One of the most appealing aspects of email marketing is the ability to measure its performance both in the short and long term. With metrics that shed light on everything from engagement (campaign activity), conversion and revenue, email analytics offers a smorgasbord of options for marketers to review and optimize their email programs.

Chocolate souffles with gooey centerLike everything else in the world – except for maybe warmed up, gooey-centered chocolate soufflés topped with creamy vanilla ice cream – email metrics are not perfect. One of the most controversial metrics is the open rate, believe it or not (but it’s true).

An email “open” is registered when a personalized image of an invisible pixel embedded in the email is loaded in the recipient’s email client, but a variety of factors such as image-blocking, deliverability issues, and mobile device tracking issues can distort the “true” number  of opens, making this metric somewhat unreliable.

There are some who argue that the open rate is actually wrong at least half of the time and should therefore be regarded as an estimate only (if at all). What’s more, just because an email is registered as having been “opened”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was actually viewed, so as “engagement” metric it’s actually pretty lousy.

The unique Click-through Rate, or CTR, is a more useful metric because it indicates how many people actually clicked on something in their emails, which is a more reliable form of evidence that engagement has occurred.

There’s also the Click-to-Open-Rate, or CTOR (one of my personal favorites), which indicates how many clicks took place in emails that were actually opened: The higher the CTOR, the higher the likelihood that the email content was very effective, and if your CTOR is low or continually slipping, it could be a sign that your content isn’t hitting its mark and needs work.

And then there are metrics that measure deliverability, conversions and even revenue if relevant. Each metric can shed light on different aspects of your email campaigns individually and on your email program as a whole, and despite the challenges to the accuracy of some of them, email marketing is still far more measurable (and oftentimes effective) than other digital marketing channels.

The trick to analyzing your email performance with confidence is understanding what the key metrics are, what they mean individually, and what conclusions can be drawn when you combine them.

If you think of each metric as having its own “personality” with its own pros and cons, you should be able to interpret it and its implications with relative ease.

Think you can guess what sort of personality each metric might have?

Why not meet the most popular of the bunch and find out! They’re waiting for you at Email Metrics Lovin’ (for best quality, view the presentation below in “Full Screen” mode).