Measuring email campaigns - basic metrics

How to Measure Email Campaigns – Basic Email Metrics

If you’re new to email marketing, you might be wondering how you measure the success or failure of your campaigns.

This article will explain the basic metrics you need to measure for every campaign you send, what they mean and how you can take what you’re seeing and make improvements to every campaign you send.

We’re going to assume you’re using and email service provider to send your campaigns. If you are then you will have access to your campaign reports. After each campaign, you’ll be able to look at the numbers for every campaign over a given period of time.

Just a note of caution here. While you can see the results from your campaigns instantly with email we’d advise waiting at least 72 hours before you draw any conclusions from them. This will give enough data for you to be able to get an accurate picture of how the campaign performed

Email Campaign Metrics Do They Mean?

OK so here’s the basics, the metrics that you need to look at for every campaign.

  • Emails sent – Total number of emails sent as part of the campaign
  • Emails delivered – normally reported as sent emails minus bounces
  • Hard and soft bounces – those emails that bounced. Hard bounce being a permanent problem, soft bounce being a temporary one.
  • Unsubscribes – the number of people who unsubscribed from your campaign/list.
  • Complaints – the number of people who reported your campaign as spam.
  • Open rate – the number of people who opened your campaign.
  • Click through rate – those people who clicked on a link in your email campaign.

Let’s look at some of the above metrics in a little more detail.

Emails Delivered

This is normally reported as the total number of emails delivered to the recipient email server minus any bounces. While this is a good indication of list hygiene it is not a true reflection of emails delivered into the inbox. Some may end up in the users junk mail, or potentially not delivered at all. Services like Return Paths inbox monitor can give a greater insight into where your email ended up.

Hard and Soft bounces

A hard bounce is an email that cannot be delivered. It’s a permanent error.

It’s important to make sure that hard bounces are removed from your list as soon as possible. Generally most ESP software will stop sending campaigns to an email address after it bounces a certain number of times.

It’s worth checking what the threshold is with your ESP as these can often vary, generally this would be something like once or twice.

Internet and email service providers like Hotmail often keep old or dead email addresses open and use them as spam traps. Senders who continue to send campaigns to email addresses that return a hard bounce are often penalised.

A soft bounce is a temporary error, usually the recipient’s mailbox is full or the email server is not responding to incoming messages


Monitoring the number of people who unsubscribe from your email newsletter can tell you whether your subscribers enjoy the content of your email campaigns.

Typically unsubscribe rates should be less than one percent of the total number of emails sent but ideally this needs to be as low as possible.

If you find your unsubscribe rate increasing, analyse the messages that produced that increase. Adjust your content to provide more value and measure the unsubscribe rate on further campaigns.


Like unsubscribes, complaints should be kept to a minimum. This is users hitting the junk or spam button and can count towards your reputation as a sender (the higher the complaint rate the lower your reputation as a good sender)

Good ESP’s will have technology like feed back loops setup so that if someone does complain they are removed from your list.

Make sure your unsubscribe process is clear and simple, this can often help reduce complaints.

Open rates

The number of emails that were opened by your subscribers. Normally presented as an actual number and a percentage.

It’s very difficult to say what an ideal open rate should be because it varies depending on the list, the segmentation, subject line, delivery rate etc.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve open rates, some examples include;

Test subject lines – so often neglected, the humble subject line can be one of the most important parts of your campaign. Experiment with personalising it, adding an offer or asking a question, something to raise the recipients curiosity.

Try varying the ‘from name’ of your campaigns. Experiment with just your company name vs an actual name. This can often have a positive effect on open rates.

A/B split testing is a good way to increase open rates. It allows you to test one subject line against another. If your list is big enough test a small segment and roll the winning subject out to the rest of the list.

Click through rates

Congratulations, you got your email delivered and opened, but did anyone act on it?

Getting people to click through to your website, landing page or whatever is key to the success of your campaigns.

Click through rates can vary depending on the action you are asking your subscriber to take

‘click here to get a free report’ may produce a better click through rate than ‘buy now’ or ‘view more’’

Experiment with the placement of links in your email. Have a link as close to the top of your email as you can and ideally ‘above the fold’

Be descriptive and compelling, don’t just use phrases like click here’.

But do tell them what you want them to do, and make sure links can easily be clicked on.

Test text links against graphics and see which one produces a better result.


All of the above metrics can be used to judge the effectiveness of your email campaign and while they can be viewed separately, combining all of these basic email metrics will give you a valuable insight into how well your email campaigns are performing.

It’s also important to note that while looking at the results of each email campaign is good practice, it’s much better to look your email campaign results over a period of months/years.

You’ll get a better picture of how the email channel is performing overall. You can set your own benchmarks for the metrics that are important to you and improve against them.

Phil Monk

View posts by Phil Monk
Email Marketing Consultant with over 14 years experience within the email marketing industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to top