How to Track Email Performance Like a Pro

email performance cover with a graph and percentage icon

Tracking email performance isn’t just about staring at graphs; it’s about understanding whether your messages resonate with your audience. And if you don’t track your metrics, you’re flying blind — there’s no way to tell if you are achieving your campaign goals. Performance data offers insights into audience preferences and behaviors.

We’re going to unravel what terms, such as open rates and click-through rates, mean and explore how to make your email campaigns not just good — but downright awesome!

Email Marketing: The King of ROI

Email marketing often boasts the best return on investment (ROI) for several reasons. First off, it’s like the dependable workhorse of digital marketing — it’s budget-friendly and you can reach a large audience. You don’t need a fat budget to get started, and building a customer base doesn’t require breaking the bank.

Then there’s the personal touch. You can tailor emails to individual preferences and behaviors, making them feel more like a friendly conversation than a generic ad. This personalized approach tends to resonate better with recipients, increasing the likelihood of engagement.

The best part of email marketing is the tracking and analytics. You can measure open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, giving you valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t. This data-driven approach lets you fine-tune your strategy for optimal results.

Another perk is its versatility. Whether you’re promoting products, sharing updates, or nurturing leads, email can handle it all. 

Lastly, the sheer number of people using email daily is mind-boggling. Almost everyone has an email address, making it a universal channel of communication. This wide reach ensures your message has the potential to land in the inbox of a highly diverse audience.

So, in a nutshell, email marketing’s killer combo of affordability, personalization, analytics, versatility, and widespread use makes it an ROI superstar in the world of marketing.

Tracking Email Performance: Why It’s Important

If you run an ad in the newspaper or on TV, you only have a rough estimate of the views it gets. That is not the case with email — you can track the most minute details, which gives email marketing an edge over other marketing techniques.

Here’s why you should be tracking the performance of your email campaigns:

  1. Tracking metrics helps you measure the effectiveness of your content and subject lines.
  2. You can identify which types of content resonate the most with your audience, helping you refine your content strategy.
  3. Tracking user behavior within emails provides information about what specific links or products interest your audience. This understanding allows you to plan future campaigns.
  4. Aids in segmenting your email list based on user behavior; you can then create more targeted and personalized campaigns.
  5. Monitoring email performance helps you quickly identify any issues with deliverability or technical glitches
  6. Tracking conversion rates and revenue generated from email campaigns allows you to measure the ROI
  7. Monitoring email performance metrics helps you maintain a positive sender reputation.

By tracking email performance, you get a clearer picture of how which direction to take; it guides you, helps you navigate obstacles, and ensures you’re on the right path toward success.

How to Track Email Performance?

Your ESP will let you track email performance metrics through its analytics page, where you can view minute details of your campaigns. Regular analysis and adjustment of future campaigns based on this data will ensure an upward trend in email performance.

Here’s a guide on which key elements you should pay attention to:

  1. Open rates: Monitor the percentage of recipients who open your emails. 
  2. Click-through rates (CTR): Track the percentage of recipients who clicked on one or more links in your email.
  3. Conversion rates: If your email campaign has specific conversion goals (like product purchases or signups), track the conversion rates. 
  4. Delivery rates: How many of your emails are actually making it to your customers’ mailboxes?
  5. Deliverability: Understanding whether your emails reach the inbox or the spam folder.
  6. Bounce rates: Keep an eye on bounce rates to identify issues with email deliverability. 
  7. Unsubscribe rates: Monitor the percentage of recipients who opt out or unsubscribe from your emails.
  8. List health: Track how your email list is doing over time. Are you gaining customers consistently? Are people leaving?
  9. Spam complaints: Closely track your spam complaint rates. Excessive complaints can harm your sender reputation and deliverability. 

For example, on the Campaign Refinery dashboard, our clients can access multiple dynamic views of their campaigns’ performance. You can view broadcast data separately from campaign data, view by any date range, and see metrics like total sent emails, open rates, spam reports, unsubscribes, and click rates

With the clever use of bar and line graphs, we’ve made it simple for our customers to evaluate email performance. 

Email Performance Pre-Requisite: Segmentation

Effective email segmentation is like tailoring a suit — it’s about creating a personalized fit for each wearer. Except it’s a bit simpler because you do this for a group of subscribers and not a single user. In email marketing, segmentation involves dividing your subscribers into smaller, more targeted groups based on shared characteristics.

If you want your emails to perform, you cannot afford to mass-email your subscriber list without some form of segmentation in place.

This tailored approach is critical for several practical reasons:

  • Good segmentation ensures your emails are relevant to the specific interests and needs of each subgroup. 
  • Segmented lists often experience better engagement rates because the content resonates with the particular interests of each segment.
  • When subscribers receive content that meets their expectations, they are less likely to unsubscribe or mark your emails as spam.
  • Segmentation sets the stage for personalized communication. By understanding the characteristics and behaviors of each segment, you can customize your messages, address subscribers by name, and offer content that influences them and moves them toward conversion.
  • Segmentation enables the use of behavior-based automation. By tracking how subscribers interact with your emails, you can automate follow-up messages or offers that match their actions, nurturing leads and encouraging continued engagement.
  • Understanding the characteristics of each segment allows you to optimize the timing of your email campaigns.
  • Segmentation helps keep your email list organized.
  • Segmentation provides the opportunity to conduct more targeted A/B testing. By comparing the performance of different elements within specific segments, you can refine your strategies.

List segmentation will help you get much better at targeted marketing; plus your customers will appreciate you for keeping your emails relevant. 

Email Segmentation at Campaign Refinery

Good list segmentation transforms generic, uninspiring messages into personalized conversations, which your audience will appreciate. This is why we’ve made segmentation super-simple at Campaign Refinery.

Our search function lets our clients segregate their contact lists by the minutest details so they can quickly create unique lists for targeted campaigns whenever necessary. 

For example, consider a situation where you added a tag for users who signed up from your website, but you only want to target the signups from the last 2 months. It’s possible with our list management tool! 

Campaign Refinery Contacts Search
Campaign Refinery Contacts Search

Segmentation can significantly improve overall email performance — after all, it’s the art of sending the right message to the right people at the right time.

Email Campaign Tracking: Understanding Delivery and Deliverability

First, let’s understand delivery and deliverability and the differences between the two.

Delivery rates in email marketing refer to the percentage of successfully delivered emails out of the total number of emails sent in a particular campaign. This metric provides insight into the effectiveness of an email campaign in terms of reaching the intended recipients’ inboxes without bouncing or being rejected.

To calculate the delivery rate, you have to divide the number of emails delivered by the total number of emails sent and multiply that by 100 to get the percentage.

So your email makes it to the mailbox — but does it reach the inbox? Because that is your deliverability rate. Deliverability refers to an email message’s ability to reach the intended recipient’s inbox without being filtered into the spam folder or bounced back. It encompasses a range of factors that influence whether an email is delivered and, once delivered, whether it is placed in the primary inbox.

People wrongly assume delivery rates are a strong indicator of deliverability, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Tracking delivery rates and testing your deliverability independently are separate, equally important tasks.

Between the two, deliverability is the biggest challenge ESPs face. Not for Campaign Refinery, though — mailbox providers love to see our emails! We operate with deliverability as our primary focus, and our strict adherence to email best practices results in our emails going straight to the inbox, consistently. 

Don’t take our word for it, here’s a quip from a client, Stefan Ciancio from Webinarkit:

An amazing platform! I love that I’m basically guaranteed to inbox. In fact, not inboxing is a thing of the past.

Now let’s examine the differences between delivery and deliverability and why both are important.

Delivery vs Deliverability

Spammers have forced mailbox providers to create separate sections within a mailbox, with a select few emails allowed into the inbox. So even if your delivery rates are high, are your customers able to read your emails? 

Before we answer that, let’s look at a table that explains the differences between the two:

DefinitionThe process of successfully transmitting an email to the recipient’s server.The overall ability of an email to reach the intended inbox
FocusPrimarily concerned with the successful transmission of emails without bouncing.Encompasses a broader range of factors, including inbox placement, spam filtering, and overall success in reaching the recipient’s inbox.
GoalAn email is considered delivered if it reaches the recipient’s server, regardless of inbox placement.An email is considered successfully delivered if it lands in the primary inbox without being flagged as spam.
Data insightIndicates the percentage of emails that were successfully delivered without bouncing.Reflects the percentage of emails that reached the recipient and also made it to the primary inbox, avoiding spam filters.
TakeawaysAddresses technical aspects of email transmission, such as server responses and bounces.Involves proactive management of sender reputation, adherence to email marketing best practices, and continuous monitoring of deliverability metrics.
Delivery vs Deliverability

As you can see, delivery rates do not mean your subscribers saw your email. It’s still an important metric to track so we want to talk about it, after which we will discuss deliverability, which is all about reaching the inbox. After all, we know best — our deliverability rates are crushing the market right now!

Tracking Delivery Rates

Tracking delivery rates in email marketing is like monitoring the dispatch of your messages from a post office — it tells you how many of your emails made it to their intended destinations. 

Understanding delivery rates is crucial for comprehending email marketing performance; here’s why:

  • Delivery rates provide a clear picture of how many of your emails are successfully reaching the inboxes of your intended recipients. This metric is foundational for assessing the basic reach of your email campaigns.
  • Delivery rates help assess the quality of your email list. High bounce rates or low delivery rates may indicate issues with the accuracy of your email addresses, prompting you to clean and maintain your list for better performance.
  • Delivery rates and bounce rates go hand in hand. Monitoring delivery rates helps you manage bounce rates effectively. A sudden increase in bounces can be a red flag, indicating potential issues that need immediate attention.
  • Consistently low delivery rates can lead to your IP or domain being blacklisted. Getting blacklisted severely hampers email deliverability. Regularly tracking delivery rates allows you to address issues proactively and avoid the risk of blacklisting.
  • Successful email marketing campaigns hinge on reaching your audience. Delivery rates are a foundational metric for measuring the ROI of your email efforts. High delivery rates contribute to increased opportunities for engagement and conversions.

Tracking delivery rates is an ongoing process that enables continuous improvement. By analyzing trends over time, you can identify patterns, adjust strategies, and implement changes to enhance the overall performance of your email campaigns.

We feel that deliverability is a far more important factor to focus on because all your efforts are in vain if your content doesn’t land in your customer’s inbox. Chasing high delivery rates with a blind eye to your deliverability can be a huge waste of your time and resources.

Understanding Deliverability

Do you know you literally cannot track deliverability rates? That’s why we didn’t provide a formula above; mailbox providers do NOT let you know if your email was delivered to a recipient’s inbox or their spam folder. You can find methods to calculate your inbox placement rate on the internet, but there’s no way of officially accessing the data required to calculate it — not yet.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important to chase after the best deliverability you can! After all, what’s the point of sending emails if they’re not making it to the inbox, where your subscriber can read them? There are various testing tools and methods you can use to get an idea of your sender reputation, which mailbox providers use to decide if your emails are good enough for the inbox.

At Campaign Refinery, we have mastered email deliverability. We have been testing and implementing email best practices rigidly, making our inboxing rates the highest in the industry. Our commitment to these guidelines extends to our client selection process, too — we only onboard email professionals who truly appreciate the importance of protecting and building sender reputation.

If you’re curious about these email best practices, we do have a small surprise for you — The Inbox Formula. The book explains how the pros tackle email deliverability and includes best practices to industry insights to tackling IP strategies. It is decades of email expertise packed into a compact guidebook.

And you won’t have to pay a cent for it! It’s 100% FREE. Go ahead and grab a copy to see inboxing rates like never before.

And now that you’re ready to start tracking metrics, let’s begin with a critical one: open rates.

Open Rates: Are You Making a Good First Impression?

Open rates refer to the percentage of recipients who open and view an email, typically used as a metric to measure the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign. Open rates are further classified into total open rates and unique opens. 

Total email open rate is the percentage of total recipients who have opened an email, while unique open rate specifically measures the percentage of individual recipients who have opened it, providing a more granular view of engagement by ignoring multiple opens from the same recipient.

Here’s why keeping an eye on open rates is crucial for understanding your email performance:

  • Measure of engagement: Open rates give you a direct measure of engagement. The higher the open rate, the more successfully your email grabbed attention.
  • Content relevance: By monitoring open rates, you can gauge the effectiveness of your email content. It’s similar to judging how well your story resonates with your audience — if they’re opening, they’re interested.
  • Evaluate subject lines: The subject line is your email’s first impression, like a catchy headline. High open rates suggest your subject lines are grabbing attention and enticing recipients to explore further.
  • Segmentation effectiveness: Open rates also hint at how relevant your content is to your audience. If your audience finds value in your emails, they’re more likely to open them.
  • Timing and frequency optimization: Analyzing open rates helps you fine-tune your email timing and frequency. Understanding when your audience is receptive ensures they see your emails.
  • A/B testing: If you’re experimenting with A/B testing, open rates act as immediate feedback. By comparing open rates for variations, you learn what approach resonates best with your audience.

Tracking open rates is not just about numbers; it’s about understanding how your audience responds. That insight is invaluable for refining your email strategy and sending content that truly matters.

Click-through Rate or CTR: The Most Important Metric? 

Your click-through rate or CTR is a direct indicator of how compelling your content is to your audience. A high CTR suggests your message is hitting a sweet spot and capturing recipients’ interest.

Here’s why keeping an eye on click-through rates is crucial for understanding your email marketing performance:

  • Click-through rates give you a concrete measure of how many people read your email and were intrigued enough to take action.
  • Click-through rates are a precursor to conversions. The more clicks, the more opportunities for your audience to convert, whether it’s buying your product, signing up for a freebie, or taking another desired action.
  • By analyzing click-through rates, you can identify which content or offerings resonate the most with your audience. 
  • If you’ve segmented your email list, click-through rates validate the effectiveness of your segmentation strategy. Seeing higher click-through rates within specific segments confirms your email marketing strategy worked with those groups.
  • Comparing click-through rates for variations provides valuable feedback for refining your approach.

Tracking click-through rates is about understanding the active participation and interest of your audience. It is a strong indicator your sales pitch is working — a dynamic metric that reveals not only who opened your email but who decided to take the next step.

How Bounce Rates Affect Email Performance

Bounce rates are like health checkups for your email list. When emails bounce, it’s a sign there might be issues with the recipient’s email address — maybe it’s misspelled, outdated, or doesn’t exist. By monitoring bounce rates, you can spot and manage these issues, keeping your email list in good shape.

Consistently high bounce rates can harm your sender reputation. ISPs pay attention to how many of your emails bounce because it affects your credibility as a sender. A good sender reputation is like a VIP pass for your emails to reach inboxes smoothly.

Now, tracking these bounces is crucial for a couple of reasons:

  • To avoid the spam folder: High bounce rates might signal to ISPs that your emails aren’t hitting the mark. If your emails consistently bounce, ISPs might start routing them to the spam folder. Keeping bounce rates low helps your messages stay out of the spam territory.
  • For cost efficiency: If a significant portion of your emails bounce, you’re essentially wasting money. By tracking bounce rates and cleaning up your list, you ensure you direct your efforts and resources toward reaching engaged recipients.
  • To maintain a good reputation with mailbox providers: ISPs are gatekeepers who decide which emails get through and which don’t. If you have a habit of emailing invalid or nonexistent addresses, it sets off red flags. This is why it’s important to maintain low bounce rates — it helps build positive relationships with mailbox providers.

So, in a nutshell, tracking bounce rates ensures your messages reach the right addresses, helps you build trust with ISPs, and keeps you on track for your email marketing goals.

Campaign Refinery Helps Clients Reduce Bounces

Bounces can affect your sender reputation to a significant extent. The spam menace has mailbox providers on edge, so a large number of bounces from your campaigns can make them assume the worst about you, bringing down your sender score.

This is why we introduced our powerful list management tool — automated list cleaning.

The automated tool tackles any problematic email IDs on your list, including spam traps, bots, role-based emails, malformed addresses, complainers, seed accounts, and similar undeliverable accounts. This saves you a lot of time and resources and we’ve observed a positive impact on open rates as well; up to 37%

Unsubscribe Rates: Insight Into Customer Mindset

A high unsubscribe rate suggests your content is not resonating with your audience. It could be a sign that your emails are not meeting their expectations or interests. Unsubscribes can also indicate whether you are sending emails too frequently or not frequently enough — it might be worth reassessing your email frequency to find a balance.

Here’s what else your unsubscribe rate tells you:

  1. If your unsubscribe rate varies across different segments of your audience, it could highlight the need for better segmentation. Understanding which segments have higher or lower unsubscribe rates can guide you in adjusting your content for different audiences.
  2. The tone of your emails may influence unsubscribe rates — if your emails come across as too promotional, too formal, or not aligned with your brand personality, subscribers might opt out.
  3. Unsubscribes can indicate a misalignment between what subscribers expect and what your emails deliver. If people feel your emails don’t meet their expectations, they are more likely to unsubscribe. Ensure your email content is in sync with the statements made during the signup process.
  4. Consistently high unsubscribe rates may suggest issues with your email list quality. It’s crucial to regularly run maintenance on your email list by removing inactive or unengaged subscribers.
  5. Unsubscribes don’t always mean permanent disinterest. Subscribers might unsubscribe because of temporary reasons or content fatigue — use the opportunity to implement re-engagement strategies.
  6. High unsubscribe rates can serve as a feedback mechanism. Analyzing this feedback can help detect areas for improvement.
  7. Providing a clear and easy unsubscribe option in your emails is a legal requirement, and respecting subscriber preferences helps you stay within regulatory guidelines. By monitoring unsubscribe rates, you can ensure compliance with email marketing regulations like CAN-SPAM and GDPR. 

The unsubscribe rate is a metric that offers valuable insight — it helps you tailor content, improve segmentation, and focus on overall content value. Plus, they’re much better than spam reports!

Spam Reports: Red Flags

Tracking the spam rate is not just about technicalities; it’s about safeguarding your brand reputation, maintaining trust, and ensuring your emails don’t get flagged as unwelcome intruders.

Here’s why keeping an eye on your spam rate is important:

  1. High spam rates can damage your sender reputation.
  2. Excessive reports can lead to your domain or IP address getting blacklisted.
  3. Consistently being marked as spam damages the trust your subscribers have in your brand.
  4. Abiding by email marketing regulations is essential — a high spam rate may indicate non-compliance with laws like the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR.
  5. A high spam rate suggests your recipients perceive your content as spammy.
  6. Monitoring the spam rate prompts you to regularly clean and maintain your email list.
  7. High spam rates may indicate that your targeting is off or that your segmentation needs refinement.
  8. This metric provides valuable feedback; understanding why subscribers mark your emails as spam helps you make necessary adjustments.

For example, at Campaign Refinery, we have a maximum threshold of 0.1% for spam reports from our clients’ campaigns. Typically, it’s okay to hover around the 0.05% mark.

Spam Reports vs Unsubscribes

Unsubscribes are way better than spam reports — this is because each spam report means a subscriber is annoyed with your emails. And mailbox providers and anti-spam authorities take that very seriously, which is why spammers get taken down aggressively. 

Here’s a table comparing unsubscribes and spam reports:

*Spam reportsUnsubscribes
ExplanationIndicate that recipients consider the email as spamRecipients wish to opt out of receiving further emails
CauseIndicates perception of unwanted content.Signifies a decision by the recipient to discontinue receiving emails, usually due to content fatigue or changing interests.
Impact on sender reputationHigh spam reports can harm sender reputation.Unsubscribes, when managed appropriately, have a smaller impact on sender reputation.
List healthMultiple spam reports indicate issues with list quality, targeting, or content relevance.Unsubscribes help remove disinterested subscribers, maintaining a more responsive audience.
Legal issuesConsistent spam reports may lead to legal consequences.Unsubscribes are a legal requirement, and providing an easy opt-out ensures compliance.
Prevention strategiesFocus on relevant targeting and don’t go overboard with your emails.Offer clear value propositions and send relevant content to minimize unsubscribes.
Spam reports and Unsubscribes: What do they mean for you?

It’s equally important to pay attention to both these metrics and adjust the course accordingly. We’re going to cover this and a lot more in the next section.

Email Performance: What Are Your Metrics Telling You?

So you’ve been analyzing your campaign reports and collecting the above data. But what conclusions do you draw from it? 

This table explains the takeaways from tracking each of these email marketing metrics:

Open rates· Open rates indicate the level of engagement and interest in your email content. 
· Higher open rates suggest effective subject lines and content, while lower rates may necessitate adjustments in messaging or targeting. 
· Consistent or improving open rates reflect positive audience reception.
CTR· CTR provides insights into how compelling your content is and the effectiveness of your CTA. 
· High CTR indicates recipients not only opened your email but also took the desired action, such as clicking on links or buttons. 
· Low CTR may signal the need for more enticing content or clearer CTAs.
Delivery rates· A high delivery rate signifies success in navigating spam filters and other deliverability challenges.
· A steady delivery rate suggests your email list is well-maintained and free of issues.
· Good delivery rates imply your email content and formatting meet industry standards and ISP requirements.
Unsubscribe rates· Unsubscribe rates offer information about the overall satisfaction and relevance of your content. 
· A sudden increase in unsubscribe rates may indicate a disconnect with your audience, while steady rates suggest your list is naturally evolving and being actively managed.
Bounce rates· Bounce rates reveal the health of your email list by identifying invalid or undeliverable email addresses. 
· High bounce rates may indicate list quality issues, necessitating regular list cleaning.
· Reducing bounce rates contributes to maintaining a positive sender reputation.
Spam reports· Spam reports signal dissatisfaction or perception of unwanted content. 
· Consistent high spam rates can harm sender reputation and delivery rates.
· Analyzing spam reports helps identify content or targeting issues, and managing them is crucial to maintaining trust with your audience and mailbox providers.
Tracking Email Performance Metrics: Key Takeaways

With these guidelines, you will be able to understand your campaign reports better. Remember, as long as you offer value to the customer and prioritize them; you will flourish as an email marketer!

It’s Easy to Track Email Performance at Campaign Refinery

When building Campaign Refinery, there was one thing that greatly mattered to us — it HAD to be easy to use. We wanted our clients to see the information they wanted with minimal distractions. And we succeeded because we received excellent feedback for the simplicity of our user interface!

This extends to our analytics dashboard as well. It can quickly get overwhelming to look at multiple data points when examining how your campaign performed. We made tracking email performance as simple as possible — like choosing a date range or seeing groups of data in a manner that everything makes sense.

Take a look at the dashboard itself. It immediately gives you information on the campaigns you ran through the year. The first image is a smaller test account while the second account is a much larger one:

Campaign Refinery Email Performance
Campaign Refinery Email Performance
Campaign Refinery Email Performance
Campaign Refinery Email Performance

How about the details? Here is a graph showing you the open rates in the last 30 days. 

Campaign Refinery Email Performance
Campaign Refinery Email Performance

And here, we have an image showing two overlapping graphs — unsubscribe rates and spam reports.

Campaign Refinery Email Performance
Campaign Refinery Email Performance

With a quick glance at our dashboard, you will quickly understand how your email campaigns are performing. But if you’re on the lookout for peak email performance, Campaign Refinery offers many more advantages over our peers.

Here are our best features:

  • Automated list-cleaning: Never worry about problematic email addresses dragging down your email performance metrics again.
  • Automation flows: Like everything else, designing automation flows at Campaign Refinery is a breeze, no matter how complicated you want your campaigns to be.
  • Evergreen Flash Sales: You know what subscribers love? Time-sensitive, exclusive offers. If you want to see your conversions boom, you will love this Campaign Refinery feature.
  • List management tools: Build audiences, not lists!
  • The best deliverability: Get used to your messages consistently hitting the inbox.
  • Credit system: We don’t charge you for having a large list of contacts. With our credit system, you pay for what you use; this means you can email numerous small groups of engaged subscribers, which builds your sender reputation up even more.
  • Gamification: We’ve got ways to entice subscribers to actively engage with your content. And it works beautifully — we’re talking 76.37% open rates and a 72.76% click rate!

If you truly care about email performance, Campaign Refinery is the answer — apply today!

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