Understanding Your Email Metrics: Opens and Clicks

You’ve built your newsletter, organized your list, ensured CAN-SPAM compliance, and sent your message out into the cyberverse. You’ve set your campaign goals, such as establishing or boosting your profile across your customer base, or cross-selling other products and services. Now what? How do you make the most of your email performance metrics and gauge the engagement of your target audience? This brief overview will help to put you on a path of incorporating your reporting and best practices in future communications with your readers, enabling you to fine-tune your content, jettison the old-school scattergun approach, and hopefully hold their interest for the long haul.

Unique Opens vs. Total Opens…

Email opens are defined as the number of times your email is physically opened by the recipient. This can be tricky and a bit controversial, since although the transparent tracking image embedded in outgoing emails is “requested” by the email client (such as Hotmail or Gmail) or the browser to indicate activity, that’s still not a guarantee that the email was actually read by the recipient.

With unique opens, only the initial “open” by each reader is counted, so Joe Smith could open the email a hundred times, but only be represented once within this metric. If you see a significant difference between these two numbers, it means your customers and prospects are holding onto your email and reviewing it more than once – always a good sign. As you can imagine, open rates are directly connected to the sender and subject line. Consider how you scan your own inbox. You glance at the sender, and if you recognize the name or brand and that all checks out, your eyes dart to the subject line, and then to the preview pane – all in the space of about half a second.

….and Unique Clicks vs. All Clicks

It’s a given that clicks indicate a favorable response to your content, particularly your call to action (CTA), which is basically a word or phrase prompting an immediate response from  the reader. Like your opens and unique opens, a substantial difference between your total number of clicks and unique clicks (where only the first click is counted) means that your audience is coming back for more, returning to review content of interest or perhaps revisit a special offer.

Beyond the Opens and Clicks

As standalone metrics, it’s easy to see how email opens and clicks can be perceived as abstract values without actual impact on your campaign. But, if you delve more deeply, you can use them as key differentiators to tweak your timing in the next go-round. For example, an October 2012 study by TailoredMail indicates that mobile email opens and clicks tend to peak right around mealtimes, so consumers are still logging on while they’re away from their desktops. Also, since more emails are opened within an hour of sending due to the surge in mobile activity over the past three years, it makes sense to reconsider the time of day of your mailings.

Content Performance

At the end of the day, you’ll want to use your clicks and content popularity as a guide to point you in the right direction for the topics and formats you’ll explore for subsequent issues of your newsletter. One IMN client was quite surprised to see that her amateur video clip produced with a handheld camera was the audience favorite in her recent mailing (but, to her credit, it clearly outlined the company’s mission and services in less than two short-and-sweet minutes). Another was equally pleased to note that a below-the-fold article profiling one of their independent consultants shot to the top of the list with a metric that well exceeded their expectations. And including ancillary content that might appeal to your audience based on their overarching interests and behavior doesn’t hurt, either (recipes, anyone?). With apologies to “Field of Dreams,” if you post it, they will come….hopefully.

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