Email Marketing: Vanity Metrics Guide

Thu Sep 03, 2020 · 638 words

In email marketing, there are a lot of metrics that can potentially be tracked - it’s hard to tell the wood from the trees.

When it comes to tracking it’s important to know what metrics to track, what these metrics mean, and most importantly how the metrics can be influenced.

In this post, I’m going to break down the ‘vanity’ metrics in email marketing, more specifically:

Open and Click-through rates are often referred to as vanity metrics as they’re metrics that measure success of a campaign, without actually measuring the business objective. And, let’s be honest they’re satisfying.

Open Rate

Open rate is the number of emails opened divided by emails sent, less bounces.

Whilst being a vanity metric, Open rate is good to track as it is a good indicator of the attractiveness of your email.

There are three key things that affect the attractiveness of an email, these are:

Other factors such as brand reputation, customer loyalty, etc. also affect open rates. But I see these three factors as controllable and actionable instantly - getting them right, will lead to success.

The subject line is pretty obvious, it has to compel the recipient to open your email. Hubspot has good guide, so does Campaign Monitor.

Preview text is often overlooked, but they do play an important role in the email presentation as it can give the recipient a sense of what’s contained in the email. Here are is an example from a recent email I received from ProfitWell:

We can see that ProfitWell starts off with an intriguing subject, announcing a new book with a clear benefit to me - reducing failed payments.

They also use the preview text to continue on the Subject line adds another reason to open the email, by providing evidence that they’re reputable and worth opening.

Preview text can be a bit trickier to implement in practice, luckily Litmus has a comprehensive guide on this.

Timing is an interesting one, and one that needs consideration as to when your customers are likely to be open to an email.

GetResponse struggles to find a single ideal time to send eDMs, but suggests two times:

Of course, this will depend on your industry, B2B providers may see better open rates during the working day, whilst B2C providers may see better open rates when people have downtime. GetResponse has some fantastic industry benchmarks throughout that post.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate is another metric that (nearly) all marketing platforms track and is commonly reported back to stakeholders.

Click-through rate is the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who are sent an email.

It is calculated by summing the number of clicks in an email, divided by number of emails sent, less bounces.

In terms of value, Click-through rate is less of a vanity metric as the majority of marketing emails spark action that involve clicking on a Call to action.

Click-through rate is best viewed when considering opens, by adding to Click-to-open rate which looks at how many opens resulted in clicks. If you get a low click-to-open rate, it’s a sign that your content isn’t landing well with your audience.

General consensus for increasing Click-through rates is very. Well, general… But suggest only having one, clear Call to Action, and personalizing your email content.

Should you optimize vanity metrics?

Absolutely. Although they’re coined as vanity metrics, they’re absolutely worth optimizing. I would suggest the best metric to optimize is Click-through rate.

Optimizing click-through rate involves:

  1. Calculating Click-to-open rate, if that’s low - have a look at your content.
  2. Then look at your open rate. Open rates are more easily experimented with.

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