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7 Important Email KPIs To Track Performance and How to Improve Them

By collegemktgrp | August 15, 2022 | Brands/Advertisers

Despite their love of social media, college students still use email to stay up to date with brands’ products and seasonal sales. Ninety percent of Gen Z say email is a daily essential, and around 58% open and read their emails more than twice a day. 

Gen Z contributes a significant amount of buying power — about $44 billion in their own money and over $600 billion of their parents’ cash. Nailing your email marketing strategy is key to converting more college students (and their parents). 

But how do you know if your email marketing strategy is really working? That’s where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. 

An email marketing KPI helps you understand how subscribers are engaging with your email campaigns (or not). By understanding key KPIs like open rate, click-through rate, and more, you can see which campaigns are resonating best with your audience — and where there might be room for improvement.

Learn about the most important email marketing KPIs, what they mean, and how to improve them so you can effectively engage and convert more college students this year. 

Why KPIs Are Important in Email Marketing

KPIs are key metrics that measure your email campaign performance in comparison to your goals. By tracking your email analytics, you can better understand the progress of certain targets (like increasing your average email list growth rate, generating more leads, and converting more college students) so you can optimize your email marketing strategy as needed.

Google Analytics holds all the important insights into your email campaigns. Through GA reporting, you can see the short-term impact and long-term growth of your email marketing efforts.

Setting Up Your Google Analytics Dashboard and Tracking Performance

Before you set up your dashboard, make sure you have the most recent version of Google Analytics to access the latest tools and resources.

Create a Google account (if you don’t have one yet), then register it with Analytics to begin setting up your reporting dashboard.

Follow these steps once you’re registered:

  1. Set up your Google Tag manager
  2. Create your Google Analytics account
  3. Set up the analytics tag with Google Manager
  4. Set up your Google Analytics goals
  5. Link to the Google Search console

Thanks to GA’s Audience report, you can learn about the age, gender, interests, professions, and geographic locations of visitors to your website and use this information to better target them with your email campaigns. 

You can also now segment your GA data — by isolating and analyzing specific subsets you can more accurately recognize and respond to certain trends you’re noticing.  

While Google Analytics can help you understand traffic to your website and behavior, email platforms like Klaviyo help you more closely track your email engagement with things like open rate, unsubscribe rate, etc. When used in conjunction with Google, you’ll get a complete picture of your email performance. 

Key Email Metrics to Track Performance

Is your brand’s main goal to grow your subscriber database? Generate more leads? Convert more existing leads into customers?

Whatever your goals, figure out which metrics you need to track to measure your progress toward them.

Below are key metrics to pay attention to in your email marketing efforts. We’ll start with the metrics every email marketer should be tracking, then take a look at how to tie certain metrics to specific goals.

1. Open Rate

What it is: The percentage of recipients who open your email. This is a good indicator of how successful your email campaign is.

Use open rates as a comparative metric. Look at the performance of an upcoming email campaign in comparison to one that went out recently (to the same list). Use A/B tests to test specifically for open rates in relation to subject lines, imagery, content, etc.

How to improve it: Your subject lines play a very important role in the success of your open rates. CoSchedule is a simple tool that helps you optimize your subject lines based on keywords, character count, and letter case. Personalizing your subject lines with the recipient’s name can also help.

Consider the timing of your campaigns as well. Tuesdays and Thursdays have been shown to be the best days of the week to send out email marketing campaigns.

2. Click-Through Rate

What it is: The number of people who clicked on at least one link in your email. 

Click-through rate (CTR) is an integral email metric because it gives you direct insight into how many people are engaging with your content and are interested in learning more about what you have to offer.

As you read through your email analytics reports in Klaviyo, you’ll be able to see exactly which links were clicked. This is important for tracking what’s getting your audience’s attention (copy, imagery, etc.).

How to improve it: Average click-through rates typically hover around 2.6%. It can vary greatly by industry — government or policy sectors return around 6% while food and beverage industries see a 1.7% CTR. If you see your emails are underperforming, it could be time to make some changes.

Using segmented lists can have a major impact on your CTR — send out your campaigns to designated lists of subscribers based on their demographics, interests, and needs.

A/B tests are also effective in elevating your CTR. Platforms like Klaviyo will automate A/B tests based on subject lines, copy, imagery, and CTAs. Designate a percentage of your subscriber list to receive one of two emails, and whichever one performs best will be sent to the rest of your list.

3. Unsubscribe Rate

What it is: The number of contacts on your subscription list who have opted out of receiving emails from you in the future. This KPI is a must because it gives you valuable insight into both your contact list and the content of your emails.

Watch for trends in your unsubscribe rate, especially if you make changes to your template design, sending schedules, or audience (segments or lists). If you see a spike in unsubscribes, that could tell you to reconsider those alterations to your marketing strategy.

How to improve it: Just as well-segmented lists can help your overall CTR, they can also have a huge impact on your unsubscribe rate. Specified segments lead to delivering content that speaks directly to their interests, making your brand a fixture in their inbox they won’t want to unsubscribe from.

Offer your subscribers options in what type of emails they receive and the frequency. Do this by providing editable email preferences at the bottom of your emails and on the page your unsubscribe link goes to. 

Sometimes an email recipient is ready to unsubscribe and it’s mainly because they suffer from inbox overload, not your content. Give them other options like SMS, your social media networks, or your blog so they can stay in touch and in the know.

4. Bounce Rate

What it is: You need to know if your emails are actually being delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes. The bounce rate tells you the percentage of email addresses that didn’t receive your email. 

There are two types that can occur — hard and soft bounces. 

A hard bounce happens when there’s a permanent error like nonexistent email addresses. A soft bounce is caused by temporary errors like a full inbox.

Email marketing programs usually offer this email analytic for you, but if you need to determine it yourself the formula is:

(# of bounces / # of delivered emails) x 100 = your email bounce rate

The accepted benchmark for bounced email is 2%. So, for every 100 emails you send, two will bounce. If you see you’re bouncing at 5% or higher, consider immediate changes you can make to your email campaigns.

How to improve it: Put effort into maintaining your email list and keeping it clean of old email addresses. If you buy your email list, you’ll especially want to do this to avoid “spam trap” addresses that have never been attached to a person and exist to identify you as a spammer (even when you’re not).  

Run your list through a cleaning service that helps remove the baggage. This should yield positive results fast.

Another way to help improve this performance metric is to avoid sending emails from a free email domain like gmail.com or hotmail.com. Your brand won’t look as professional and free domains don’t pass DMARC policies for Yahoo, Gmail, and AOL — your emails will more than likely bounce. 

Purchase a suitable domain — prices and services can vary, so find one that meets your needs and fits your budget and go from there. 

5. Conversion Rate

What it is: This email marketing KPI measures how many subscribers both clicked on a link and followed through with the desired action. Depending on the goal of your email campaign, a conversion could be a sale, a registration for an event, downloading a piece of content, a subscription, or something else you want your subscribers to do.

Because your conversions are tied to the call-to-action (CTA) in your email and your CTA is connected to the overall goal of your campaign, conversion rate is one of the key metrics you should be paying attention to.

If you find that subscribers are clicking your links but aren’t converting, there might be inefficiencies — your CTA could be misleading, your audience might need better segmentation, or your subscribers don’t find high value in your offer.

How to improve it: Your email is more than its copy and design — it’s a story that comes together for your subscribers to experience. Your CTA, subject line, and preview text must also align with your overall message, without too much repetition or overlap.

Make sure your subject line sets the right expectation and tone for your body copy, which should lead smoothly to your CTA. If these elements don’t align, it could lead to your subscribers feeling misled and not clicking your CTA. 

6. Revenue Per Recipient

What it is: This email analytic is pretty self-explanatory — it represents the money generated from each of your subscribers. This is important to track because it helps you identify how valuable your subscribers are to your brand.

This KPI also provides insight into which types of email campaigns are leading to more conversions and revenue earned. Identify trends and build strategies around your most profitable campaigns.

Looking at the total revenue per email is also helpful in determining what types of messaging, design, and CTAs are working best for you.

How to improve it: Timing can have a significant impact on your subscribers’ engagement with your emails and their likelihood to convert. 

The best days to send out emails are Tuesdays and Thursdays. You’ll typically want to avoid sending email campaigns out on Saturdays or Sundays unless it’s for special holiday sales or other important weekends of the year. 

Still, every email list — especially depending on your industry — will be made up of subscribers with specific and unique habits, likes, and personalities. Look at your email analytics to determine when your subscribers are opening your emails and at what time of day. Running A/B tests can also help you find the best days to schedule your campaigns. 

7. Total Revenue Generated

What it is: Think of your total revenue generated as your return on investment, or ROI. 

This is a measurement of how much money you’ve generated through your email marketing campaign in comparison to how much you’ve spent. Ultimately, this tells you if your efforts have been profitable for your brand.

On average, email marketing has an ROI of $36 for every $1 spent. This is a higher return than what you can expect from other forms of marketing.  

Growing your total revenue requires testing all aspects of your emails and altering your campaigns based on what your email marketing KPIs are showing you. 

How to improve it: Today, more than half of emails are opened on mobile devices. That number is only expected to grow. 

You need to make sure your emails are optimized for mobile so they open up correctly and look great. If your emails don’t function well on phones or tablets, your subscribers will be more likely to click out of the email or delete it altogether. 

Many email platforms today allow you to choose templates that display on both desktop and mobile. While these programs have made things much easier to design and optimize emails, be sure you always test your emails by sending them to yourself and interacting with them.

Grow Your Email List in Time for Back-to-School Season

Like other inbound strategies, email marketing isn’t a short-term game. Your subscribers open your emails because they like your content and trust you — the relationship you build with them inspires this.

The relationships you establish and your strong sender reputation aren’t built overnight, though, and neither is your email list!

Growing your email list is integral to both back-to-school promotions and the long-term success of your brand. But where do you start in establishing a successful and sustainable list of subscribers? 

Before you start, check out our guide to easy ways to grow your email list today so you can reach as many college students as possible.

How to build your email list for back-to-school season >


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