Top 5 Marketing Metrics for Brands Email marketing metrics. Even if you’re pretty confident that you know you drill, some of your email partners and third-party affiliates may not. Share this list of email marketing metrics with anyone who’s using your name in their messages. And keep the lines of communication open, so you can make decisions and form strategies based on hard data—yours and theirs.

  1. Opens

Open rates are a lot more informative than they used to be. Unique opens. Total opens to date. Opens by device type. “Detectable mobile opens…” Just keep in mind: open rates aren’t an exact representation of recipients’ interest levels. As Pamella Neely explains, some email clients (e.g. Apple iPhone, Yahoo! Mail) open emails automatically. And in cases where email images don’t load automatically, a legitimate open won’t be counted. You’re better off tracking opens as a comparative science—to gauge when your efforts are doing better or worse.

So how can you improve your open rates? Try a few creative subject lines. Use humor as a consistent part of your email strategy. And above all, test! (Good A/B tests to start with include day of week, time of day, subject line length and tone, and audience segments.)

  1. Clicks and Conversions

High open rates are nice to see, insofar as they validate your subject lines and prove that people are happy to hear from you. But you can’t live off looks alone. You need site traffic, engagement, and if you’re in the business of ecommerce: purchases.

In terms of improving your click-through rates (CTR), look for tools to create responsive or scalable HTML email. That means email content/design that can be optimized based on the device used to open it. With mobile devices now driving more than 65 percent of email opens, static email gets you nowhere fast.

There are also plenty of studies, along with some pretty exciting tools, that can help brands personalize and contextualize content/CTAs. Some ESPs let you integrate content in real-time, including product carousels, video, animation, timers, social media, weather, calendars and pop-up windows along with other widgets to grab user attention, leading to higher engagement and ultimately more conversions.

  1. Bounces

If you want a detailed explanation, HubSpot offers a good overview on the two different types of bounces you should be tracking: “hard” bounces and “soft” bounces. Essentially, soft bounces happen when there’s a temporary problem that impedes access to a valid email address (for example, the recipient’s inbox is full). In some cases, the server can store these emails for later delivery once the issue is resolved.

Hard bounces are very different—and very bad news for business. You incur hard bounces when addresses on your list are either closed, invalid, or non-existent. They aren’t just useless; they’re potentially damaging to your email sender reputation. If you don’t remove them (fast), ISPs may begin counting them against you and your email partners, curtailing deliverability.

  1. Unsubscribes

Unsubscribes, a.k.a. email opt outs, are part of the cost of doing business. Recipients change their mind, get bored, go on an inbox cleaning sweep… and ultimately say adios. Generally, if your unsubscribe rate is less than two percent, you are within industry norms. So why do you need to pay attention?

For one thing, it’s the law. For another, unsubscribes are a good gauge of how well your messages are landing with people or affecting their brand experience. In fact, one Forrester report asserts that email marketing (as compared to other channels) is the most clearly and conclusively tied to customer lifetime value. When opt outs start to climb, you’re not just losing sales; you’re fracturing relationships.

Using one central platform—to manage opt outs and measure unsubscribes across all your various campaigns/senders—is the surest way to stay compliant with CAN-SPAM laws, and to make informed decisions about email content, email partners, and overall email strategy.

  1. Churn

Your transparent churn rate, or attrition rate, is the measure of how many subscribers you have gained over a certain period, after deducting for those you lost due to opt outs, hard bounces, and SPAM complaints. You can’t evaluate your customer acquisition efforts without taken churn into account—especially if you’re working with third-party email partners to grow your lists and audiences. Experts say transparent churn rates of 25 to 50 percent can be considered typical, depending on your industry.

Meanwhile, “opaque” churn often adds another 10 to 25 percent of deadwood—including folks who are missing your emails thanks to abandoned accounts, or seeing them go by without ever engaging. While you may be under the gun to minimize email opt outs, and to grow (or at least maintain) subscriber list volume, it’s important to keep unsubscribe mechanisms front and center, letting people leave as soon as they express the desire.

Yes, it’s still smart to provide email preference options (email frequency, message categories, a different preferred address), but when subscribers definitely want out, don’t give them a hard time. Straightforward opt-out mechanisms help to preserve your relationship with email-weary buyers, and improve your chances of engaging with them across other sales channels.

At the end of the day, remember that measuring metrics is pointless if you and your email partners don’t act on the results. Tell us about changes you’ve made in response to your email metrics!