Email Marketing Metrics
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The Only 4 Email Marketing Metrics That Matter

If I gave you $1 to spend in your business, where would it go?

Your first instinct might be to invest in Facebook ads or maybe to sock it away and save for the latest marketing software.

But you’re missing a crucial opportunity.

While social media came in hot, casting its spell on advertisers—its existence has yet to make email marketing become irrelevant. 

Marketing software is definitely creating huge progress in our industry, but it can’t succeed if it doesn’t integrate with your email marketing platform.

Ninety-nine percent of consumers check their email every day. What’s even better than that?

Email is a much quieter place to try to get a reader’s attention and keep it, unlike social media platforms.

“Email marketing yields an average 4,300% return on investment for businesses in the United States.”

Direct Marketing Association

There are 4 email marketing metrics that you need to pay attention to, yes just 4 🙂.

These email marketing metrics are UNIVERSAL and will help you measure the success of your emails, so you can create effective email marketing campaigns no matter, 

  • How big your list is (Fledgling vs. Full-Grown Eagle)
  • What kind of business you have (ecommerce vs brick-and-mortar)
  • The email platform you’re using (Mailchimp vs. Maropost)

Let’s get right to it!

The 4 Metrics To Track In Every Email

So, why only 4 metrics?

Each of these metrics corresponds with a specific, high-leverage part of your email.

If performance dips, reviewing which of these numbers changed can help you understand EXACTLY what happened and HOW to fix it.

The 4 metrics are…

  1. Deliverability
  2. Open rate
  3. Click-through rate
  4. Disengagement rate

Let’s dig into each of these and go over what they are and how you’ll use them in your own email marketing. If you want to learn more email marketing terms so you can be fully “in the know”, you can read our article on email marketing terms marketers need to know.

Email Marketing Metric You Must Track #1: Deliverability

Deliverability, also known as delivery rate, is calculated by dividing delivered emails by sent emails.

Deliverability tells you what percentage of emails sent actually make it to the inbox. In other words, it clues you into how likely people are to get your email.

In general, deliverability gives you a sense of how well your emails pass the “spam test” for Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Gmail and Yahoo.

If your emails don’t use flagged words and are well received by your audience, your deliverability should be quite high. A healthy deliverability percentage should be in the upper 90th percentile.

Be sure to pay attention to emails with low deliverability. This is a great way to identify copy that ESPs don’t like, such as:

  • “No Investment Needed”
  • “Zero Risk”
  • “No Money Down”

The next metric is one most people are familiar with…

Email Marketing Metric You Must Track #2: Open Rate

Your email’s open rate tells you how likely people are to read your email and is determined by dividing unique Opens by received emails. 

This measures the frequency with which your emails are opened—and thus, read.

Open rate is one of the easiest metrics to affect, making it a well-known metric and a frequent blog topic, including for us.

Open rate describes how well your subject line encourages your email list to actually take the time to read your email.

Since you’ve got roughly 30 characters to catch someone’s eye with a subject line, punchy copy can be the difference between 700 and 7,000 people reading your email.

You should use open rate as a barometer of how well your messaging resonates with your target audience. 

The third metric is arguably the most crucial because it most closely correlates with sales…

Email Marketing Metric You Must Track #3: Click-Through Rate

Click-through rate tells you how likely your audience is to engage with your email, which means it indicates the likelihood someone will click on a link within your email.

The formula to calculate click-through rate is the number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique opens.

Click-through rate is important because it measures whether or not people are actually taking the desired actions with your emails.

Clicks in an email are what drive:

  • Visits
  • Engagement
  • Sales

A low click-through rate usually indicates that your email copy is falling flat and is a sign of a weak or unclear call-to-action (CTA).

An easy way to improve click-through rate is to avoid over-selling your products or services through email and instead focus on getting people to click your link.

The body of the email only has one job—sell the click.

The last metric is one almost no one is thinking about but may give you the most insight into how your email list feels about you and your email strategy.

Email Marketing Metric You Must Track #4: Disengagement Rate

Disengagement rate tells you how likely people are to hate your email.

You can figure out the disengagement rate by adding spam complaints to unsubscribes and dividing the sum by unique opens.

Your emails will always drive some people away, either towards you or away from you. While you can’t please everyone (and shouldn’t aim to do so), you do need to make sure that the vast majority of readers on your list like what you have to say.

That’s why you want to make sure you keep an eye on your disengagement.

With disengagement rate, you can pinpoint messaging that doesn’t work and cut that out of your copy toolbox.

You absolutely must keep your average disengagement rate below 0.15% for your emails or you’ll start to see your deliverability drop.

You’ve got your 4 metrics, as well as the basic uses for each of them—now, let’s talk about how to get the best possible metrics for your email campaigns.

How to Track Email Performance (and the Two Categories of Email)

Not all emails you send are the same and the distinction is key when it comes to measuring our 4 metrics.

There are 2 different categories of email, but this distinction has nothing to do with the content of the emails. Instead, these categories describe how emails are delivered to customers.

The 2 categories are:

  1. Broadcast emails
  2. Automated emails

Email Category #1: Broadcast Emails

Broadcast emails are manually set up, scheduled, and sent out of your email marketing software to many people at once.

These are mass communication emails. Here’s an example from Postmates, sending a broadcast email for their $3 off of a $15 purchase discount:

Postmates promotional email

And from a metrics perspective, broadcast emails are easy to evaluate; since all the emails are sent at the same time, data is reported in aggregate about these emails.

Here’s an example of a broadcast email report we would get out of our email platform, Maropost.

DigitalMarketer's email metrics

You can see 3 of our four metrics are automatically generated…

  1. Deliverability
  2. Open rate
  3. Click-through rate

And while the platform doesn’t actively provide our disengagement rate, it can be easily calculated from the formula provided earlier.

Email Category #2: Automated Emails

Automated emails on the other hand act more like a personal letter.

They are customized to the individual recipient, usually containing more details about a customer and their interests.

These emails are sent out based on actions customers have taken. They can be triggered to send when customers do things like:

  • Fill out a form
  • Purchase a product
  • Visit a certain webpage

Here’s an example of an automated email from Nectar, with the order number and tracking number for a recently ordered product (in this case, a mattress).

Nectar's transaction email

While the higher personalization means these emails typically perform better than broadcasts, they are also more difficult to track and evaluate because data isn’t always automatically aggregated for these and reporting is provided at a contact level.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Metrics for a transactional email

This granular reporting makes it hard to see the big picture and evaluate performance because you have to compare hundreds or thousands of individual reports.

But you need to track both broadcast and automated emails if you want to level up your email marketing.

To level up your email marketing, you must track it.

Why You Absolutely, Positively MUST Own Your Own Email Marketing Metrics

When your email platform provides all of the metrics for analysis in a neat package, it’s easy to conclude that all your work is done. Just check individual email marketing metrics and move on to the next thing.

This is a HUGE trap when it comes to email marketing because it feels efficient at the time.

To build a sustainable, long-term email strategy, you need to take any data you get in your business and hold it yourself.

There are 2 key reasons this is critical.

1. Turning Your Email Marketing Metrics into Decision-Making Tools

Keeping all your information in one place, ideally one that lends itself to data modeling, helps you turn your email marketing metrics into a decision-making tool.

A simple chart looking at dates and deliverability can help you track how well you’re maintaining compliance over time and whether or not you need to adjust your messaging.

Also, having a unified place for all your email marketing metrics makes it much easier to analyze and evaluate big chunks of data. You can track trends over time, by the category or the content of the email.

2. Being Prepared for Migrations

As a business grows, your platforms come and go.

Your business will grow and its needs will change over time, meaning that a migration is almost assuredly in your future. Storing email marketing metrics externally makes it easy to be prepared when the time comes.

For example, since 2011 DigitalMarketer has leveraged 4 different email platforms.

If I wanted to compare a campaign we ran in 2011 or 2012 to one we ran today, or just see what the year-over-year trend in open rate was, I’d be out of luck without our platform-agnostic historical data.

What Does Success Look Like? How to Benchmark Your Performance

Figuring out how your emails stack up can be very tricky.

One of the biggest questions I get from people about their email marketing metrics is, “What kind of performance do you see at DigitalMarketer?” Unfortunately, the answer to that isn’t useful for most.

Looking at different markets, products, and email lists won’t help you decide how you’re doing. You need to look closer to home, in your own industry.

There are 2 great resources to help you define what success looks like.

#1: Benchmarking Your Performance by Keeping an Eye on Your Peers

The first resource is other people in your industry.

If you’re a law firm, knowing how email marketing performs for other businesses offering legal services will give you a great benchmark for what success should look like.

How do you find these answers?

Luckily, Mailchimp has created the best resource ever for taking a peek into your peers’ email marketing metrics.

This resource provides averaged email performance data for 46 different industries, ranging from Arts and Artists all the way to vitamin supplements.

And because Mailchimp sends over 10 billion emails a month, the information is extremely representative of behavior patterns.

Here’s a look at some of that email marketing data:

Mailchimp email marketing data

The other resource you should use to evaluate your performance is your own data.

Benchmarking Your Performance by Looking to the Past

Looking at past performance is one of the best ways to get a sense of where your email marketing program is at the moment.

To turn your historical data into something usable, you need to compile it.

This can be done pretty easily by generating averages for your 4 metrics based on the past:

  • Six months
  • Year
  • Three years

See what direction performance is trending and to come up with benchmarks to compare your current performance to.

Whether or not your email marketing is where you want it to be today, the only way to start improving it is to understand where you are at the moment.

Leveraging these 2 different sets of data will give you reasonable expectations and help you understand how your email marketing shapes up.

In addition to the details on how to improve individual metrics, making your audience more or less specific is the next best way to improve performance. To beat your baseline, try experimenting with a smaller list, targeted by topics you know they’re interested in.

Then experiment with the email’s subject line and body copy to boost performance.

Remember: always focus on improving one email marketing metric at a time, that way you can figure out what’s causing the lift.

Now you can do what all marketers dream of.


As Richard Lindner, co-founder of DigitalMarketer, says, “Prove, then automate.”

Once you’ve got the basics of tracking and using your email marketing metrics, you can take it one step further by leveraging your broadcast emails to improve your automated emails.

Get a good sense of what exceptional performance looks like and you can cherry-pick your best broadcast emails and turn them into automated emails.

Every time you send a broadcast, you’re also working in your email marketing laboratory—testing and improving your campaigns!

And by keeping  close eye on these 3 metrics, you can figure out how to create and maintain effective email marketing campaigns.

Matt Shelar

Matt Shelar

Matt Shelar is a Florida-born, Delaware-raised, Idaho-educated Texan. As the Promotions Manager at DigitalMarketer, Matt is in charge of planning out, projecting the performance of, and generally managing DigitalMarketer’s promotional calendar, in addition to scheduling out all of our promotional and content emails.

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