Pay Attention to These 6 Important Email Engagement Metrics

Email engagement is critical to the success of your B2C email marketing[1] efforts. This article will share tips for increasing engagement in key areas along with the six email engagement metrics to track your progress.

The Email Engagement Metrics That Matter

First, let’s talk about those metrics. These are essential not only to optimize your email marketing campaigns, but also to protect your sender score. If you don’t keep an eye on metrics like your open rate and bounce rate, your email deliverability will drop.

These aren’t the only email engagement metrics, but these are the ones that will have the biggest impact on your email marketing campaigns.

  1. Open rate. The first step in email engagement is getting subscribers to open your emails. A good open rate means that you’ve done your job on that front. Over time, a low open rate can lead ISPs to send your emails to the spam folder.
  2. Click rate. Most of the time, you’ll want your subscribers to do more than just open the email. Your click rate is a measure of how effective your calls-to-action are.
  3. Conversion rate. Your conversion rate is the percentage of people who take a pre-defined action after reading your email. For example, if you’re sending an abandoned cart recovery email, your conversion rate will be the percentage of people who make a purchase.
  4. Churn rate. Your churn rate is the percentage of your subscribers who unsubscribe over a period of time. Unsubscribes won’t hurt your deliverability, but if your list is shrinking, you’ll need to reassess your approach to email acquisition and other elements of your email marketing strategy (more on that below).
  5. Bounce rate. This metric shows the number of emails that are rejected by the recipients’ email servers. Soft bounces may be temporary (e.g., an email can’t be delivered because the subscriber’s inbox is full) but hard bounces occur when there’s a permanent delivery failure. A high bounce rate is another factor that can get your emails sent to the spam folder.
  6. Spam complaints. This metric is important to watch for obvious reasons. If too many subscribers flag your email as spam, your deliverability will suffer.

How to Improve Your Campaigns Based on Email Engagement Metrics

The success of your B2C email marketing strategy[2] is going to depend on whether it drives engagement. Here are some tips to make sure your emails make it to your subscribers’ inboxes, get opened, and convert.

How to Keep Your Emails Out of the Spam Folder

It’s impossible to improve email engagement if your subscribers don’t get your emails in the first place. Here are a five things you can do to make sure your emails don’t go to spam.

  1. Don’t send emails to unengaged contacts. If someone hasn’t opened any of your last ten emails, stop sending them emails. Email sent to unengaged contacts is called “graymail,” and it can hurt your sender score.
  2. Don’t send emails to addresses that bounce. Your bounce rate affects your sender score, so keep it low by removing subscribers when an email bounces. With soft bounces, you can keep them around for a while to see if the problem is resolved, but if you already have a bounce rate of 5 percent or above, the safest thing to do is to go ahead and remove the subscriber.
  3. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe. The easier you make it to unsubscribe, the less likely your subscribers are to flag your emails as spam.
  4. Validate your email list on a regular basis. Use a tool to see which email addresses have a high fraud score, make frequent spam complaints, or just don’t exist, and remove those addresses from your list.
  5. Avoid spam trigger words. There’s a long list of words that spam filters look for. Don’t use those words.

In addition to spam trigger words, here are 5 other things to do to avoid the spam folder, ranked by Mailchimp:

  1. Don’t have a low text to image area ratio.
  2. Include a plain text and an HTML version of every email.
  3. Don’t send emails with a low text to image area ratio.
  4. Make sure the HTML and text versions of your emails match.
  5. Don’t use all caps for the subject line.

How to Increase Email Open Rates

There’s only so much you can do before someone opens your email. There are three factors you can control:

  1. Timing
  2. Sender name
  3. Subject line
  4. Pre-header

Then there’s a fourth factor that you can’t control, but you can influence: whether your email reaches the intended recipient’s inbox.

Choose the Best Time to Send Emails

Litmus found that 21.2 percent of emails are opened in the morning, but GetResponse reported that “almost 22 percent” of emails are opened within an hour of being sent. But most of the emails GetResponse analyzed were sent in the morning. So that number may be the result of email marketers following the commonly accepted best practice of sending emails in the morning.

But the best day of the week and time to send emails will vary depending on where your subscribers are, their lifestyle, and other variables. And the optimal time and day may vary significantly from one subscriber to the next.

As with most things in the marketing world, this is something you should test. There are also email marketing platforms that offer send time optimization. This feature can be implemented in a few ways, but the best method is one that optimizes the send time based on each subscriber’s past engagement.

Optimize Your Sender Name

The first thing most people look at when they’re deciding whether to open an email or not isn’t the subject line. It’s the sender name. So don’t overlook this element of your email campaigns.

One study found that using your company name as the sender name was less effective than using an unrecognizable sender name. Other studies suggest that your sender name should be recognizable.

So what should you do? We recommend letting these conflicting studies be a reminder to test everything. What works best will depend on your industry, your brand reputation, your target audience, and a host of other factors.

Write Good Subject Lines

Short (less than 10 words) subject lines written in sentence case with no punctuation (other than hyphens, commas, and quotation marks when required by the rules of grammar) and no emojis generally perform best, but this is easy to test. The thing to remember when you’re testing is to run a test that will teach you something you can apply to future subject lines.

You can start by seeing if the aforementioned best practices hold true for your list. Split your audience into two groups and over the course of multiple campaigns, send one half shorter subject lines and the other half longer subject lines. Then, test title case against sentence case. And finally, see what your audience thinks about emojis.

For each test, make sure the test groups remain the same over each campaign so you don’t pollute your sample.

Test Email Preheader Best Practices

The email pre-header is the snippet of text that will appear next to the subject line in some email clients. It will need to be between 30-80 characters to fit on mobile devices.

Shorter pre-headers tend to get people’s attention because most emails aren’t sent with optimized pre-headers, so they’ll just take up the entire line with the beginning of the email body. In that context, a shorter message stands out.

Don’t waste this space to reiterate the subject line. Your subject line should get your attention and, if they don’t open the email right away, the pre-header should pique their curiosity.

And, as always, test different elements of your pre-header to discover what works best for your audience.

How to Increase Email Click Rates

There are two factors that influence your click rate. The first is the relevance of your pre-click content to the call-to-action. The second is the call-to-action itself.

If your subject lines and pre-headers are getting people to open your emails but the email body and call-to-action aren’t relevant to whatever it was that made them open the email, your click rate will suffer. Make sure your email body delivers what it says on the box.

If that’s not the problem, it’s likely the copy or the call-to-action. Is the call-to-action buried under paragraphs of copy? Then you need to shorten the copy or include the call-to-action above the fold and at the end of the email.

You can also test different calls-to-action to see what your subscribers find the most compelling.

How to Increase Email Conversion Rates

If your click rates are strong but people aren’t converting, the problem probably isn’t with your email, but with your landing pages. There are landing page optimization tools you can use to see what’s causing visitors to leave without converting and test changes to improve conversions.

The other possibility is that the offer on your landing page isn’t what subscribers expected from the call-to-action. For example, if your call-to-action says, “Click here to get this free offer,” but the landing page asks them to pay shipping and handling costs, your click rate was inflated by a misleading call-to-action.

How to Reduce Your Churn Rate

If your churn rate is high, it’s usually for one or more of the following four reasons:

  1. You need to improve the quality of your list. You’re attracting the wrong people to your list. Maybe you bought a list or maybe your B2C lead generation campaigns are targeting people who aren’t a good fit. Take a look at the organic keywords, ads, landing pages, and content that are generating subscribers to see if they’re qualified leads.
  2. You need to change up your content. You’re attracting the right people but sending them the wrong content. You need to shake things up. If you’re sending a lot of promotional offers, try an informational email instead. If you’re sending a monthly newsletter with an industry round-up, try switching to quick industry updates.
  3. You need to send fewer emails. You’re sending the right people the right content too frequently. Some people see good results when they send an email a week, some people need to stick to one email a month. Some people can get away with sending an email every day. It all depends on what your audience wants and how much they like your content.
  4. You need to segment your list. The problem may be a mixture of the three reasons above. Using website visitor identification to collect more data on your subscribers will allow you to use audience segmentation to see who responds best to what type of content and when. For example, some people may love your newsletter while others only want to receive notifications about sales. You can use demographic segmentation and other methods so that everyone can get what they want. 

Email Engagement Metrics Make Optimization Easy

You can impact all six of the essential email engagement metrics above. And by keeping track of your performance in each area, you’ll be able to see what you’re doing right and where you need to improve.


[1] Link to B2C Email Marketing Best Practices to Increase Revenue

[2] Link to How to Develop a Successful B2C Email Marketing Strategy

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