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Very few businesses achieve gold-standard email marketing right away.

In most cases, there’s an element of trial and error to learn from — what attracts contacts at the start of the customer journey, might not be so persuasive for subscribers who’ve bought from your business countless times before.

That’s why having the right tools and metrics in place to assess email marketing performance is crucial. If you don’t know what you’re measuring, and why, it’s impossible to determine whether your efforts are truly paying off.

In this article, we’ll explain how open rates, click-through rates and goal achievement can be used as metrics to report and measure for ongoing improvement.

But first — before any optimisation can take place — you need a baseline of data.

So let’s start there…

Email optimisation requires existing data

email marketing optimisation data

Before you can identify what works and what doesn’t work for your contacts, you need to have an email campaign that’s live — one that has leads/users/existing customers already engaging with it.

Whilst this may sound obvious, many businesses overlook the importance of baseline data as a benchmark for improvement. If you know your current click-through rate is doing little to deliver ROI, you can optimise your campaigns to be more attention-grabbing and persuasive in the future.

So, now’s the time to launch your first email campaign if you haven’t already.

This will provide you with data on your current marketing performance, and give you an in-depth insight into the campaign’s existing value.

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Now you’ve launched an email campaign: what are the most valuable metrics to track?

gmail inbox image

With email marketing, you can monitor and track several factors over time. This is vital to identify issues and measure improvements, especially as you introduce new elements to your campaign.

The most important three metrics you need to focus on however, are:

  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Goal achievement

Open rate: this metric is fairly self-explanatory. It refers to the number of recipients who actually open the email once it has landed in their inbox. The more ‘opens’ your messages earn, the more people you stand to engage. Businesses should aim to increase their open rates consistently, both to build brand awareness and foster higher click-through rates.

Click-through rate: this measurement relates to the amount of recipients who actually click on a link or button directing them to a specific area of your website (such as a tailored landing page). This usually entails encouraging the user to take an action of some kind, such as watching a video, downloading a free resource, or making a purchase.

Goal achievement rate: this is a fairly controversial addition to the list, but it carries real value. Many marketers would consider getting a user to click through to a landing page a goal achievement in itself. And whilst this is true, the original email content can play a significant role in convincing a recipient to click-through in the first place — let alone fill in a form, or buy a product, once they are actually on the site. That’s why goal achievement rates should be monitored for email improvement, too.


You know what to track, but how do you measure and optimise your email marketing accordingly?

email optimisation meeting

Let’s explore how you can report on and measure these three metrics to optimise your email marketing.

Open Rates 

A lot of the time, the open rate hangs on the quality of your subject line.

Yet many businesses overlook the power of a strong subject line — or fail to spend adequate time crafting this copy — and that can be a big mistake.

After all, almost 7 in 10 recipients will report an email as spam, based on their impression of the subject line alone. This means that even the most well-considered marketing email might never be opened, due to what some consider an ‘afterthought’.

Instead, subject lines must stand out in a recipient’s inbox. Think of your own experience as you scroll through dozens of emails on your lunch break or at the end of a hard day. You don’t have time to read what might be just another spammy message — and nor do you customers.

So how can open rates be improved?

Firstly, this is where having a baseline of data proves so beneficial — you’ll be able to see if more recipients open your emails after implementing changes, as a simple way to gauge the effects.

A/B (or split) testing is a terrific way to get started. Create different subject lines for each of the emails in your marketing campaign, and run them both for a set period (two weeks works well, though you may prefer three).

The version earning the highest open rate is the winner!

True, different techniques can affect your open rates. For example, subject line ‘A’ could pack an emotional punch and connect to recipients based on a fear of missing out on a one-time special offer.

Subject line ‘B’, on the other hand, might take a more light-hearted approach, such as referring to a pop-culture event.

You can keep running A/B tests to refine your subject lines over time, tweaking them here and there to target your audience most effectively.

Click-Through Rates

Click-through rates are connected to the content in your emails, usually encompassing multiple elements — the text, images, animations, calls-to-action, etc. All of this has a direct impact on the recipient’s decision to click through or not.

A/B testing is, again, a powerful technique for optimising your click-through rates.

Perhaps one version of an email relies on humour in its text and images. For example, you might work a picture of one of your products into a popular meme to engage with recipients in a more fun and informal tone.

The other version might feature a slightly different voice, or could be altogether different in its presentation. Colour scheme, layout, and calls-to-action all can be changed to discover the most effective format.

Again, record the number of click-throughs you have before you start trying to optimise it. This gives you a figure to measure your emails’ ongoing success.

Goal Achievement Rates

Finally, goal achievement rates are the third metric you need to focus on.

You want to create emails that engage subscribers from the very moment they open them. This is a huge achievement in itself when they have so many other messages to read, but a regular routine of A/B testing will help you drive your click-through rates higher.

Measuring goal achievement involves looking at emails that have achieved the highest open and click-through rates together. Look at their respective parts and consider:

  • What tone is used in the subject line?
  • What type of images (if any) appear in the email?
  • How many calls-to-action are there?
  • How do calls-to-action prompt users?
  • What are recipients promised if they click on a link or button?

Breaking your most successful emails down, and analysing why they drive users to your site, will help you determine how you can keep improving your goal achievement rate overall.

Pay attention to any drop in this rate, and try to identify what’s causing it as soon as you can.

How often should you run testing on your email marketing campaigns?

how often should you run testing on your email marketing campaigns

The ideal frequency of your email marketing optimisation depends on the number of recipients or users moving through your campaign. If you have just 20 people taking action, for example, you’ll have to allow considerable time for data to accumulate before you can put testing and optimisation into action.

Businesses with hundreds of users moving through their campaign could run testing each week. Those with a dozen might have to stick to a monthly or quarterly routine, once they have a solid baseline of data to work with.

And remember, it’s important to always stay patient when trying to optimise your email marketing. There’s no sense in rushing the process — the more data you have to work with, the more accurate and effective your testing is likely to be.

So take it easy, and give your data the time it needs to really start talking!

And when the time is right to start optimising, the process of gathering data and acting on it can be neatly streamlined with quality email marketing automation software.

To learn more, speak to a member of our team to discover how marketing automation can make your journey to a more effective email campaign both quicker and easier than ever before.