programs now have preview panes that typically block images and scripts (Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail, everyone), and default settings prevent data collection due to concerns about viruses. That is okay. Over time compare rotten apples to rotten apples. Even if only directional, this metric is of value, for example in helping you understand how effective the single most impactful thing in your email campaign is: the subject line (no not the offer!).

And now to the reason we actually sent the emails:

      Click-to-deliver rate (CTDR) = # of clicks / # of emails delivered

IMHO this is a key measure of the quality of your email list, and of the effectiveness and relevance of your message. Segmenting this metric is really powerful. You can learn whether text messages or messages with images get a higher CTDR. You can compare customers in California, Idaho, and Florida; new and existing customers; or various demographics, etc., etc., etc. This should drive aggressive experimentation of email content / offers / targeting / every facet by your team.

Finally let’s not forget a very, very important signal of our email marketing effectiveness:

      Subscriber retention rate = # subscribers – bounce backs – unsubscribes / # subscribers

How much do you stink? This is perhaps as strategic an analysis as you could do for your email campaigns. Here you are measuring both the technical effectiveness of your email campaigns over time (reducing bounce backs) and the relevance of your messages and the targeting of the same (reducing unsubscribes). Measure retention rate over time in aggregate – or for optimal health, segment retention rate – and measure it for the various objectives you have set for your email marketing program.

Four simple metrics that help you understand how effective you are in the acquisition stage of your email marketing.

But there is more…confusedbaffledbewildered

Optimal (Website) Behavior Email Metrics.

Analysts will almost always measure emails sent, and will often measure some type conversion signal. But it is rare that we obsess about what happens between the email click and the possible conversion. Did the website deliver the goods? What worked in terms of website content and customer behavior? In your analysis, don’t skip this part because what happens after that email click will either deliver high conversions or kill the most valuable offer you’ve ever sent.

The challenge is to figure out what behavior to track.

Here would be an obvious choice:

      Bounce Rate = # of email campaign visits with a single Page View / # of email campaign visits

Simple reason: “Never let your campaigns write checks that your website cannot cash.” That’s really what you are measuring. Are your landing pages delivering on the promise you made in the email campaign? It does not matter if you have a 100 percent response rate on your email campaign if the website Bounce Rate for the campaign is 99 percent. This metric helps you find opportunities for immediate improvement – such as pages and calls to action you should test, and content that fails to deliver.

You’re still not safe even if the bounce rate is 0%, but at least now you are in the game to get valuable business outcomes.

For non-ecommerce content based websites here’s another obvious behavior metric:

      Depth of Visit = percent of email campaign visits that last longer than xx pages

The xx in the definition forces you to think up front and plan for site behavior before you send an email blast and, of course, measure your performance against that goal. The assumption here is that more page views is more ad views or more future visits or deeper brand impact or… think that through up front as well.

For ecommerce websites here’s a behavior metric:

      Actions Completed = percent of email campaign visits that watched a video

Watched a video or searched for a store location or added to cart or reached the Technical Specs page or customized a car or rated our products or logged in using Facebook or Google+ to get product recommendations based their friends circle or played a treasure hunt… so many other things. I’m using the term action generically. You can use Event Tracking or Custom Variables to capture customer behavior that creates value for your business (online or offline).

Depending on your type of website, other metrics will also be important to you. Bottom-line: do not ignore web behavior; it is an important part of measuring your email campaign success.

fourpiggybanksprofits

Optimal Outcomes Email Metrics.

I’ve declared, frequently, that I have OOD (Outcomes Obsession Disorder). If you are not reporting deeply on the outcomes from *every* digital effort…. why even exist?

With our email campaigns, that’s even more true. If you spend money on acquiring traffic you’d better be delivering 50x (or whatever low bar you want to set for yourself :) return on investment.

You can start with the most overused metric in web analytics:

      Macro Conversion Rate = # of One Big Thing / # of email campaign visits

One Big Thing could be ecommerce sales orders, the number of leads received, downloads of your product, sign up for trials, people volunteering to protest, donations to your church, new accounts opened for your new social network… anything. In my earlier posts you might have seen me refer to this as “your Macro Conversion,” the most important thing to your business when you use email marketing.

Oh, and don’t forget to segment it like crazy. Be ruthless at identifying causes for low performance.

It might seem logical that you’ll also measure the second most overused web metric:

      Average Revenue per Email Sent = total revenue / # of emails sent

I am very fond of this metric because it stresses productivity. Notice that you can play some really nice games by substituting the denominator with # of emails read or # of emails delivered. But my perspective is, why settle for lower standards? Isn’t the point of our email campaign to get maximum value? So, let’s set a high bar. Using # of emails sent will force quality in your email campaigns because it will mandate that the list be very clean and targeted. It is important in your journey as an analyst or marketer that you influence the positive behavior of your company by choosing your metric definitions wisely. 

[Here’s another example of using a metric’s definition to change behavior: Excellent Analytics Tip #16: Brand Evangelists Index]

But why measure only 2% of the outcomes on your website? Why not measure the complete business value delivered by your email campaign visitors? Measure the macro AND micro conversions:

      Micro Conversion Rate = # of Many Small Things / # of email campaign visits

Many Small Things are other things your campaign traffic can accomplish on your website. Write product reviews, follow you on Twitter / Facebook / Flavor of the Month, download your Android app, sign up for an email newsletter (see the circular reference? :)), sign a petition, sign up for an affiliate account, and so many things that add value to your business. More ideas here and here.

Now you’ve measured 100% of the business value delivered by your email marketing efforts.

And speaking of that… if I could only measure only one metric for my email campaigns, this is it:

      Average Economic Value per Email Sent = total economic value / # of emails sent

Economic value is our obsession. Not revenue. It encompasses macro plus micro conversions. It will ensure your job promotion and a happy marriage. I won’t go into too much detail about how to do that. If you are interested in a promotion (and a happy marriage!) just hop over here: Excellent Analytics Tips #19: Identify Website Goal [Economic] Values.

Finally for those of you measuring revenue, and think of yourselves as Analysis Ninjas, you are measuring this delightful metric (don’t let me down!):

      Profitability = (revenue generated – campaign cost – cost of goods sold) / # of emails sent

Most email Marketers and Analysts will measure revenue and order size and other such obvious metrics. But we rarely spend time measuring profitability. In my experience that is normally because it is hard to find data related to true costs. In the case of email, that means the cost of the campaign (the cost of buying the list, sending the email, using resources, and so forth), as well as the cost of creating the products and services (cost of goods sold).

The difficulty in getting the numbers (bug Finance!) should not stop you from trying to measure Profitability along with Revenue. It is very easy to imagine that the most successful email campaign in the history of your company could very well cause bankruptcy (Costs greater than Revenue), and campaigns that look like mediocre performers could be most profitable. See why this is important?

Email marketing works. You just need to resist the temptation to abuse your customers. Don’t pre-select “sign up for our email” boxes and have an extra step to confirm opt-ins; always think of the customer benefit and not just what you will gain. You should have a big, clear, one-click unsubscribe link on top of every email. But most of all, you need to be relevant. That’s really all it takes: treating your customers exactly as you would like to be treated.

Oh, and computing the above metrics to optimize your email marketing. That’s it.

Okay it’s your turn now.

Is email a key part of your marketing portfolio? What metrics do you use to measure success of your email campaigns? Which of the above 12 is your favorite? Which is the most overrated? Is there a #13 (or more) that you would like to add?

Please share your perspective via comments.

Thanks.

Comments

  1. 1
    John Duffy says:

    Hi Avinash

    Thanks for the post, great for helping us convince clients there's life in the old (email) dog yet! My other top tip to convince people that email isn't dead yet is to show screen grabs of emails from Twitter & Facebook letting you know about new comments/followers/likes etc – the argument being "so long as FB & twitter know it's worthwhile using email to provoke an action, it ain't dead yet!"

    Another view on one of your metrics that's worthwhile visiting, but only every so often and with v large lists. Delivery rate, but segmented by email service provider (ESP). You just trial a different ESP every now and then, check the delivery rates and see how it affects your other key metrics. Crucial for working out whether you should be paying more (or less) for your actual ESP.

    Cheers, jd

  2. 2
    Tom says:

    Yet again, great detail and useful information – thanks a lot and keep it coming!

    My views on permission marketing are here.

    The only thing is, I'm not sure Google Wave exists anymore does it? It's all about the +1!

    Tom

  3. 3
    Bertwin says:

    Obviously, email marketing is not death at all. Maybe common, but not death.

    This post once again contains great tips and easy to use metrics, but I think there should be a little more focus on cross channel analyses and taking the right decision based on your cross channel analyses. Stories like "just received an email from company Z with a 20% discount for the product I bought yesterday at company Z" are just too common I'm afraid.

    Deep cross channel analyses are just a start. Only when you use these insights right away to optimize your channels (not only email, but all of them), you're on the right track, I think. Email is not only a great channel with potentially fantastic conversion rates, but also contributes to the success of other campaigns, vice versa.

  4. 4
    Geetanjali says:

    Hello Avinash,

    Music to an email marketers ears… Email Marketing is just about starting to warm up here in India. While detailed metrics are yet to come by I did a simple comparison of Email segment vs others on Google Analytics http://bit.ly/qMdJPt and its implication on goals http://bit.ly/oT63OY. Email is totally worth it.

    @Geetanjalid

  5. 6

    I think the metric of Open Rate have a little dust, I prefer:

    Open rate 2= # of emails opened / # of emails delivery

    Because that show us a real number on open rate. What u think?

  6. 7

    Great post, Avinash!

    Email marketing is one thing and the designing of an HTML email that renders consistently across the major email clients is another most important thing that marketers have to keep in mind. With lot many email clients, and even different versions of the same client, it is a completely different ball game.

    If it helps anyone, I keep going to CampaignMonitor's inline CSS Guide – http://www.campaignmonitor.com/css/

  7. 8
    Joe Teixeira says:

    Hello Avinash!

    First of all, great new look on your new website layout! It's been a long time coming :)

    We use and dissect Email marketing campaigns very similarly to your top / favorite Email marketing metrics. One thing that we often find that is somewhat disheartening for clients is the % of email opens compared to the % of emails delivered. This % often makes social network CTR's look good in comparison – but like anything else, it's all about the big picture and not only the first layer of measurement.

    So that's an over-rated / over-used metric of Email marketing success – so is (Macro) Conversion rate. In fact, I have really hated Total / Global / Overall Conversion Rate for a while now – I try to not use it because it's so unfair to divide the number of macro conversions by the number of people. And, because, it's a disheartening metric most of the time, like Google Display Network CTR or Social CTR.

    Thanks!

  8. 9
    Sol says:

    Great post Avinash. As always you are right on target.

    I calculate some metrics a bit differently than you do. I've always used emails delivered rather than emails sent as the denominator for metrics like open, click, and rev/email rates. I feel like an email must make it into the inbox to be counted.

    Do you think that metrics would be stronger using sent rather than delivered as the denominator?

  9. 10
    Kevin says:

    Another metric I've started to work with is list growth based on social sharing. I know it's kind of a mash up, but I think we need to integrate, since our audience is fractured over so many online channels.

    I think it's a good measure of the "compellingness" of your email campaigns, if your target audience finds it worthy of sharing.

  10. 11

    I think email reporting is an example where the technology and mobile reports, plus the GA mobile segment or equivalent, have a more important role to play than usual. I recommend monitoring the proportion of email visitors using mobile devices and segmenting accordingly to examine relevant micro-conversion goals.

    This might provide some very frightening and actionable insights for the design of emails.

    Personal pet hate example — how many of us are plagued by emails full of large (but not downloaded) images which result in inadvertent and tedious opening of the site as soon as we touch the screen? Take a look at the bounce rate for such pages. If the code has time had time to fire in the first place, that is.

    Now reconsider: is that spike of visits good? Are those people interested in you or annoyed by you? They may have started as one but ended up as the other.

  11. 12
    Joshua Kotowski says:

    Great Post Avinash!

    You have covered it in subscribers retention rate, but perhaps additional thoughts on the following might someday be of benefit: I have reported emails campaigns showing '# of opens' side by side with '# of unsubscribes', figuring you really never had a chance on those folks who opened to unsubscribe anyways, we should highlight who they were in a way. However, I guess one could argue there is a brand impression/message served to them as opposed to those who have not opened. Unsubscribes means you stink, but is the brand impression of any value at all?

    Also including device or more specifically Mobile Usage for messaging and future promotions recommendations has helped. Doing a lot with QR codes and have used a few eMail campaign metrics as back ups for the audience analysis to help reason why we should be in the mobile space. It worked grand.

    Great post, lot's of takeaways to be used.

  12. 13
    Vikas Phonsa says:

    I'm a newbie and this is more of a question.

    If we had some demographic information or some other data fields related to email ids, could we run a logistic regression to model the likelihood of conversion (using existing conversion data). That way if we acquire new email ids, perhaps we can use the model to segment the potential customers and run campaigns/promotions tailored for specific segments.

    Would something like that be worth it ?

    • 14
      Hugh Macken says:

      That is a really, really good question. Frankly I think the next frontier for email analytics is exactly what you are referring to: predictive modelling.

      I'd like to take your line of thought one step further to include not only demographic data but also publicly accessible social network profile data.

      To answer your immediate question:

      MailChimp would have the advantage in doing predictions based on social network profiles because they have already begun aggregating this data for some (not sure how many) of their customers. And they have several hundred thousand customers.

      Mailchimp would, I would think, be an excellent company to reach out to purely for this reason.

      And the cool thing is they already allow users to run historical modelling reports comparing the open rates of their email marketing campaigns with the open rates of others in the same industry.

      But wouldn't it be neat if they offered predictive modelling for open rates for my email campaign based on my past open rates and also a comparision prediction if my open rates matched the industry average?

      Then, take that a step further to what you seem to be alluding to:
      Create predictive modelling for my email open rates based on the social graphic data, or demographic data associated with each member of my email subscriber list.

      Again, great question.

      PS- You might also want to check with Blue Sky Factory as they may offer something along those lines or can at least point you in the right direction. Check with Christopher Penn, on twitter at @cspenn.

  13. 15
    Ron Kinkade says:

    Average Revenue per Email Sent just became my favorite. It's refreshing to see a piece focused on such a core marketing tactic. Whether it's an acquisition campaign or a retention campaign, email is critical to our organization. Testing and measuring results is critical to success.

    One metric worth considering, especially for businesses with monthly billing, is Cancellations From Email Marketing. Many recurring revenue models have "sleepers" or customers with low usage or who have forgotten about service. Sometimes an email can "wake up" these customers and end the associated revenue. The key to avoiding this is segmentation.

  14. 16
    Ned Kumar says:

    Avinash,
    Love the new fresh look of the site :-). And of course a very useful post for those into (or planning to do) email marketing.

    First off, I completely agree with you about starting with the culture. I would even say that culture (of permission mktg), along with transparency and relevancy are three core pillars for email success. Topping this off with a good dose of quality analytics (as your post suggests) & testing will definitely show what email marketing can do for you.

    I really like the metrics you have in this post. I think one can increase the value of these metrics by looking at it from two additional dimensions – seasonality & segmentation.

    Lastly regarding social media – I think judicious use of social media can actually help reduce list fatigue and improve the quality of (& returns on) your email marketing initiatives.

    Thanks for another interesting read
    Ned

  15. 17
    Sean Carlos says:

    Very nice to see you give email marketing the due it deserves, thank you!

    Over time delivery and presentation of email has evolved, as you mentioned, primarily as a response to spam and privacy issues. As a result, the historically used email metrics terminology started to resemble our old web analytics friend hits. We can't really measure delivered messages as we don't know how many will be thrown away by the recipient ISP or delivered to a spam folder (feedback loops can mitigate this problem in some cases). We'll never know how many messages were opened as most email clients don't automatically load images (tracking beacons) nor can plain text messages be measured. By using deceptive terminology, conversations around the exact meaning and limitations of these terms became a distraction from the analysis of the data itself.

    All too aware of the problem, last year an industry group, the Email Experience Council, agreed on a base set of updated measurement terms and definitions, similar to the work of the WAA in 2007 for websites. In the new definitions, delivered becomes accepted; opened becomes confirmed opened.

    The definitions are available as a pdf and are now used by many of the US based ESPs (Email service providers). I've also translated them into Italian, including the "old" definitions and a few clarifying comments and will post the same article in English later today.

  16. 18

    Bertwin: I could not agree with you more. My hope here was to just set out how to measure one program, email, all by itself. Just as there are posts on this blog about Social Media Metrics and Search Metrics etc.

    Analysis Ninjas of course get very good at measuring effectiveness of their programs as a portfolio and that is where your guidance (and two chapters in my book Web Analytics 2.0!) come in handy. :)

    Raymundo: Good suggestion. At the end of the day I think using delivered or sent is fine. Just stay consistent in your reporting and make sure your users are clear on what you are reporting.

    Sol: In every case you'll notice my sly like a fox attempt to make the metric harder (i.e. show the tough love). For Open and Click I think delivered will work just fine. In fact many people have commented on that as a preference so I'll update it in the blog post.

    For revenue I think that Sent works better. I've chosen a denominator that makes the metric look worse (almost always). My hope is that that will drive a different kind of behavior (harder look at the email program) and that critical thinking is very important!

    Kevin: Very nice metric. "List Growth via Social Sharing" Is there a specific method, or formula, you are using?

    Another thing to add to that that I love is list growth via "forwarding emails to friends." Such a great way for additional valuable subscribers.

    Joshua: The problem with "opens" is that I don't have to open an email to unsubscribe. I can just unsubscribe from the preview pane (and most providers won't consider that as open).

    That aside, it is a good idea to try and understand, the best we can, how many opens were really opens (as in open to possibly click on an email).

    I have to admit that I have thought of Unsubscribes (when there are statistically significant peaks) as nothing else but stinky. No brand impression value. Just stink. :)

    Vikas: Depending on the business having demographic information would be enormously helpful. But I feel that it is not mandatory for most businesses. We will have a rich store of behavioral data (including repeat purchase behavior, lifetime engagement etc). I would personally prioritize analysis of that data higher.

    After all my age or sex is a poor predictor of what I will do, my behavior is probably a much stronger predictor.

    -Avinash.

  17. 19
    Bertwin says:

    It is indeed a very useful list of metrics, Avinash. Thanks for that!

  18. 20

    Hi Avinash,

    Spot On. Excellent Tips.

    From my experience, couple of metrics that i think can gain significance in the coming days:

    Segmentation by Device: Number of Users Opening Their Emails in Mobile Devices is growing. So does that affect your performance? Is the email rendering in the right way? How does the Click to Open Rate for Mobile Devices Vary compared to computers? How does the Depth of Visit & Actions Completed metrics differ for Devices?

    Social Buzz By Email: How many of my Offers/Promotions or Technology Articles Generating the Buzz, given that my newsletter has the ability to share those links to social media platforms.

    Thanks,

    Palani

  19. 21

    Hello Sean Carlos,

    I am trying to take this forward with my clients for the past few months, but no progress. I believe this article of Avinash and your message is going to help :)

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Good to know you.

    Palani

  20. 22

    Hi Avinash –

    Once again thanks for the inspiration. Admittedly my love for email is not what it used to be. Maybe it's time for me to see a relationship therapist? :)

    You said: "Most email programs now have preview panes…"

    In terms of the design/layout I believe this is an essential consideration. That is, what's in that pane might be all the reader chooses to see. After the subject line the preview pane is quite often the only other opportunity to get a message across.

    Yet, we continue to be plagued by lame subject lines as well as a severe lack of empathy (i.e., the preview pane space is squandered on something useless) for how email receivers might be consuming that medium.

    Yes, the analytics are important. But the quality of the message and the reader's experience both have a major impact on results. No matter how good a bad effort is measured, it's still a bad effort.

    Thanks for listening. I feel much better now. :)

  21. 23
    Kevin says:

    Very nice metric. "List Growth via Social Sharing" Is there a specific method, or formula, you are using?

    Another thing to add to that that I love is list growth via "forwarding emails to friends." Such a great way for additional valuable subscribers.

    Hey Avinash! Sorry I haven't poked in for a bit.

    Anyhow, I've embedded some custom code that parses the GA cookie on our sign up form, so when the EEPurl is used (we use MailChimp as our email platform), I tick it as a goal in Google Analytics. EepUrls is simply Mailchimp's shortening service, and is used to track Social Sharing in their provided analytics as well.

    I don't track specifically which of our users are gaining us visitors/subscribers. It's of more interest to me which campaigns and content sets do.

    • 24
      Mark says:

      Hi Kevin – This sounds interesting.

      Could you elaborate a bit more please? Also, could you track down to the user level (i.e., who exactly is helping you grow)? If so, why not then?

      Thanks in advance.

      Mark

      • 25
        Kevin says:

        Thanks Mark. Initially I set out to track this as a "super gauge" of content value. In other words, not only is the content relevant enough OPEN the email, the CLICK through to learn more, but then to PUBLICLY share it.

        I call it our Gold Medal Stuff if we manage to hit a benchmark.

        Since we're parsing the Google Analytics cookie, I don't have any personally identifiable information to collect initially. Our privacy policy also pretty clearly states (though no one reads it) that we don't collect any personally identifiable information unless they voluntarily submit it through a form.

        Now, clearly, Facebook has a slightly different view of such things. But I don't consider the Share This button to be our property, per se. So at this point, I'm not personally comfortable tracking it at that level.

        I'm sure however that by hooking into the Facebook API, you might be able to gather further insight.

        I should also note that we're a B2B company, so our Facebook shares are actually the smallest percentage of Shares. More likely Twitter or LinkedIn.

        Did I answer your question?

        • 26

          Kevin! Interesting!!

          What Share method are you using? I'm pretty sure AddThis allows URL tagging on the fly.

          If one of the parms was cust_id would that violate your privacy policy? I presume the first email out is tagged uniquely. Are those just assigned randomly? It would seem that it's hard (read: impossible) to track campaign to campaign, and channel to channel if there's no unique identifier as a constant. Or is there some sort of "firewall" the prevents you from putting the pieces back together and connecting them to an exact person?

          I'm also curious – since I once pondered something similar. Kinda? Do you have an sort of Share counter in your tagging parms. For example, I share to FB, you see that and follow the link back to the site/page, you in turn share to Twitter, and so on.

          Maybe this would be Platinum Medal Stuff? ;)

          I've thought it would be interesting to try to track the dynamics of a share. A "share cycle" if you will. I've never done it because no one has asked me to do it. I've considered it for my own site/blog but I don't think I have to the traffic volume that's going to produce enough results to make the effort worth my time. It's a raw idea so if you ponder it a bit I won't be surprised if you identify a couple holes that would need to be resolved.

          That said, if you know how to add non-standard GA parms to a URL and then parse them out in GA, I'd take that lesson in a second! I'd like to do things like date+time or Share and other "hum, I wonder…" type things. But once I add the custom parms I haven't been able to parse them out and analyze them in GA.

          Anybody?

          • 27
            Kevin says:

            Mark:

            The sharing functionality IS the EEPUrl in this case. Mailchimp has an internal tracking system that utilizes their shortening service. However, as I'm writing this, I think I'm missing a step in my original write up, because it suddenly occurs to me that the EEP wouldn't be live on the GA cookie the way I've described this. I'll have to dig into my code next week when I have some time and see what I did. :)

  22. 28
    Oweia says:

    Thanks for this great insight on email marketing and metrics, it's really interesting.

    Keep up the good work.

  23. 29
    Josh Braaten says:

    As far as email goes, all the metrics you mentioned make sense. I've used the metrics you described to evolve the quality of my email marketing over time. My newsletter is currently rocking a 50% open rate with click through rates between 25-50%.

    Do you think there are objective metrics to shoot for in the world of email, or is it all relative to your business/customer segmentation/buying cycle/content?

    All the discussion about email metrics aside, I love the new look of your blog. Any big differences in engagement/outcomes so far?

  24. 30
    Aaleyah Goldsmith says:

    Extremely useful information.

    I too liked the metrics you have in this post. I tend to agree that one can increase the value of metrics by focusing simply on segmentation. Segmentation is essential to the success of generating higher conversion rates and maximizing marketing efforts.

    I found a very interesting article addressing segmentation and how companies can benefit significantly from strategic segmentation.

    goldlasso.com/learning-center/the-from-line-blog/entry/dont-be-lazy-start-segmenting-already

  25. 31

    Josh: Open Rate and Click-through Rate are good metrics to shoot for. I think you might have on the higher end of metric values. : )

    I would love for you to consider at least one outcome metric (outlined in the post, use Goal Value if you don't have Revenue). In the end outcomes matter the most!

    -Avinash.

  26. 32
    Josh Braaten says:

    Avinash –

    How could I be a fan of yours for so long and not include outcome metrics? :)

    I track my micro conversions of comments, page depth, loyalty, and eBooks downloaded.

    My macro conversions happen when someone clicks on my ads and when someone submits a contact form – typical revenue is tied to each of those goals.

  27. 33

    Fantastic post…your writing style is pure awesomeness! Great recommendations…thanks for sharing.

  28. 34
    Rok Hrastnik says:

    Avinash, best quote of the year!

    "Email = totally worth dating, engaging, marrying and having babies with."

    Some additional views I just posted on Google+:
    (plus.google.com/u/0/109307874355214031111/posts/83zmR9EfBjZ?gpinv=AGXbFGwM5qJE2R9STDZQSQyMmyQ7EeN-A2K4hKaKgrakBb5kKzKt2CvIOMJEs4pvcEVFRm3CqkJar83eoPKKvnCulV_hGlbW58ZqPMX7AcmkcMFJ8csWtcU&hl=en)

    1. Don't obsess just over measuring each email sent – obsess about your overall list performance.

    2. Email in many cases generates more indirect/assisted that direct sales. A huge % of your direct URL and search sales are assisted by email. Make cross-channel online tracking one of your priorities.

    And, as cool as Google Analytics Multi-Channel Conversion Funnels are, don't forget that people jump channels using different computers. They might click on your email campaign from work in the morning, and then go back at home via search in the evening to complete their purchase, which is something GA won't tell you.

    Don't be afraid to do some data drilling!

    3. Segment! Start segmenting your list into buckets like no response / low response / top response / etc. and then measure those. You'll see drastic differences, which are especially applicable on the email campaign level.

    There's more, but these are my top 3.

  29. 35
    Landin says:

    Good stuff as always Avinash. I've seen organizations that focus solely on just clicks, opens, CTR, and conversions, and they miss the behavior aspect of email marketing post click.

  30. 36
    Lukasz Kamiennik says:

    What a great info, Avinash. I'll be back here more often.

    Thanks.

    Lukasz from Poland :).

  31. 37

    Hi Avinash. Fast question. How did you get your photo for google + on google search results for the search google ad planner. here is the link http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=google+ad+planner

  32. 39
    Mark says:

    Thanks Avinash! I used this post to develop a report for my own email campaign and tweaked some of your metrics to fit mine. Everyone in the meeting was pleased with what I came up with and I have you to thank.

    Still at a very early stage in my GA career but it's off to a great start!

  33. 40
    Barbie Almanza @Email Marketing says:

    I find email marketing very useful even in a small businesses like mine. I gathered many customers and gained potential clients using this.

    Thank you for sharing us this post.

  34. 41
    Palak says:

    I am new to this field so bear with me if I am asking silly questions as below. I am learning a lot from you Avinash Sir.

    1. There are so many factors that affect our goal conversion.If the company sends out email,and if there are few micro and/or macro conversions,we cannot completely say that they resulted because of our Email. May be they couldn't find a similar product on the competitor's website.Or they may not convert online but may go to the near by store and buy the product.That way we cant find our actual conversions.

    In other words we can attribute the accuracy of our metrics within 95% confidence level.

    2. The page which we think is not effective bcoz of high bounce rate on that page,may be the most effective and that the customer gets the information they are looking for from that page itself,so they dont go to view other pages.

    3.Can we put a short survey form(with one word answers or yes/no options, specific to our Email about the email fold and ask our customers to give us feedback/suggestions of how we are doing with sending them regular emails,what they don't find in our email,what do they like specifically etc.

    • 42

      Palak: Some quick feedback….

      1. Multi-channel analytics takes a little bit of effort, but it is entirely possible to get a very very good understanding of the quantitative impact of your website on your offline existence. Here's a list of ideas: Multichannel Analytics: Tracking Offline Conversions. 7 Best Practices, Bonus Tips

      2. Experiment and validate that. If you can't validate it then it is hard to know if your observation/opinion is correct or not.

      3. Using surveys, Kissinsights might work well for your scenario, will be one good way to collect very good information.

      All the best!

      Avinash.

  35. 43
    Tumbleweed says:

    Yes, I do agree that e-mail has its place in the online marketing world. In fact, there are times in which e-mail is really or more appropriate way in which to communicate.

    A great post.

  36. 44

    Great post Avinash. I marketing teams need to master the email analytics before they stir the pot on social media. Although lot of these holds true within SM channel too.

    -Raghu

  37. 45
    Francisco says:

    I haven't implemented email marketing, but most likely I will. It's an area where I can build repeat customers.

    Now that I finally have some time, I will do ask them if they want to sign up for the NewsLetter on the "Thank You Page" and in the quote email.

  38. 46
    Kent Mauresmo says:

    This was a really interesting post. Im just starting to get into email marketing and you have a lot of good points.

    I was actually thinking about using video emails since people are lazy and like to watch tv/videos instead of reading. That should help improve any email marketing campaign.

  39. 47
    Laurence Veale says:

    Hi Avinash,

    One of the metrics I'd add to the list is where does the email get read?

    Is the email read on mobile (yes, 20-30% I've observed) and is your email "mobified", is it readable on a mobile?

    And, if so, can you website cash a "mobile cheque*"? That is, once your mobile traffic clicks through is it greeted in a welcoming mobile manner?

    How? Via a mobile site (or a single site, "responsively" designed) where you make it easier for those mobile customers.

    * euro spelling

  40. 48
    Bhavinee says:

    Thanks for another great read, Avinash.

    No doubts that e-mail is a great way to maintain and grow a relationship with customers, and that a good subjet line is critical to the fate of your message.

    Something quite annoying that I've often noticed and never been able to explain is the use of vague Sender IDs, such as "Customer Care" or "Sales" (not even Customer Care @ xyz company or sales xyz company). Why should I even bother to look at the subject line if I don't know who's writing to me?!

  41. 49
    Hiren Vaghela says:

    Wonderful article Avinash, Agreed to you that email is is one of the best way to communicate with client in a good manner. Sometimes it gets tacky but at the end you will be happy for sure.

    I have just quick question, what is auto tagging and is any disadvantage in it? I have just find one option called "Destination URL Auto-tagging". Can you provide me the right path. Thanks for your any input.

    -Hiren

  42. 50
    Shilpi Singha Roy says:

    Thank you so much Avinash for this great post.

    Email marketing is a great and most effective way to get connected with potential customer and its here to stay..

  43. 51

    Excellent post on measuring the effect of e-mail. Also, seeing that the subject field (along with the sender/from field) is mainly what decides if an e-mail gets clicked/opened, I'm really surprised to see how few people use A/B testing with subject fields when sending out their e-mail campaigns. I always divide the campaign up into three bulks. E.g. if you're sending out 20 000 mails. send 2 000 mails with subject A, and 2 000 with subject B. Then after a couple of hours you should have a pretty good idea of which subject gives you the best opening rate. Then send the remaining 16 000 mails with the "winning" subject field. You'll be surprised to see the difference between something a subtle as using "half" versus "50%" in the subject field…

    When it comes to cost of e-mail campaigns, I would also add the rate of people unsubscribing to your e-mails (churn rate) as a cost. This means your either sending out your mails too often, or the content of your mails sucks/irrelevant to the subscriber. Losing subscribers has a cost in the sense that you're losing potential future sales, and the cost of replacing the subscriber.

    • 52

      Ricky: Excellent advice on both counts. Like so many people out there I've had tremendous success with simple tests for sender and subject line. I also agree with you on Churn Rate, though I have not been aggressive enough to assign a "future value lost cost" to it. But I'll try this in the future.

      I LOVE the idea of staggering the process of sending email by testing a small % first. I think I had written about this in my book as well – I love it that much.

      Thank you,

      Avinash.

  44. 53
    Naresh Veeradima says:

    In the Email marketing, we need to think about Subject line, Content/creative, Target audience. Any ESP would be able to deliver the emails effectively, but above mentioned three make the difference when we talk about ROI.

    The Target Audience are Genuine, then we can deliver the right Content to right people with attractive subject line.

  45. 54

    Naresh: I would definitely add "Sender" to those three factors. Whatever you put as sender e-mail and sender name also has a great impact on the opening rate (thus the ROI).

  46. 56
    Emily Fazio says:

    I am recently returning to the world of analytics after a nice 3 year hiatus, and I am glad to see dollar signs in the valuable metrics column.

    When I left there seemed to be an atmosphere of tension & competition between the 'web analytics people' and the 'CFO type people'. This gives me hope that everyone has realized that they play for the same team, a complete picture is needed to make good decisions, and that everybody's bonus is tied to profits!

  47. 57
    Manjunatha Kumbara says:

    Nice article on Email analysis. Loved it ;)

  48. 58
    Max Buckley says:

    I'm a third year marketing student in Ireland. Just started reading your book web analytics 2.0 yesterday and discovered your blog from that. I really appreciate your technical accurate analysis of various metrics its a breath of fresh air compared to the vague terms I hear many speak in.

    I have added your rss feed to my reader and I will be keeping an eye on your blog. I will also share these with my class. Good read.

    Cheers

  49. 59
    vandna says:

    This is one of the best articles I have found so far on email analytics. I have been researching on this topic for a long time and feel I am ready to put this stuff to use.

    Thanks for putiing this together!

  50. 60
    Lucas Pontes says:

    Great article!

    I wondering if you can help me to find some other benchmarks like:

    % of visits that email marketing have to generate compare with the total visit in the site

    % of Revenue that the email have to generate compare with the total website revenue

    I work in retail industry and i will be glad if you help me to find this benchmarks!

    Thx!

    • 61

      Lucas: I'm unaware of trustable benchmarks for these two categories. Some research / analyst reports have some "benchmarks" but the sample sets are so small that it is hard to know how they might apply to a business of different type and size.

      Rather than benchmarks you can look at some reports in competitive intelligence tools and index against your direct competition (hence you solve the type and size problem). For example in Compete there is a "All Incoming Traffic" report. Run that for yourself. Run that for your competitor. See how their acquisition portfolio is doing, and how yours is doing. Compare trends over time.

      Finally I'm deeply wary of "benchmarking revenue" even for direct competitors. There is often such a tremendous variability in business strategy that it ends up being a chasing ghosts outcome.

      -Avinash.

  51. 62
    Adil says:

    Hey Avinash,

    for the macro conversion metric, why do you use # of email campaign visits rather than # of emails delivered?

    Thanks,
    Adil
    @akhantweets

    • 63

      Adil: We are already covering the effectiveness of our email targeting and engagement by measuring Click-to-deliver rate (CTDR).

      Hence when it comes to conversion we want to focus on what happened after the person landed on the site. So we switch from Clicks to Visits, as Clicks is really not a metrics in web analytics, and we focus on effectiveness of the website by tying those Visits to Outcomes.

      Avinash.

  52. 65
    Kirby says:

    Hello – My company doesn't generally direct our clients to an ecommerce site. We send our clients information about certain products and leave it up to our sales reps to follow up with the cleints. We don't use coupon codes either.

    How do I go about accurately tracking the revenue generated from each email campaign without trackers in place?

    Thanks,

    Kirby

  53. 67
    Dave says:

    Feel Free to delete this if it does not seem relevant but, using email marketing, is there a way to track to exactly which subscriber on your list completed your desired action (i.e. bought, clicked, thru, etc)?

    I know tracking pixels will tell you How Many actions were completed but is there a way to know Who completed the action?

    Sorry for the intrusion but, I am just starting out and want to know if I can readily implement something so that I can reward loyalty over time.

    • 68

      Dave: Please check with the privacy policies of your web analytics and email analytics tool (which your email provider usually gives for free).

      In many web analytics tools (like Google Analytics) you can't track the person by name or other personally identifiable information. You can use a hash key and then match that key (and data from GA) with data you collect in your backend systems.

      I had to share a bias that there is an enormous amount you can learn from micro-segments of people on your mailing lists and on your website. There is some insight to be gained from one person's behavior, but most of the time that insights is hugely over-rated (especially for medium, large sized companies).

      Start with the aggregate, then dive deeper into micro-segments connected to your mailing list attributes, then dive deeper into the website behavour segments (using metrics in this post) and then after all that is conquered you can think of how to optmize your email program per individual.

      -Avinash.

      • 69

        I can certainly see how such mirco-data could be over-rated and over-interpreted.

        That being said, you would think there would be some value some where in pulling web visit data points / milestones back to the backend and the (for example) resegmenting your mailing list. And so on and so on. That is, rather than segmenting by some arbitrary attribute(s), segmenting (or at least messages) can be defined based on real actions and activity.

        Or did I just over-think it? :)

  54. 70
    John Duffy says:

    Hi Mark

    That's exactly what some of the more advanced email service providers do – except with their own analytics. So you add there tagging to your site alongside your GA, and then you can resegment people based on their actions from your initial email and follow up accordingly.

    Lyris definitely do this, but I think there are some others too, jd

  55. 71
    Kasturi Shinde says:

    Hey Thanks a lot !!

    This was helpful :)

  56. 72
    anand desai says:

    Dear Avinash,

    Wonderful work done on metrics. I am just a starter. Your blog got me into making informed decision.

    Thanks
    Anand Desai

  57. 73
    Kim says:

    This is Gold!

    Thanks Avinash

  58. 74
    Charlotte says:

    Thank you for the thorough explanations in this post. As a fellow data-lover it's a pleasure to read, even though email marketing is still on my to-do list in my relatively new online career.

    What sticks out to me is the subscriber retention rate. I see so many companies, even big ones, who seem to be completely unphased by annoying their subscribers with massive amounts of newsletters, special offers and what have you.

    It seems to me to be common knowledge that keeping subscribers happy and keep the # of unsubscriptions low is a high priority. Who's gonna spend more money – the customer who receives 1 newsletter with offers a month over a year, or the one who receives 12 in a month or 2 and then unsubscribes because of the amount of mails?

    The chance of sending an offer that is well received by the subscriber is so much higher if you keep the level of interest in the mails high. My point is that subscriber retention rate doesn't just give a measure of number of unsubscribers – but more than likely also gives an idea of the "temper" of the remaining subscribers. If many after unsubscribe – the remaining subscribers are most likely also starting to get annoyed at your newsletters. And annoyance and "getting fed up with" is clearly not the state of mind you want subscribers to be in, when they read potential offers.

    My point is that subscriber retention rate isn't just a way of measuring unsubscribers – but can in some cases also be an indirect way to measure the average interest with the remaining subscribers.

    Your post made me think – I hope it makes sense :-)

    All the best,

    Charlote

    • 75

      Charlotte: I concur, there is no one magic metric. We would use a combination of them to measure the health of our email marketing program.

      Retention rate helps us understand if we are providing some value to our subscribers, or at least that we are not annoying them.

      CTDR is a great metric to understand if the content in the email itself is causing engagement/curiosity to get our subscribers to come to our site. (This is a simple way to measure the impact of offers, as an example.)

      Bounce Rate helps us understand quality of landing pages and macro/micro conversion rate the value to us.

      So three metrics, or at most four, to understand everything. :)

      Avinash.

  59. 76
    Spark Email Design says:

    Good work Avinash.

    I must say you have done phd on email marketing. Given all information.

    Thnks.

Add your Perspective

*