Demystifying Email Marketing Data

Every time you send an email marketing campaign, your email system likely inundates you with data, from open rates to click-through rates and more. Which piece of data is most important? Which ones indicate success, and which do not? Here, we’re demystifying email data and boiling it down to just what you need to know.

Common stats and what they mean

Open rate

Your open rate, or how many of your subscribers clicked on your email in their inbox, is a popular measurement of engagement and success in the email marketing world. Many email marketers focus only on optimizing emails to improve open rates and lean on this stat as their sole indicator of success.

Open rates really measure the success of your subject line and sub-text. You only have a few characters to entice readers to click into your email.

Most email campaigns average about a 24% open rate (source). Feel free to use this number as a benchmark for future campaigns, but keep in mind that this number fluctuates significantly by industry. If you’re missing the mark, consider revamping your subject line strategy by adding emojis or personalization before overhauling your entire campaign.

Click-through rate

The click-through rate (or CTR) measures how many subscribers clicked on a link in your email campaign. Most email systems will be able to show you CTRs for every link you include in your campaign.

This is another popular statistic that is given a little too much weight in the industry. Consider CTRs as a measurement of your email campaign’s content and visual design. Do you have a call-to-action button that will encourage viewers to click through? Or is the offer very niche and only applicable to a fraction of your audience? When optimizing emails for CTRs, be sure you’re considering all sorts of factors to make sure your content is as relevant and visually pleasing as possible. Always think about how your colors, fonts, graphics, layout and more can affect your CTR.

The average CTR is slightly higher than 4% (source), but as always, this will vary by industry.

Bounce rate

This statistic measures how many subscribers did not actually receive your email. Bounces can happen for several reasons, including a full inbox, a change in email address or a typo. If you notice your bounce rate creeping up, it’s time to scrub (or clean up) your email list. See below for a few ideas on how best to handle this task.

Your bounce rate truly measures the quality of your audience. Do you have a highly engaged, recently subscribed audience? Or is your subscriber list filled with outdated contacts? Your bounce rate will answer this question without a doubt.


You can track both subscribes and unsubscribes through your email provider. You want a healthy mix of both for maximum success. Believe it or not, unsubscribers are doing you a favor. They have already recognized that they are not interacting with your content and have removed themselves from the list, so you don’t have to in the future.

Keep an eye on these numbers but don’t dwell on them too much, as it’s natural to see a little fluctuation.

Conversion rates and ROI

If you are selling a product, you may want to keep track of conversion rates, or how many people clicked through to your link and made a purchase, and other ROI stats like revenue per subscriber and revenue per email. This data will help you determine if your investment into email marketing is paying off.

Which stats should you pay attention to?

Keep in mind that, in order to get a full picture of your email’s performance, you need to take all of the above into consideration.

Before analyzing your data, identify your top goals for the campaign. If you were trying to sell a product, you’ll want to focus on conversion rates the most while using other data as support. If you were trying to introduce a new concept for your organization or generate business leads, open rates may be the most important (but not the only!) indicator of success. Consider your purpose for sending the email then review statistics accordingly.

How to improve results

There are several easy steps you can take to improve your email marketing campaign results.

Scrub your subscriber list often

Regularly remove bounced emails and comb through your list for spelling errors. You can also send a “re-opt-in email” to confirm your subscribers are still interested in receiving emails. And, of course, the best thing you can do to keep your email list clean is to always send a double-opt-in email on the front end, which requires new subscribers to confirm their email and their interest in receiving your content.

Segment your audience

Take a look at the different types of subscribers in your audience. Some audience members might be most interested in discounts while others want to hear about your latest products. Segment your audience accordingly so individuals only receive the emails that are most relevant to them. This will minimize future unsubscribes and increase CTRs.

Make sure content is engaging, original, timely and relevant

This might sound like a given, but it’s highly important that the emails you send are worth both your time and the viewer’s time. If there isn’t any reason to send an email, just don’t do it!

The future of email marketing

Apple recently announced that it will roll out a new feature in the fall that will make tracking email marketing data much more difficult. Called “Mail Privacy Protection for Apple Mail,” the update will allow Apple Mail users to limit email tracking options in the app only. Specifically, users can choose to disallow senders from knowing whether an email was opened or not (source). Considering email open rates are one of the most popular metrics for tracking campaign success, this could throw a major wrench into many email marketers’ strategies.

You can panic…or you can choose to view this update as an opportunity to dive into other email statistics, like the aforementioned CTRS and bounce rates, to determine your campaign’s success. Take this chance to round out your image of email marketing wins, because in the information era, one stat simply isn’t going to cut it.