Measure Email Success: Individual Email Results

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    Measure Email Success: Individual Email Outcomes

    Email is a very measurable tool, and it’s important that you measure your results so you can report on the effectiveness of your email program. In this post, I’ll suggest the most meaningful metrics for you to examine an individual message’s results against previous emails. In the next post, I’ll show you how to view your email program’s success as a whole.

    Any decent email tool will provide you with more measurements than you have time to evaluate. The measurements are not consistently named or even measured across different tools, so I’m going to give you what I have found the most useful over the past 11 years.

    Open Rate: The open rate of an email measures the effectiveness of the time of day and day of the week that your email was sent, as well as the “From” name and email address, the subject line, and sometimes the first lines of your copy. That’s all someone can see without opening your email. The open rate is calculated by the number of emails opened, divided by the number of emails that were successfully delivered (don’t count emails that bounced). Good email open rates run about 20%

    Click-Through Rate: The layout and content of the email determine whether or not people will click the links in the email. Divide the number of email messages that are clicked by the number of emails that were opened to get this ratio (a good email click-through rate is 30% but varies widely depending on what you’re asking the reader to do). Don’t measure click-through based on the number of emails that are delivered. If you do, you’re taking into account all of those factors that go into determining the open rate. An email with a terrible subject line but great content will look like a bad email if you base your click-through rate on the number of emails delivered. People can’t click if they don’t open the email, so only count the email messages delivered. Count only unique clicks per recipient; if someone clicks every link in your email, or clicks the same link several times, only count them once.

    Completion Rate: Once people click a link in your email, presumably you want them to do something on the web page (sign a petition, make a donation, etc.). So count the number of completed donations or petition signatures as a percentage of the emails that were clicked. To do this, you probably need to create a unique landing page just for this email, so that other web traffic doesn’t distort your results. 20% completion on a donation page is about average; I’ve seen completion rates of 100% or more on a petition (respondents complete it, then get their spouses or friends to complete it too).

    Example: You sent 10,000 email messages, and 9,000 were delivered, 2000 opened, and 500 of them resulted in a click to a donation page, and you got 100 donations. Your open rate is 2000/9000 or 22.2%. Your click-through rate is 500/2000 or 25%. And your completion rate is 100/500 or 20%.

    Questions about how to measure using your email tool? Or, how to improve your results? Ask Me.

    Rick Christ has been helping nonprofit organizations use the Internet for fundraising, communications, and advocacy since 2009, and has been a frequent writer on the subject. He delights in your questions and arguments. Please contact him at: or at his LinkedIn Page