2021 how to measure email marketing

How to measure the performance of your email marketing campaigns in 2021.
The following information comes from our fifteen years of experience
with the Inxmail email marketing platform.

What are “email marketing campaigns”?
They are massive permission-based emails,
whose contents are generally customized according to the interests of the recipient,
where the sender can obtain feedback data based on the behavior of the recipients.

The answers or “feedback data” are the basis for the metrics
behind the reports on the performance of email marketing campaigns.
Let’s outline what they are and how they are measured:

The best technical tools are useless if the messages do not reach the recipient’s inbox.
This is where “email deliverability” comes into play:


email marketing campaigns


permission-based marketing

Permission-based marketing, also called “dialogue marketing”,
is a concept introduced by Seth Godin in 1999 in his best-seller “Permission marketing”.

In the book, it is defined as the opposite of “Interruption marketing”
generally used in traditional mass media such as TV and newspapers.

Aims to create a personal and direct communication,
a relationship between the two parties and activate a “human” dialogue
whose experience is useful and enriching for both.

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tracking user reactions


Depending on the privacy permissions collected, the sender can record:

Aggregated data
they provide global feedback and information on general trends
(e.g. how many opened the email, how many clicked)

Single user data
they allow to obtain individual information
by collecting personal data and then sending personalized messages,
based on previous interactions and user behavior

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how user tracking works

Link tracking is the activity to replacing the final URL of the website
with a fictitious address, which records the visit and redirects the user to the destination page.

Within email messages, only clicks on links can be tracked.
external images, those that the email client asks for confirmation before downloading,
are treated as links, so you just need to track an external image URL
to know the email opening rate.

Tracking usually only records the “mailid”,
a unique identifier of the mailing that has been sent.

Personalized tracking is achieved by adding to the visited pages
one or more parameters generated by the software,
such as: example.com/test.html?id=54725788327466628654
the “id” parameter refers to a specific user and a particular link in the message.

The information obtained can automatically
update the recipient’s data in the email marketing application
or pass the details on the origin of the click to the web analytics platform.

For example: a travel agency could measure
how many times the user clicks on sea or mountain news,
increasing a specific counter over time.
The data collected will indicate the recipient’s preferred destination.

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how the open rate measurement works

Open rates are measured by combining data from clicks on tracked links
and “hidden clicks” generated by tracked images that have been downloaded.

If a message is opened in the email client preview,
without downloading the images or clicking on any links,
it is not possible to know that it has been opened.

Since 2003 initially Outlook, then most email clients,
to protect the privacy of their users
began to block the automatic download of images
which otherwise would have been tracked for each email read.

Since 2013, images in Gmail are displayed automatically by default.
The download is performed by a third server, called a “proxy”,
which masks the user’s terminal, but still allows the email marketing operators
to know that the image has been downloaded and the message opened.
Further information can be found here:
How the new Gmail image proxy works and what this means for you

Registration of opening rates is not accurate,
provides a lower value than actual openings.
It is a good idea to measure it anyway,
even just to compare the results of different campaigns.

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email deliverability


seed emails

First of all it is necessary to check if the emails arrive in the mailboxes
of the main freemail domains present in your list
and also in the inbox of the two main suppliers of corporate mailboxes:
Google Apps and Office 365.

Content-activated spam filters are generally triggered by domains present in URLs (http …)
a good tip is to use only one domain in the links of your messages.
The domain should be the same one used in the sender address;
it is called “domain alignment” and reduces the risk related to phishing filters.
For the same reason, if links are tracked, they should use a subdomain
of the domain used in the sender address.

Real tests can be done simply by activating a “seed” mailbox for each email provider,
and then activate the forwarding of messages to your email address.
Send each mailbox a message with the subject “Test Message”
and the content “Test Message” plus the link to your domain.
If the message passes the spam filters, you should receive it in your inbox.

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bounce rates

It is normal to receive bounced emails.
The reason may be the presence of abandoned addresses,
full mailboxes or other technical issues.

Depending on the “cleanliness” of your list,
the bounce rate can vary between 5% and 20%.

As the numbers grow, it becomes impossible to manually manage the bounced emails.
Email marketing applications integrate a feature called “bounce handler”
which automatically downloads rejected messages,
it analyzes and classifies them according to their content.

The destination email address is automatically disabled
after a number of “hard bounces”, persistent errors such as user unknown and host unreachable
or after a greater number of “soft bounces”, transient errors such as mailbox full.

It is important to monitor the “bounce rates” (rejected messages)
or the complementary “delivery rates” (messages accepted). Their sum will give 100%.
A change in their value is a symptom that should be investigated.

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email marketing benchmarks

The biggest email marketing platforms publish benchmark numbers
that are based on the data collected by all their customers.

Technical terms used in the reports:

Here is a short list, most of them refer to the U.S.:

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