Last year, Apple’s iOS 15 Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) update and its impact on email metrics was the big headline in the marketing community. Most notably, it prompted marketers to reassess the reliability (and value!) of open rates.
Unfamiliar with MPP? In brief, this update prompts users to choose to either protect their mail activity or not — giving them more control over their privacy.
If you’re wondering if this is a big deal, it is. Experts estimate 97% of consumers are opting into privacy protection when updating to iOS 15. Long-term, this means 40-50% of all email opens may be unreliable.
It’s no wonder many marketers are revisiting which metrics they track, and which they deem valuable as a result.
If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, you’ll want to keep reading. In this article, I’ll break down common email marketing metrics, and let you know which ones you should focus on in 2022 — especially with Apple’s update in full effect.
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who open a particular email.
Let’s calculate it: Unique opens / total emails delivered x 100
How important is your open rate?
Up until now, email open rates were often considered an important metric. After all, the more people who open your email, the more people who potentially convert. (Others have said this logic is flawed, and that it’s conversions that really count. But that’s a whole other discussion.)
As I touched on, Apple’s update means that for users who choose to protect their mail activity, marketers won’t be able to accurately track certain aspects of their email activity – and that includes open rates.
It’s important to keep in mind open rates have been inaccurate for years. And this has become increasingly true over time. However, now marketers are bound to see inflated, unreliable numbers.
All this being said, open rates will still be accurate for a percentage of your (non-Apple Mail) subscribers, and can increase or decrease based on the strength of your email marketing strategy. So there’s still some value in watching this metric.
And of course, when it comes to boosting your open rates, your subject line is key. A good subject line goes hand in hand with high open rates.
Here are some quick tips for writing an open-worthy subject line:
- Make it snappy (6-10 words is the sweet spot)
- Include specific numbers (X people use this amazing technique)
- Create a sense of urgency or scarcity (only two days left!)
- Ask a question (what’s a great subject line?)
- Be super-specific (this is how you can do X)
Your subject line can be your one and only chance to grab someone’s attention. So it goes without saying, you should optimize all your subject lines — even in the new world of (extra) unreliable open rates!
Click-through rate (CTR)
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who clicked on a link in an email.
Let’s calculate it: Unique clicks / total emails delivered x 100
How important is your click-through rate?
In a post iOS15 world, clicks are taking center stage.
This is one metric you can still reliably track to determine whether subscribers are engaging with your content. For email marketers who’ve long considered open rates a vanity metric, the shift of focus toward click rates is refreshing.
And there’s no doubt click-through rate is an essential metric. It provides valuable insight into your campaign performance — from your offers to your CTAs. Not only can it help you measure how engaging your emails are overall, you can get granular insights into what type of content performs best.
You can also use it to build email list segments based on engagement. By looking at who hasn’t clicked on an email link in the last few months, you can create a list of disengaged subscribers and send them a win back email.
And of course, you can (and should!) use this metric to clean your email list, too.
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who completed a desired action by way of an email.
Let’s calculate it: # of people who complete an action / total emails delivered x 100
How important is your conversion rate?
Conversion rate is undoubtedly an important email metric. The goal of an email isn’t just to get people to open it, but to complete a desired action. If you’re doing link building, you want to get replies. If you’re trying to sell, of course, you’re looking for purchases.
Whatever your goal may be, there are some key factors that influence email performance, like personalization and interactivity.
As a rule, people dislike generic, mass sales pitches. So showing you’ve taken the time to get to know them can make all the difference in the world. Check out this article for tips on how to take email personalization beyond first name.
To make personalization easier in bulk, you could try segmenting your email list by:
- Buyer journey
- Previous interactions
- Geographic location
As for interactivity, there’s no better way to spice up your messages than with AMP for Email. If you’ve never heard about this technology before, it’s essentially like adding little apps to your emails that allow users to interact with live content — without having to click through to your site. Pretty cool, right?
Interactive email elements, like GIFs and videos, have already been proven to increase email engagement by up to 300%. But AMP emails take interactivity even further. (Not sure what the difference is between interactive and AMP emails? This post can help.)
When it comes to AMP, the possibilities are endless. For example, you can empower your customers to respond to a survey, right from an email. Or, share a live product list featuring clearance items. Or, request a product review via an embedded email form. Like I said, endless possibilities!
And the stats on AMP for Email are hard to ignore. Email marketers have increased their conversion rates by 60% to 300% using this tech. Not bad at all.
Here’s a good email example from AMP champion, Google:
It’s effective because:
It’s engaging. You can shop right from your inbox – how enticing is that? By empowering recipients to pick a color and add to their cart, all within the email, you’re moving them down the funnel and increasing the likelihood of conversion.
It’s compelling. The short and sweet benefit-oriented copy tells me everything I need to know to make a purchasing decision.
It’s beautifully designed. The visual hierarchy. The white space. The pertinent visuals and helpful links. What’s not to love?
Let’s define it: The percentage of emails that couldn’t be delivered to a subscriber’s inbox.
Let’s calculate it: Total bounced emails / emails sent x 100
How important is your bounce rate?
Bounce rate may not be the most glamorous metric. But it’s actually an important one to monitor. Why? Because a high bounce rate can impact your sender reputation. (More on this in just a sec.)
A “bounce” means your email can’t be delivered. This can happen for many reasons. A bounce is considered ‘soft’ if an email address is valid, but an email can’t be delivered because of a full inbox or some other problem. A ‘hard’ bounce happens when an email address is invalid, closed, or non-existent.
Now, internet service providers (ISPs) consider a high bounce rate a signal that you’re guessing email addresses — a shady tactic commonly used by spammers. This increases your chances of ending up in the spam folder, and affects your sender reputation and overall email deliverability.
The takeaway here? Maintaining your email list isn’t a task you should put off. Be sure to delete email addresses that hard bounce right away. For soft bounces, you can try sending your email again. But if your messages continue to bounce, you should delete these addresses too.
Spam complaint rate
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who report an email as spam or junk.
Let’s calculate it: Total spam complaints / emails sent x 100
How important is your spam complaint rate?
Spam complaints are serious business. Just a few complaints can impact your sender reputation and email deliverability.
In fact, the acceptable spam complaint rate is less than 0.1% percent. That means, if even one person out of a hundred reports your email as spam, you’re in trouble.
If your spam complaint rate is high, your account can get blocked. And even if you manage to get it back up, the damage is done — most of your emails will end up in spam folders afterward. To fix this, you would need to warm up your account all over again. (“Warming up” refers to limiting the number of emails you send, and slowly raising it back up.)
All this to say, keep an eye on your spam complaints. If you find they’re consistently high (0.1% and over), consider revisiting your email strategy.
Do some research to find out what kind of content your audience would appreciate. Then, try following the 80/20 rule of marketing: 80% of your content should inform, educate, and entertain, while only 20% should promote your business.
Return on investment (ROI)
Let’s define it: The net monetary return from an email marketing campaign.
Let’s calculate it: ($ gained – $ invested) / total $ invested on an email campaign x 100*
*Note, this is a simplified equation. ROI can be tricky to calculate depending on the industry you’re in and the complexity of a campaign. For more guidance, check out this article from our friends at Campaign Monitor: How do you calculate email marketing ROI?
How important is your return on investment?
Arguably (or maybe unarguably!), return on investment is the most important metric. It measures the overall success of your emails. In other words, it shows you whether it was all worth it.
After all, the end goal of any given email isn’t a click, or even a conversion. The end goal is for that email to deliver a return on investment — whether that’s through direct sales, new customers, or increasing lifetime value.
But email is equal to the task. Of all the digital marketing strategies out there, email delivers the highest ROI at $36 for every $1 spent.
If that sounds high to you, you may want to consider ways to streamline your email workflow. An email builder like Dyspatch can help you speed up your workflow, cut costs, and increase returns — without compromising on quality.
Forwarding rate and sharing rate
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who forward your email, or use a share button to post your email content on social.
Let’s calculate it: # of forwards or shares / total emails delivered x 100
How important is your forwarding rate and sharing rate?
Your email forwarding and sharing rates are flattering metrics to be sure. Not only are your subscribers enjoying your content, they’re going so far as to share it with a friend. That means, more brand awareness and new subscribers and contacts – all because you’re creating stellar email content. (Go you!)
Unfortunately, this is another metric impacted by the iOS 15 update. Apple no longer allows marketers to track if a subscriber forwarded your message to another person. So once again, your numbers will be skewed where Apple Mail users are concerned.
But you can still track shares and keep an eye on forwards. Emails with high forwarding and sharing rates are a good indicator of topics your audience appreciates, which can help guide your content strategy in the future.
Let’s define it: The percentage of people who unsubscribe from your email list after opening an email.
Let’s calculate it: # of unsubscribes / total emails delivered x 100
How important is your unsubscribe rate?
Not as important as you might think. While an unsubscribe may feel like a blow, it’s actually a good thing. That may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out…
If someone is on your list, but they’re not engaging with your emails, it’s bad for deliverability. ISPs use email engagement as a spam signal. So if your email engagement is low, it increases the chances of an ISP marking it as spam.
That’s why, it’s best if disengaged subscribers do leave. Plus, you can track your unsubscribes and learn from them. If an email has an unusually high unsubscribe rate, it’s a sign there was something flawed about the content. Maybe you made a mistake, or the topic just wasn’t very relevant. Whatever the case may be, you can do better next time around.
The moral of the story? Keep an eye on your unsubscribe rate and make sure it doesn’t spike, but don’t put too much stock in it either.
The bottom line: Track email marketing metrics that matter
Tracking email metrics is essential. I think we can all agree on that.
But it’s just as important to focus on the right metrics. The ones that provide real, actionable insights. The ones that will help you build a winning email program.
While Apple’s iOS 15 update has shaken things up, it hasn’t changed the metrics that really matter. Email marketers need to shift their focus from vanity metrics, like opens, to more essential ones, like:
- Spam complaints
- Return on investment (ROI)
These metrics — especially ROI — have always had a greater impact on your bottom line than open rates anyway.