10 Newsletter KPIs That Will Supercharge Your Email Strategy [+ Industry Averages]
ou can only improve something if you can measure it. It’s a common adage because it’s true. Luckily, when it comes to email marketing you can measure it from nearly every angle.
In fact, there are so many email marketing key performance indicators, also known as newsletter KPIs, that understanding and applying the real-time analytics in your email marketing software may feel overwhelming.
You’re probably asking yourself questions like these:
- Are you focusing on the right metrics for your marketing goals?
- Do you understand what the varied acronyms mean?
- Are you learning and improving based on how your subscribers engage with your email?
- How do you measure up against standard industry averages?
First, use these key indicators to understand the successes and shortcomings of your email campaigns. Then, use them to improve your next campaign.
KPIs not only help you spot trends, they also help you strategize for the short, medium and long term.
But before you start tracking and using your newsletter KPIs, you have to understand what they are. It also helps to know industry averages, so you’re not benchmarking your own metrics against some perfect, but bloated, number in your head.
In this post, we’ll give you a thorough grounding in email marketing KPIs to help you supercharge your customer outreach campaigns.
KPI Topics Covered
- What Are Newsletter KPIs?
- What Metrics Can Tell You About Your Email Performance
- #1 Delivery Rate
- #2 Bounce Rate
- #3 Open Rate
- #4 Click Rate
- #5 Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- #6 Conversion Rate
- #7 Return on Investment (ROI)
- #8 Unsubscribe Rate
- #9 Spam Complaint Rate
- #10 Contact List Performance
- What Email Tracking Options does Newsletter2Go Offer?
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👉The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Newsletter KPIs
Let’s start with some definitions. Email marketing, like all digital marketing, offers a wealth of ways to track and measure user behavior. These are called metrics.
The word “metric” is often used interchangeably with “KPI.”
But it’s important to note the difference:
A metric is a value generated by a formula. It represents the number and the math that got you there.
A key performance indicator is a metric you choose to care about. Your KPIs are the metrics you share on your marketing dashboard, the values your boss cares about, and the numbers you’re trying to improve.
This means newsletter KPIs are the particular digital marketing metrics you use to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns and newsletters. They indicate how your marketing is performing against the goals you set.
You need to choose which metrics matter most for you, given your strategy, goals and resources. #MarketingKPIs Click To Tweet
Do you have to care about every single metric your software provides equally? No. Some are key for all email marketing efforts. Others are specific to certain types of marketing. Still others just need to be kept above or below a threshold.
You need to choose which metrics matter most for you, given your strategy, goals and resources.
Which specific email marketing metrics can you track anyway? Most email marketing software offers tons of stats like …
👉 What percentage of subscribers opened your email
👉 What percentage clicked on a link
👉 How many emails didn’t arrive in your subscribers’ inboxes
Here’s a list of newsletter KPIs with which you can drill down to the individual elements of your email campaign’s performance.
What This Means: The number of newsletters sent compared with the number that bounce back because an email address is undeliverable
How You Can Calculate It: [(Total emails – undeliverable emails) ÷ total emails] × 100
Here’s an Example: If you send 100 emails, and 10 of these are returned as undeliverable, your delivery rate is 90%
Why This Matters: High numbers of undeliverable emails indicate low-quality contact data for your newsletter
Your delivery KPI for your email newsletters is directly linked to the quality of your contact data.
If you’re using your email list for lead nurturing or customer reactivation but you have a delivery rate lower than 99%, then you’re missing the mark. And this will add up to wasted time and effort.
Sending campaigns with a low delivery rate is like sending direct mail to an empty lot. The house was torn down years ago and the mailbox is no longer standing. Your campaign is going nowhere. #DeliveryRate Click To Tweet
Sending campaigns with a low delivery rate is like sending direct mail to an empty lot. The house was torn down years ago and the mailbox is no longer standing. Your campaign is going nowhere.
Cleaning up your data and maintaining better email list hygiene will save you time in the long run. It will also improve your overall sender reputation, so your emails will continue to arrive in other customers’ inboxes.
Having incorrect contact details for your newsletter is not something you should take lightly.
Those undeliverable addresses will one day turn into spam traps. (Think of this as someone staking out the empty lot to see who’s still trying to contact the house that was torn down.)
Hitting spam traps harms your email deliverability and will land you on a blacklist.
Every email marketer should keep an eye on this KPI, although you don’t need to follow it religiously.
Pay close attention to it when …
- You haven’t emailed your contact list in a while
- You have a lot of new subscribers
💡Pro Tip: Make sure you choose email marketing software with a high delivery rate, too! It’s your responsibility to keep your email list up-to-date. It’s your software’s responsibility to maintain a good IP reputation so your emails aren’t classified as spam. If you see a lot of legitimate email addresses are not getting delivered to, then it’s time to find a new email marketing tool.
What This Means: The percentage of emails returned as undeliverable. It is the inverse of delivery rate
How You Can Calculate It: (Undeliverable emails ÷ total emails) × 100
Here’s an Example: As in the previous example, if you send out 100 emails and 10 of these come back as undeliverable, you can calculate a rate of 10%
Why This Matters: High bounce-rate KPIs indicate poor data quality
Bounces fall into two categories:
👉 Hard bounces occur when there is a permanent failure to deliver to an email address.
The inbox’s server where your email is trying to go says, “I can’t deliver this because this email address doesn’t exist.”
You could have a hard bounce in your list due to typos in email addresses, fake email addresses or incorrect (or outdated) domain names.
👉Soft bounces happen when the email cannot be delivered due to a temporary issue. The inbox server says, “I can’t deliver this right now.”
Maybe the customer’s inbox is full. Or perhaps the file is too large for their server. Or, the customer’s inbox could have graylisting set up to prevent spam.
Your bounce rate includes all hard and soft bounces. And you shouldn’t let the overall rate ever get higher than 2%.
Keep an eye on this metric regularly to make sure it never exceeds 2%. Watching its performance over time isn’t as important as making sure it stays low
Like the delivery rate, you should double check this KPI when …
- You haven’t emailed your contact list in a while
- You have a lot of new subscribers
💡Pro Tip: Make sure you choose an email marketing software with automatic bounce management. If yours doesn’t have that, then you need a plan for managing hard and soft bounces manually.
What This Means: The number of recipients who open your emails vs. the number of emails delivered
How You Can Calculate It: [(Total emails – bounces – unopened emails) ÷ (total emails – bounces)] × 100
Here’s an Example: You send 100 emails. They are all delivered but 70 recipients don’t open them. This would be a 30% open rate. (For those new to email marketing, this counts as good performance!)
Why This Matters: This KPI tells you how well your subject line and preview text perform
This KPI measures unique opens. This means emails opened by individual recipients and not multiple opens by the same recipient. One of the key motivating factors in inspiring opens is the first impression your subject line makes.
When you’re new to email marketing and you realized that most people aren’t opening your emails, it can be scary.
That’s why it’s important to know what an average open rate is.
This varies across industry, language and location. But it’s currently around 26.5%. See the chart below for more details.
Some people argue that open rate is a “vanity metric,” not indicative of successful email marketing.
It’s true that it’s not as concrete as the click-through rate. Also, sometimes it can be inflated because a previewed message on certain devices can still count as an open even if unintentional.
The average open rate varies across industry, language and location. The current cross-industry average for Europe is 26.5%. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet
The open has to come before the click and the conversion. This is where you start convincing your customers.
Also this is a great metric for looking at the performance of your emails over time. Compare rates between campaigns to figure out which kind of subject line your audience reacts positively to and which kind don’t work for them.
It’s most effective to view this KPI comparatively. Its performance over time shows you the general health of your email marketing.
For example, if you have a new automated email series, such as a lifecycle campaign or a daily email course, looking at where your open rate drops will tell you when subscribers start losing interest.
Once you know when they start checking out, you can start strategizing how to hook them again.
Track this KPI when …
- You’re new to email marketing and learning how to write effective subject lines
- You’re working with a new vertical or target group
- Your rate falls under the industry average
- You are making significant changes to your email marketing strategy
- You want to assess the drop-off point of a particular email series or lifecycle campaign
💡 Pro Tip: Start A/B testing subject lines to see how you can improve your total opens.
What This Means: Out of the total number of people receiving your emails, how many are clicking at least one link in your email?
How You Can Calculate It: [(Unique clicks ÷ (total emails – bounces)] × 100
Here’s an Example: You send a zero-bounce campaign to 100 people. Only 5 people click at least one link. Your click rate is 5%
Why This Matters: If your click rate is consistent over time, it tells you how many emails you have to send out to get a certain number of clicks.
For example, if you have an average click rate of 5% and you want 100 sets of eyes on a new product, you need to send out an email about that product to 2,000 recipients
Click rate doesn’t tell you how many clicks each email garnered. Nor is it truly a good indicator of how effective a single campaign is.
What it does measure is the overall audience engagement. It’s better for the big picture.
A bonus to knowing your average click rate is that you’ll be able to make reliable predictions about future email marketing.
Being able to throw around statements like “We need to grow our email list by X% if we want our campaigns to be reaching Y many more leads” will go a long way in planning meetings.
Its performance over time shows you the holistic engagement level of your contacts. Look at this KPI to understand the lead quality of your existing list.
Monitor this KPI when …
- You’re working with a new target group or audience
- You want to make predictions about lead growth
💡 Pro Tip: Newsletter2Go’s cluster reporting lets you compare the click rate of different segments. For example, new vs. long-time subscribers. Use this for deep-dive audience insights.
What This Means: Of all the people who open your emails, how many are clicking on at least one link?
How You Can Calculate It: (Number of recipients who clicked on a link ÷ number of unique opens) × 100
Here’s an Example: You send a campaign to 100 contacts. Of those contacts, 50 people open the email and 20 click on at least one link. The formula for your CTR: (20 ÷ 50) × 100 = 40%
Why This Matters: Your click-through rate is an excellent measurement of a campaign’s effectiveness. It specifically lets you know how well your call to action (CTA) performs
Also known as click-to-open rate (CTOR), click-through rate is one of the most important email marketing metrics. This is not one to be ignored!
Like in all digital marketing, getting clicks is one of the biggest goals of your email marketing. Not just for the clicks themselves, of course, but for the engagement they represent.
Lure your subscribers to your home page, encourage them to purchase your products, read your blogs, sign up for your webinar. While a click does not always end in a conversion – in fact, in most cases, it doesn’t – it’s a key step toward a conversion.
Also known as click-to-open rate (CTOR), click-through rate (CTR) is one of the most important email marketing metrics. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet
Also the CTR is generally a good indicator of how compelling your content is. Most marketing managers will want to use CTR as one of their main indicators of campaign success.
Want to know how your CTR measures up? Check out the industry averages below.
Another related KPI to keep track of is clicks per clicker. This tells you of the people who clicked, on average, how many links did they click or how many times did they click the same link?
As a metric, clicks per clicker is useful if you send out newsletters or email campaigns with many links. More than one click per clicker could indicate that your content is proving useful on a repeated basis or that it’s engaging on multiple levels.
This is the true measure of success of an email campaign’s content, design and CTA.
Check this KPI when …
- You’ve just sent a new email campaign or initiated an automated email series
- You want to understand whether a campaign worked or not
💡 Pro Tip: A lot of factors are at play when it comes to your CTR. Getting people to click isn’t solely about having the rights words or color on your buttons. Check out our design tips for boosting your CTR!
What This Means: The percentage of your email openers who did the thing you’re trying to get them to do – buy a product or sign up for something
How You Can Calculate It: (Number of recipients who converted ÷ total opens) × 100
Here’s an Example: You send an email campaign encouraging subscribers to buy a new product to 1000 recipients. You have 300 total unique opens, and of those, 40 people purchase the product. Your formula: (40 ÷ 300) × 100 gives you a rate of 13%
Why This Matters: This gives you some of the most business-critical data points on leads and sales
As one of the most important email marketing analytics, conversion rate is tied directly to your profitability and your ability to reach your customers.
Comparing this rate across campaigns and marketing channels, such as social media, helps you ground your strategic decisions in data.
Knowing this metric over time can also help you make accurate predictions about future sales and strategies for scaling your business.
Know the average conversion rate of your one-time emails, your holiday emails and all your lifecycle campaigns. Study this metric’s overall performance over time. Create and test hypotheses about why some campaigns converted better than others. Use it to make projections for scaling and expanding.
Check this KPI if …
- You use email marketing to sell products or services
- You use email marketing to generate sign-ups for a form or event
💡 Pro Tip: To track this metric, you’ll need to have an integration set up between your email marketing software and your e-commerce platform.
What This Means: How much money are email marketing campaigns generating in comparison to what you’re spending?
How You Can Calculate It: [(Profit earned from email marketing – email marketing cost) ÷ email marketing cost] × 100
Here’s an Example: If you spend $1000 a year on your email marketing and generate $8,000 in profit through email campaigns, your annual ROI from email marketing is 790%
Why This Matters: ROI shows whether you’re losing money, breaking even or making money on your email marketing. This is the number you take to the bank
This number tells you whether your email marketing is successful.
It’s the bottom line and the KPI you should return to repeatedly.
But finding this metric can be tricky.
Being able to calculate it depends on other metrics being defined and in place across your whole company.
First of all, what is defined as cost?
The obvious place to start is the software fees you’re paying for and any external costs, such a marketing agency.
But what about internal hours? Do the hours employees spend on email marketing count toward the overall cost? And if so, at what rate? Or do those hours go into overhead, which comes out of profit?
Second, speaking of profit: Does your company or unit have a clearly defined profit margin, so you can extract profit from revenue?
Failing that, you can replace the profit figure with a revenue figure, but then employee hours will definitely need to be included under cost.
See? Not easy if you don’t have clarity and transparency around company finances.
If you’re not the one in charge of the numbers, make sure you sit down with whoever is and figure out how your company defines these key metrics. That way you can calculate a metric that’s consistent with the company’s financial reporting.
Always. But if you don’t have access to key company financial KPIs, like profit margin and cost, you’ll need some help.
💡 Pro Tip: You can now find a lot of email marketing ROI calculator tools online. These should at least help you start thinking about how to make your own calculations.
What This Means: The rate at which subscribers are leaving your email list
How You Can Calculate It: [(Total number of unsubscribes ÷ (total emails – bounces)] × 100
Here’s an Example: If 10 people unsubscribe in a 1,000-recipient newsletter with zero bounces, you have an unsubscribe rate of 1%
Why This Matters: Recipients who unsubscribe from your email newsletters are letting you know your content no longer serves their needs
There are two key takeaways to remember when thinking about your unsubscribe rate.
👉 The first takeaway with unsubscribes is that they’re not the end of the world.
If people aren’t interested in your emails anymore – like Elsa in “Frozen,” let it go. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
People’s interests wax and wane, that’s natural. In fact, you should be actively working on your email list hygiene to make sure you’re clearing out everyone who’s not reading your emails anymore.
What can you do to counter the natural decay of your unsubscribe rate? Make sure you keep growing your subscribers!
👉 The second takeaway is that unsubscribers represent two ends of the disengagement spectrum.
On the one hand, you have vigilant inbox warriors who are determined not to let anything irrelevant into the hallowed ground of their inbox the instant. These recipients are unsubscribe-happy, so they’re quick to pull the plug on your emails.
On the other hand, you have the people who are truly ticked off. These folks walk around with an unread count in the thousands, don’t care if they get the occasional spam and generally just fish what they want out of their inbox.
So what does it take for these people to unsubscribe? Unholy rage.
You’ve emailed them one too many times. You’ve sent them a product suggestion that’s something their mother would buy. You’ve sent that same abandoned cart email 3x in the last 24 hours.
When they unsubscribe, it’s because they’re sick of your email.
This means there are a lot of people who just aren’t that into the emails you’re sending them. But these folks don’t bother unsubscribing.
This means there are a lot of people who just aren’t that into the emails you’re sending them. But these folks don’t bother unsubscribing. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet
They let your emails fester in their inboxes, unopened or marked unread. Or maybe they even delete them unread.
Unsubscribers represent two extremes. This means you can’t take your unsubscribe rate as a good marker of disengagement. This metric shows you two ends of the spectrum, not the general satisfaction of your contacts.
You’re not seeing the people in the middle of the spectrum.
How do those recipients feel about your email marketing campaigns? Well, look at your CTR to get the full picture of how motivating your emails are. Also check your unsubscribe rate against industry standards.
Note that people sometimes unsubscribe from a newsletter because they no longer need the information it provides.
That’s why the real estate industry has the highest unsubscribe rates. Similar topics that have a higher-than-average unsubscribe rate including car-buying tips, pregnancy guides and wedding planning newsletters.
Keep an eye on this metric’s performance over time. If it shoots up, you should think about what’s changed in your email strategy that’s made your emails unattractive to your subscriber base.
Your unsubscribe rate can also let you know if you’re sending too much. A quick hack to reliably test your email marketing frequency is to send until your unsubscribe rate gets too high. That means you’re sending too much and it’s time to scale back your sending.
💡 Pro Tip: Providing your subscribers with profile options so they can customize their experience can reduce unsubscribe rates drastically.
In fact, according to a November 2018 study by Alliance Data, 69% of U.S. consumers said they want to control the content and frequency of the emails they receive from brands. Yet most marketers fail to offer these options!
What This Means: The percentage of recipients categorizing your emails as spam
How You Can Calculate It: [(Total number of spam complaints ÷ (total emails sent – bounces)] × 100
Here’s an Example: If you receive 15 spam complaints out of 1,000 zero-bounce email addresses, your spam complaint rate is 1.5%
Why This Matters: Spam complaints reduce your ability to reach customers even if they are not the ones who reported your emails as spam
You do not want anyone complaining that your emails are spam.
If you think, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if Joe from Schmoe.com marks my emails as spam. My emails to him will go straight to his spam folder in the future. No big.”
Let’s say Joe from Schmoe.com and Suzie from Q.com both read their email with Outlook, and both mark your emails as spam.
Then Outlook will decide that your emails should go into the spam folder not just for Joe and Suzie, but for Fred from Nerks.com as well. Because if Joe and Suzie think they’re spam, then Outlook decides that they probably spam are for Fred, too.
Spam filters are a tricky thing. You as a sender can best avoid them by continuing to send your email contacts emails they actually want to read.
If your spam complaints are ever above 0%, then you’re doing something wrong. Try to figure out what that is.
Always. Just to make sure it doesn’t creep up when you’re not looking.
Like your bounces, you want to pay attention to this metric only to make sure it stays low.
💡 Pro Tip: Make it easy for your customers to unsubscribe and you won’t have to worry about spam complaints. Pulling tricks like hiding the unsubscribe link or making it difficult to spot might lead to fewer unsubscribes, but it will also generate more spam complaint. The complaint is the greater of the two evils.
What This Means: The number of net subscribers you have added or lost over a specific period
How You Can Calculate It: [(Number of new subscribers – number of unsubscribes) ÷ total number of email addresses] × 100
Here’s an Example: In one week, your company gains 100 new subscribers and receives 20 unsubscribe requests for a mailing list of 1,000 people. The contact list performance rate is calculated like so: [(100 – 20) ÷ 1,000] × 100 = + 8%
Why This Matters: Increasing the number of valid addresses in your email list translates into greater reach. If your business goal is to grow the top of your funnel, then you want to put a lot of energy into excellent contact list performance
This KPI is also known as list growth or decay rate.
It measures the change in the number of unique addresses in your email list over time. The metric can be positive or negative, indicating list decay.
It’s important to think about this metric both holistically (looking at your growth over time) and for individual campaigns. If one particular campaign causes a dip in your contact list performance, ask why that is. Are you sending too often? Did the content of that campaign miss its mark?
Monitor this metric closely when you’re trying to grow the top of your funnel, for example, when you have the following goals:
- Lead generation
- Brand awareness
- New vertical acquisition
💡 Pro Tip: If you’re looking for this KPI in your Newsletter2Go account, you’ll find it on the dashboard.
When you sign into your reporting dashboard, you’ll immediately get an overview of the most important metrics at a glance.
You’ll see the performance of your most recent campaigns and can compare two KPIs against each other, e.g., unique open rate vs. click rate.
Below you’ll find an explanation of all the software’s tracking features.
The click map shows you which specific links your recipients clicked on. For example, if you have one product linked multiple times, this will show which linking location got more click love.
The links are highlighted in color, with different colors representing different frequencies. You can immediately recognize which links drew your readers’ attention.
In addition to the unique open rate and the total number of opens (all opens), you’ll also see the metrics opens per opener. This shows you how many times on average each recipient has opened your email newsletter or campaign.
The opens are also broken down according to end device and email clients.
For example, looking at opens on desktop vs. those on mobile will tell you how most of your subscribers prefer to read email. This gives you more fodder for future optimizations!
Clicks in your Newsletter2Go account are divided into unique and all clicks.
You’ll also see your unique click rate and the click-through rate. Here you’ll find that clicks-per-clicker metric, too. This tells you how many links your recipients clicked on average.
Finally, all links are listed by click frequency, as well. This way you’ll know what your most popular links were!
In your Newsletter2Go account, you’ll see a full breakdown of conversions.
Conversion metrics you’ll see are the rate, total conversions, the average value of each conversion and the sum of all conversions.
To trace exactly which links have converted and which products sold, you can also see the number of conversions as well as their value for each link and product.
If you have inserted an unsubscribe link into your campaign via the Newsletter2Go editor, you can easily see how many recipients unsubscribed from each campaign.
If you are using a Newsletter2Go unsubscribe form, you can even see the reasons your recipients gave for unsubscribing. This, too, can help you going forward with your planning.
In addition to the unsubscribe rate, you can also view the number of bounces, total bounces and which bounces were hard or soft.
In the activity tab area, you can see exactly which of your recipients did what.
This will tell you who opened, who clicked, who bought. It’s easy to create subscribers lists from the activity tab for future segmenting.
For example, if you sent an email once, you might want to try sending the exact same email again to all non-openers but with a different subject line this time.
The geolocation tracking function allows you to see exactly where opens and clicks happened.
You can find out where most of your recipients are based or gain insight into which city clicks your email campaign links the most.
The cluster analysis function in Newsletter2Go’s reporting is a unique tracking feature not offered by most other email service providers.
It allows you to view and compare metrics for specific recipients.
Recipients can be filtered according to any attributes available in the software or that you’ve created. For example, you can see which age groups engaged most with your newsletter. Alternately, you might want to segment by location or view how long-standing vs. new subscribers interacted with your email.
Want to take this blog with you? Sign up for our email list to download the printable guide:
👉The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Newsletter KPIs
With this email marketing KPI list at hand, you can be more strategic when it comes to planning, controlling and future campaigns.
Digital marketing offers the chance to pinpoint exactly what’s successful and how successful it.
Why not make the most of that?