Email marketing is an essential channel for most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). It’s an effective way of driving a targeted message to your audience. Campaign Monitor says 38% of US consumers are driven to action due to email.

Reviewing metrics is essential for keeping emails campaign effective, so you can review and identify areas for improvement, whether it’s email list management or better subject lines. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What email metrics are
  • Which email metrics are important to monitor
  • How to create an email metrics report template
  • The email marketing benchmarks to know for 2020

What are email metrics?

Email metrics (or KPIs) are how we measure the success of a campaign. Having an email marketing tool is the best way to calculate and keep track of these scores, and is an invaluable tool for effective marketing campaigns.

Which email metrics are important to track and measure?

Key metrics

We’ve divided up the key email marketing metrics into the following categories:

  • Email campaign metrics
  • Email engagement metrics
  • Email performance metrics
  • ‘Other’ email metrics

Having goals or a benchmark in place for each email campaign will give you something to measure against and will allow you to report on the relative success of your email sends.

Understanding what each metric says about the email is key. This will help you review and improve the content of your email campaigns, and achieve your overall campaign goals.

Tried everything to get better email open and click-throughs rates?

 Follow our free 26-point checklist to avoid mistakes that hurt your metrics

Email campaign metrics

When putting a campaign together, the contact list is crucial to meeting your goals. Here’s how to measure your contact list metrics:

Unsubscribe rate

Your unsubscribe rate is the percentage of email recipients that unsubscribe from your list after being sent an email.

Why does it matter?

When a contact unsubscribes, there’s no easy way to get them back. You’ve effectively lost a contact, and lost an opportunity to make a customer or nurture your relationship with an existing one.

Tips for improvement:

  • Include a ‘change preferences’ link. It may be that they still want some email from you, but want to change the frequency or the topics they hear about.
  • Send more targeted emails. People want to receive emails that speak directly to them, use segmentation in your email marketing to send people only what they want to see.
  • Make email list hygiene your top priority. We put together 10 essential email hygiene best practices for 2021.

List growth rate

List growth rate measures how the number of subscribers on your list is increasing or decreasing over a period of time.

Why does it matter?

You may want to monitor your list growth rate in order to review how successful your lead capture campaigns are.

Contact lists naturally decay. According to Hubspot they expire by about 22.5% every year, which means you need to keep an eye on your list health and carry out regular data cleaning. 

So while keeping your contacts is important, continuing to grow your lists with correct email data should be your priority. 

Tips for improvement:

  • Track your list decay. If you are finding that your lists are decaying faster than they are growing, you may want to be more proactive about tracking this to understand where the problems are arising. 
  • Lead capture campaigns. To increase the number of subscribers on a list, try gating some of your most downloaded content or most visited online content. 

Email marketing engagement metrics

Email engagement is about what contacts do when they get a particular email. It measures how they respond to it, and how they engage with the content within it.

Click-through rate

The click-through rate (CTR) measures how many times your contacts click on a link within your email. It’s measured as total clicks over a number of delivered emails.

Why does it matter?

Your click-through rate is a more important metric than open rate when it comes to engagement, as it shows when people want to take action or find out more.

Tips for improvement:

  • Varying clicking methods. Buttons, hyperlinked text, and hyperlinked images all work to encourage people to click within your emails. To find out what your audience prefers, run A/B tests with your emails to see which type of link typically provides a stronger click-through rate.

Sharing and forwarding

Sharing metrics measure the rate at which your contacts forward your emails, or click a ‘share’ button within your email.

Why does it matter?

Sharing an email goes one step further than just engaging with it. It means the recipient has found the content useful enough to want others to see it too.

It can tell you what pieces of content are really resonating with your audience.

If your email tool doesn’t report on this metric, don’t worry, there’s still a way to monitor this. You can track the click-throughs on your sharing links or buttons, so you’ll know when someone clicks ‘share with a friend’. Identifying when a contact forwards is more difficult, but can be identified when the number of opens is much higher than average for a unique opener.

Tips for improvement:

  • Keep your emails straightforward. Single topic emails are easier to share, as they don’t require additional context as to what is being shared.

What are the industry standard email open rates

Email open rate

Email open rate measures exactly that, the rate at which people open your email once they’ve received it.

Why does it matter?

Getting people to open your emails is what stands between your contact lists and your message. If your email recipients aren’t opening the email, they’re not seeing your content.

Depending on your industry, Mailchimp reports that the average open rate for marketing emails is between 15 and 29%. 

Tips for improvement:

  • Strong subject lines. Consider what your audience will find compelling, and how to best attract attention to your content in just a few words. You can use Coschedule to test and evaluate your subject lines before sending.
  • Try different sending times and days. Campaign Monitor reported that Thursday was the best day for high open rates. Try A/B testing to work out what approach works best for your audience.

Email performance metrics

Email performance metrics measure the deliverability of your emails. In other words, how many people out of your list are actually receiving the emails you send them. If your contacts aren’t being sent the email, then you’re not getting your content out there.

Email bounce rate

Email bounces occur when an email can’t be delivered to the recipient and bounces back to the sender. There are two types of bounces; soft bounces and hard bounces.

A soft bounce is usually a temporary issue. An email service provider will usually make several attempts to send it before giving up and labeling it a ‘soft bounce’. It happens when your recipient’s email provider is having issues, or if your recipient has a full inbox.

A hard bounce is considered ‘undeliverable’, and is permanent. It is returned to the sender and your email service provider will block you from emailing this contact again. It happens when an email address doesn’t exist (it may be written incorrectly or include typos) or if the mailbox is inactive.

Why does it matter?

A bounce rate of 5% or more is worrying, because it can result in your emails being blocked by internet service providers (ISPs), or getting your IP blacklisted. We monitor this so we can rectify problems.

Tips for improvement:

  • Authenticate your emails. Meeting accepted standards put in place by ISPs can improve your sender reputation. These standards include SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance).
  • Clean your data. Bad data will negatively affect your deliverability rates. Run a data cleaning exercise to remove incorrect data, such as email addresses with typos, or those that are no longer active. You should also regularly clean out any contacts that have previously hard bounced.

Data cleaning tools can make this task a lot easier, depending on the size of your company. Small to medium businesses (SMBs) tend to have smaller lists, but each company is different and has different requirements. We’ve put a together to help you choose a data quality tool to suit your business.


ISP complaints measure when your email is marked as spam by a contact. This information is relayed back to the sender and the user’s ISP, who then monitors this for future sends.

Why does it matter?

It’s crucial that this score stays low, or you risk losing your ability to send emails. Campaign Monitor reports that the industry standard for spam complaints is less than 0.02%.

Tips for improvement:

  • Include unsubscribe links. Make it easy for contacts to unsubscribe or change their preferences. Better to lose a contact than have them mark you as spam.
  • Improve your content quality. As mentioned, targeted and relevant emails are key to not coming across as ‘spam’. The way your email looks is just as important. Avoid spam-like wording, including attachments or unusual links.

‘Other’ email engagement metrics

This is not an exhaustive list and the metrics that are important for you to monitor depend on your campaign goals. Here are other examples of metrics you may want to measure:

Conversion rate

Unlike the more standard email metrics listed above, conversion rate relies on data outside of the email campaign. It measures whether the recipient follows through on the action you’d like them to take, for example, signing up to a webinar, or downloading a piece of content.

To do this, you’ll require integration between your website with Google Analytics or other tools, like an event or webinar platform with your email marketing platform. 

Why does it matter?

The conversion rate tells you how effective your email was at achieving its goal. It also tells you if the content you're sending to your audience is what they want to see. We wrote about data-driven marketing to help you send emails based on what works with your audience. 

Tips for improvement:

  • Clear CTAs. Your email content should be clear and give simple instructions on what you’d like the recipient to do. For example “register for our webinar”. 

Device type and Email clients

This metric tells you the ways in which your recipients are consuming your email content. You can review the device types used by contacts, and which email clients they are using.

Why does it matter?

This metric can serve to improve your recipient’s experience of your receiving your email, and therefore give you better engagement rates.

When you design an email, keep in mind that it may not look right on all devices, such as mobile or tablets, and the way it looks in email clients differ. Most email platforms allow you to preview how your emails look on different devices or inbox types before you send.

Tips for improvement:

  • Test, test, test. Make use of preview and test send options in your email platform.
  • Optimize for mobile devices. According to Email Monday, mobile clients account for 41.9% of email opens during Q1 2019, so it shouldn’t be overlooked. Use a responsive template, and don’t overuse images as they can take up the bulk of smaller screens.

Advanced email marketing metrics

When you want to review the ROI (return on investment) of an overall campaign, a more advanced approach can help. 

Depending on your overall goals, this may be the most important metric. ROI for email marketing can be as high as 4400%.

You can calculate this by finding out how much you spend on email marketing (the content, the staff, and the platform) and how much you made from email marketing over a given period or campaign.

Then use the following equation to work out your campaign ROI:

calculating email marketing metrics

Email metrics report template 

Most of this data is available in your email marketing tool and will stay there. Not so useful for stakeholders outside of the marketing team. 

In order to report to the wider business, export this information, and display it in a simple report. Here are our tips for building a report template that everyone can understand:

Start with your goals

You can’t prove that anything was effective until you compare it with the original goal. Include a column that states where you aimed to be so you can show how successful your efforts were.

Use standard time periods

When exporting your email metrics, make sure you keep to a consistent time period throughout so that you can make fair comparisons.

Display benchmarks

While a 30% open rate will make the email marketers happy, your senior team may not know if this is good or bad. Showing your industry’s average will give an idea of how you match up.

Here’s what the benchmarks look like for key industries in 2020...

Email marketing benchmarks for 2020

email marketing benchmarks 2020

SMBs: What is the best email marketing metric for tracking? 

The truth is, all metrics can tell you something about the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. They play a part in a wider picture that tells the story of your marketing strategy.

Our final tip? Create a clear goal at the start of the campaign, and monitor the metrics that support that more closely.

Tried everything to get better email open and click-throughs rates?

 Follow our free 26-point checklist to avoid mistakes that hurt your metrics

Markus Beck

Markus Beck - November 4, 2020

CEO with a passion for data relationships. Markus is half Finnish, half Austrian & fully committed to helping businesses keep bad data from ruining great relationships. Process Engineer by training, with digital marketing & project management skills from previous jobs.