As an integral part of your digital marketing strategy, email marketing offers a way to keep your business in front of your target customers, generate and nurture leads, and ultimately drive revenue. However, a successful approach to email marketing requires more than simply creating and sending appealing campaigns to your list of contacts. To ensure that your email marketing efforts are helping to fulfill your business goals and yield a positive return on investment, it’s essential to keep track of your email engagement metrics and adjust your messaging as needed. We’ve compiled the following overview to help clarify what email engagement means, why it’s important, and how you can improve it.

Email Engagement Pros

What is email engagement?

Email engagement is a way of measuring how recipients interact with the emails you send. Analyzing your email engagement can provide insight into the types of content that resonate with your audience, the types of people who are most interested in your brand, and other valuable information that can help shape your marketing strategy. Armed with this data, you can fine-tune your email campaigns to ensure that you are delivering timely, relevant content that your subscribers will look forward to receiving.

Email engagement analysis consists of tracking a variety of metrics, depending on the goals of your business. For example, are you hoping that your email campaigns will drive traffic to your website? Convert leads into customers? Grow your subscriber list? Having a clear understanding of your goals will help you determine which metrics are the most important for you to track.

Here are a few key email engagement metrics:

  • Open rate. The open rate is the percentage of recipients who open an email. The email’s subject line is likely the biggest variable affecting open rate, so monitoring this metric from campaign to campaign can help you craft subject lines that are more enticing to your subscribers.
  • Clickthrough rate (CTR). One of the most important email engagement metrics, CTR measures the percentage of recipients who clicked on links in the email. The CTR can help you gauge the strength of your calls to action and identify which types of content are most interesting to your recipients.
  • Conversion rate. This refers to the percentage of people who not only clicked a link in the email, but went on to fulfill a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form on your website. The conversion rate is just as important (if not more) than the CTR since it is directly linked to the return on investment (ROI) for your email campaigns.
  • Bounce rate. The bounce rate is the percentage of emails sent that could not be delivered successfully. There are two different types of bounces that you might be interested in tracking: “soft” and “hard” bounces. Soft bounces indicate that the email address is valid, but a temporary problem—such as a full inbox or an issue with the server—prevented delivery. In this case, the recipient’s server may deliver the email once the problem has been resolved, or you could try resending it. On the other hand, emails can never be delivered to hard bounces, which indicate that the email address is nonexistent or no longer valid. You should immediately remove email addresses associated with hard bounces from your list, since continuing to send to them over time could cause internet service providers (ISPs) to mark you as a spammer.
  • Unsubscribe rate. This is the percentage of recipients who unsubscribe from your list after opening one of your emails. Since many unengaged users will simply stop opening your emails rather than unsubscribing, this metric gives an incomplete picture of your email engagement. However, it’s still important to pay attention to—if you notice that your unsubscribe rate is increasing, you may be sending too many emails or promoting content that is annoying or simply irrelevant to your audience.
  • Email sharing/forwarding rate. Email marketing offers an opportunity to attract new leads and grow your base of potential customers—but only if your recipients are not only engaging with your emails, but are also inspired to share them with others. Your email sharing/forwarding rate can help you track the extent to which this is happening by indicating the percentage of people who either forwarded the email to someone else or clicked a “share” button to post the email content on social media.
  • List growth rate. This metric simply measures how your email list (hopefully) grows over time. According to HubSpot, it’s natural to lose approximately 22.5 percent of your subscribers each year. However, you should aim to replace these subscribers while constantly adding more so that your email list—and therefore your audience and potential customer base—expands from year to year.

By tracking and analyzing these metrics from campaign to campaign, you will be able to optimize the design and content of your emails in order to improve your chances of delivering the right content to the right people at the right times—which will ultimately boost the ROI of your marketing efforts. In addition, you’ll be equipped with the insight needed to either remove or make attempts to reengage users who are no longer interacting with your communications. Maintaining a healthy email subscriber list is important because when a high number of your recipients are disengaged, ISPs may start sending your emails to the spam folder—thereby harming your brand’s reputation and making it more difficult to get your emails in front of those who do want to see them.

How can you improve email engagement?

Once you’ve begun regularly tracking your email engagement metrics, the next step is figuring out how you can improve them. Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Segment your email list. List segmentation, or the practice of dividing your email list based on subscribers’ demographic information, interests, and other characteristics, is a powerful way to improve your email engagement because it allows you to send personalized campaigns. When subscribers receive content tailored to their needs, they are more likely to open your emails, click through to your website, purchase your products or services, and have an overall positive perception of your brand.
  • Ensure that your emails provide the type of content that subscribers are expecting to receive. When people sign up to receive your emails, are they expecting special offers? News about your business? Free content, such as eBooks or templates? Or all of the above? Making sure that your email campaigns deliver the type of value that you promised will improve subscribers’ perception of your brand and reduce the likelihood that they will unsubscribe from your list or mark your emails as spam.
  • Write catchy subject lines. The subject line of your email is your first—and possibly only—chance to engage recipients. Therefore, it’s essential to focus on crafting subject lines that pique recipients’ interest and, ideally, create a sense of urgency to open the email. In addition, subject lines should be no longer than 50 characters in order to ensure that they display properly on mobile devices, and should tell readers exactly what they will get when they open your email.
  • Ensure that your emails are optimized for mobile. According to HubSpot, approximately 46 percent of all email opens now happen on a mobile device. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that your emails display properly, are easy to read, and that all links—including share buttons—work on mobile platforms. Otherwise, your subscribers may become frustrated and your engagement levels will drop.
  • Leverage the power of social proof. For today’s savvy consumers, checking reviews, reading testimonials or case studies, and seeing how other buyers interact with your brand on social media are all standard steps in the process of deciding whether to purchase your products or services. This illustrates the power of social proof, or the phenomenon by which people tend to conform to the actions of others. You can leverage social proof in your email marketing by featuring glowing customer reviews/testimonials or statistics about how many customers are using or recommending your business in your campaigns. In addition, be sure to send a follow-up email to customers immediately after they’ve bought from you asking them to review their experience, and seek to resolve any issues raised in negative reviews. This will help to boost your brand’s social proof over time.

These are just a few of the strategies that you can use to improve your email engagement metrics. At Email Engagement Pros, our team offers the expertise needed to optimize your campaigns at every step of the process—from initial design and content creation to segmenting your list to staying on top of your engagement metrics. Our interactive reports make it easy to understand how customers are responding to your email campaigns, and our experienced email marketing strategists will provide guidance on how to boost your engagement and ultimately, your ROI.

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Related: Email Engagement 101: Everything You Need to Know
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