How to measure success in email marketing

Using email marketing

Time to complete:

10 minutes


Email marketing is a critical piece of any small business’s marketing strategy. In other lessons, we’ve covered some important email marketing basics and how to build your email list. Now, let’s take a deep dive into how you can measure the success of your email marketing campaigns.

Fortunately, email marketing is easy to measure these days. Most email marketing services include built-in analytics tools you can use to track and understand how well your emails are performing. By measuring things like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, you can quickly learn what’s working, what isn’t, and — most importantly — how to make adjustments to improve your future emails accordingly.

In this lesson, you’ll learn which metrics for measuring performance are most important to keep an eye on to understand and improve your email marketing efforts.

What you should measure

In this video, you’ll learn useful metrics that can help you understand email performance.

Most email marketing services measure lots of different performance metrics. Here are four of the simplest and most important to know about.

Open rate

Your open rate is the percentage of people who opened your email. This is important for a few reasons. First, it gives you a bit of an idea about the quality of your email list. After all, if you emailed 10,000 people and only five opened your message, you may not be talking to people who are actually interested in hearing from your business.

But more importantly, it helps you understand which of your email subject lines are working the best. Subject lines are important; a compelling subject line lets customers know what an email is about, entices them to open it, and helps them know if its contents are going to be relevant and interesting to them.

Pro tip: Personalize your subject lines and keep them short. You can find some helpful recommendations for creating better email subject lines here.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate (CTR) measures the percentage of people who clicked on a link (often known as a “Call to Action” [CTA]) in your email. If your links are a bridge to where you want your customers to go, you can think of CTR as the percentage of people who crossed the bridge.

CTR is a great way to judge the effectiveness of your content. For example, if 90 percent of recipients clicked a link to a special promotion on your website that you included in an email, you can assume that people are excited about your promotion.

Additionally, CTR is a good overall barometer of how useful, timely, or interesting your emails are to your audience. If lots of people are clicking on your links, chances are you’re sending them information that they care about. On the other hand, if your CTR is low, you may be sending emails to people at a time when they don’t need them, sending them to those who don’t want them, or including information about your business that isn’t particularly useful to them.

Pro tip: Unless you’re promoting a lot of items for purchase or sharing multiple resources, limit the number of links or actionable buttons in your emails to only the most important things you want people to react to. Too many links or buttons in an email can be confusing to readers, so keep them focused on what you most want them to click on.

Conversion rate

Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who perform the specific action you want them to take after reading your email. It’s a bit more involved than open rate and CTR, but it’s one of the most valuable email marketing metrics for your business.

What counts as a “conversion” depends on what your business’s goals are for an email. If you’re looking to drum up more reviews for your website, a recipient’s action becomes a conversion when they leave you a review. If you want them to purchase a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift for their special someone, their action becomes a conversion when they hit the “purchase” button on your online store and check out.

That’s why conversion rate is so important: It gives you a clear, direct understanding of the tangible impact your email marketing is having on your actual business goals.

Pro tip: If you use a tool like Google Analytics to track your website traffic, you can see how many people who came to your website from your email ended up making a purchase, requesting a quote, or otherwise “converting” for your business.

Unsubscribe rate

The unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who asked to be unsubscribed from your email list after getting your email.

It’s normal for a small percentage of your customers to unsubscribe after an email — their needs change, they may have overflowing inboxes, or they may no longer be interested in whatever led them to your business in the first place.

However, if you suddenly see a large spike in people unsubscribing after one (or a few) of your emails, take note. It can be an important clue about what type of content, language, design, or offers to avoid sending in the future.

These four useful metrics can help you better understand your email performance.

What story is your data telling you?

You should be looking for opportunities to improve your email content — and your business’s overall email marketing strategy — by identifying trends in your data. Email metrics can give you valuable insights about your customers’ preferences, highlight opportunities you may not have noticed, and flag unforeseen pitfalls.

Here a few questions to consider when looking at your email data:

Did one email outperform another in open rates?

With some exceptions — like a really compelling discount — your open rates should remain relatively stable across different emails.

If one email (or a certain type) massively outperforms or underperforms another, take notice. For instance, if your emails with a subject line about product tips are outperforming other emails, it could be a sign that your customers are especially interested in receiving helpful product how-to info.

Email metrics can help determine which emails are outperforming others.

Are open rates changing with certain factors like time of day or frequency?

Factors like when and how often you send emails can impact their effectiveness, and you can often spot the impact in your open rate.

If you notice that emails sent at a specific time of day (or a certain day of the week) have a much higher open rate than others, you can use that information to improve your campaign success by rescheduling your other emails for the same time and/or day. Similarly, if you notice diminishing open rates the more closely together you send your emails, it may be your cue to space out your email frequency so you don’t overwhelm your recipients.

Do customers click-through more often on particular types of content?

Usually, the goal of most emails is to drive customers to your website. If you notice your click-through rates dramatically spiking or dropping, it may be telling you something valuable about the content you’re sharing.

If emails with links to new product announcements are outperforming emails with links to tips for how to use your products, it could be a sign that your customers are especially interested in hearing what you're launching next.

With email marketing, your business has a simple and powerful way to stay connected and engaged with your audience while offering them continuous value that builds brand loyalty.

And by following these tips, you’ll know which metrics are the most important to keep an eye on to improve your email marketing success, and what story these numbers are telling you about the performance of your emails.