So you’re leveraging email to stay in touch with prospects and customers.  But how do you know if your email marketing campaigns are truly impacting sales?  And how do you turn small email marketing wins into big gains for your business?

As a digital marketer, I’ve sent quite a few emails over the years. When it comes to seeing how your email marketing stacks up, there are some basic metrics to watch.  Here is a run-down of key terms to be aware of, how to measure and interpret data, and how to boost your marketing effectiveness as you start seeing success.

Open Rate

Open rate is the frequency at which unique users open the emails you send them. Open rate is a commonly used way to measure engagement. The first metric I look at when I’m evaluating an email send is open rate. It can help assess a few things:

  • Brand Awareness:  Do my recipients recognize my brand?  
  • Reputation: Do my recipients trust my brand and trust that I’m delivering valuable content?
  • Subject Line: Is my subject line compelling enough to make busy individuals want to click to learn more?

If my open rate is low, I can evaluate the “From” address to see if I need to adjust it to increase email opens.  For instance, if I am sending to a list of customers, they may be more inclined to open an email from their account manager than from someone on our marketing team.

Then, I take another look at the subject line and brainstorm ways to tweak it to resonate better with my audience.

Helpful Hint: While open rate is an easy-to-understand and helpful metric, it’s not 100% accurate. Be aware that a user’s email client may block images and create other mitigating factors that prevent this metric from being 100% accurate.

Unique Click-Through

The click-through rate (CTR) measures how many unique users have clicked on the call-to-action within your emails. While a higher click-through rate does not replace goals such as customer conversion, it is a more useful and insightful engagement metric than the open rate.

Click-through rate helps to determine how effective your call to action was. If my click-through rate is low, I’ll test a couple things:

Call-to-Action (CTA)

  • Is the call to action weak? For instance, changing call to action text from “Check it out” to a more specific “Download the Template” might boost response.
  • Is the CTA linked text? A linked URL? A button?  Changing up the format might entice more people to click.
  • Where is my CTA? Research reveals that as little as 1.77 percent of user clicks in email marketing are on the call to action at the bottom. Most recipients don’t bother to scroll all the way to the bottom of an email – and if they do make it that far without taking action, your message might not be relevant to them. Provide useful information and links near the top of the email in order to pique – and keep – their interest.

call to action

Body Content

  • Is my email text-based or HTML?  For example, if I sent a slick-looking HTML email but got a low click-through rate, I might test sending a text-only email to make it feel more personal to my recipients.
  • Is my messaging resonating with my audience?  I might try sending a different variation of the copy.
  • Do images reinforce the messaging and connect with the audience? I can A/B test images to see if I get a lift in click-through rate.

Sometimes, just a small change – like the color of your call-to-action button, or shortening the content of the email – can give you a nice increase in click-through rate.  So if your initial email has less than stellar results, don’t scrap everything.  Run a test or two to boost engagement.


Click-to-Open rate is calculated based on how many unique users opened emails and how many of them clicked on links inside. This metric serves as a useful measurement of how relevant and engaging customers find the content you provide within your emails.

If I have a low open rate, I always look to the click-to-open rate to determine where the problem areas in my email are.  For instance, if the open rate is low, but the click-to-open rate is high, I know that not many people are opening my email to see the content – but those that do connect with the messaging and are following through on the call-to-action.  In this case, I know that if I tweak the subject line to boost open rates, I’m going to see a nice boost in click-through rate as well.

Bounce Rate and Spam Complaints

A bounce can be caused by a full email inbox or bad email address. Bounce rate measures of the emails sent, how many failed to be delivered. This metric is useful for determining the quality of my email list.  If I have a high bounce rate, I probably have an old list of contacts that needs to be cleaned up.

Spam complaints measure the percentage of your emails that end up in the spam folder.  There are a lot of spam guidelines and best practices you can follow to stay out of the spam folder. But, at the end of the day, the best way to avoid being marked as spam is to send to a list that has opted-in to communication from you.

Avoiding high bounce rates and high spam complaints is crucial to maintaining a clean sender reputation and getting your emails delivered to the inbox.

Email Conversions

Opens and clicks are nice, but they don’t mean much without conversions. Using an all-in-one sales and marketing tool with email marketing and CRM in one app can help you easily track how your email marketing efforts are contributing to conversions.

So beyond seeing who opened and clicked a link in an email, you can see how many conversions you’ve had with the lead source of “email marketing.”

For instance you could:

  • Build a unique conversion landing page for each email campaign to easily track which campaigns are performing the best.


  • Add a tag to contacts that have received a specific email or email campaign and use that tag to segment your customers by lead source.

I know from experience that sometimes you can have awesome email marketing metrics that don’t translate into new customers for your business. Linking email marketing performance to conversions can help you determine if you’re targeting the right audience with the right content.