You have heard the terms: click-through rate (CTRs), open rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, delivery rate. What do they all mean, and which is the best metric to measure e-mail marketing success? Most e-mail marketing providers will report some combination of metrics immediately following your campaign’s deployment. These metrics can vary among providers, but they will usually include the standard CTRs and open rates.

Knowing what is being measured, and how to evaluate the results, can help you better understand your campaign’s performance and take action to improve your next e-mail campaign and achieve maximum return on investment.

Here, I will introduce the most common e-mail marketing metrics and how to evaluate this in your next campaign report:

The click-through rate (CTR) is the most commonly tracked in an e-mail campaign, with 92% of organizations using it[1]. To calculate this, simply divide unique clicks by the number of e-mails delivered. Industry averages for third-party mailing lists are 10% to 40% of opens (or 0.1% - 1.2% of all e-mails sent)[2]. The CTR has surpassed the open rate in its usage because it is more indicative of the relevancy of your message and the effectiveness of your call-to-action.

The conversion rate is often called the most important metric, because it measures the percentage of recipients who took action – whether that is completing a registration form on your website or making a purchase. It is more definitive than the click-through rate, because it requires the reader to do more than just click a link. E-mail marketing providers measure conversion rates differently, so when using this rate, be sure to know how it is defined by your provider before launching the campaign.

The bounce rate is the percentage of e-mails that could not be delivered. “Hard” bounces indicate that an e-mail address is closed; soft bounces indicate a temporary problem with delivery, such as a full in-box.

The delivery rate is calculated by subtracting the number of bounces from the total e-mails sent, and dividing it by the total number of e-mails sent. Reputable e-mail providers will have delivery rates of 98% or higher – or they will price the campaign based on deliveries, not the number of e-mails sent.

With every advertising campaign, it is important to track performance to measure results. Knowing what the e-mail metrics represent, and how to evaluate them, will help you to better understand how your campaigns are performing.

written by: Kristen Deaton


[1] Source: Marketing Sherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Survey 2010
[2] Source: ConsumerBase Campaign Analytics Report 2012