Master Email Marketing Metrics and Get Results

  Open rates, click-throughs, bounces: What do they mean? Learn how to understand these metrics and make the most of them to boost your email campaigns.


Opens, clicks, bounces? What the heck does it all mean? Hi, I’m Bryan Caplan, CEO of BJC Branding. Today I want to take you through email marketing metrics, making sense of them.

Open Rates

The first metric we want to look at is Open rates. Open rates are very common, and a lot of people – a lot of clients, too – focus exclusively on open rates. They think that the success of their email marketing campaign hinges on the open rate. In reality, it doesn’t.

Related: Successful Email Strategies for Your Business

Open Rates Gauge Subscriber Interest

Open rates are great to gauge the interest of our subscribers. If I’m sending an email to you, then  I want to see if you opened it. If you opened it, I know that I sent it on the right day and the right time. Moreover, I will know that my subject line was effective in piquing your interest. Also, the pre-header text that I used was great because he got you to click open and actually start reading my email.

Open: Loading Image or Clicking on Link

We are dealing with servers and computers and at the end of the day, they don’t have the human processing. An Open is usually triggered if you load the images or when you click on a link. By default, about 67% of the time, images do not load. So if you actually took the time to click on that button, text or load the images, I know that you’ve opened my email for sure.

Average Open Rates

Averages in the industry are anywhere between 8% and 28% for open rates, so don’t be too hard on yourself. The whole thing here with open rates is to test your days and your times and your subject lines in order to try to improve and get those people to open.


Click-Throughs are the second metric we want to look at, and honestly the most important.

So we’ve already gotten them to open; now, they’re in the email, they’re reading the content and the click through is that physical and measurable response that we need to see as marketers. If they click on a link, then that means that they’re actually doing something.

That means that we have compelled them, through our writing, through the subject line, the day and time, to actually take that action. So, Click-Throughs really gauge the engagement of your reader. They gauge how active they are, how much affinity they have towards you, and how likely they are to work with you and actually follow your directions.

Related: Sample Email or Direct-Mail Letter

Average Click-Through Rates

Now on average, your click-through rates might range between 5% and 18%. Ultimately you want to aim for a higher click through rate, and that might mean having fewer links, or shorter text, or fewer images.


A smaller metric, and less common, is the did-not-opens. This is the inverse of your open rate. Now did-not-opens, obviously, are people that have not actually clicked and opened your email.

But they may have seen the email, because again this is just a stupid computer: doesn’t know anything. If someone is scrolling and have a preview pane open, then if they haven’t loaded the images they still may have read your email. So you want to take this with a grain of salt.

Related: How to Make Social Media and Email Marketing Work Together

At the same time, did not opens can tell you a lot about the time and the data you sent. Maybe you want to try sending a different subject line on a different day and time. Ultimately you want to try to cultivate these did-not-opens, and get them to become engaged openers.

Opt-Outs / Unsubscribes.

The fourth metric, and ultimately one of the ones that we take to heart, are opt-outs or unsubscribes.

This is when people choose not to receive our emails anymore. I tell everyone I come in contact with who sends emails: don’t take it personally. What you’re supposed to do is learn from the situation: do we have to reevaluate and restructure our email strategy? Do we have to change our content? So we have to send less? All of these things come into play, and ultimately you can collect feedback from these unsubscribes to make sure that you are sending the most optimal email marketing.


Lastly, we have bounces. Bounces are actually when email addresses are rejected from the email server. So this could be because people have email addresses that haven’t been in existence for years; those old net zero days. It could be that people are on a long autoresponder, almost like that elongated vacation autoresponder where they say “I’ll be back in a week” but then they found out that they’re not gonna be back ever.

Those types of things are bounces, and really those are the email addresses that don’t help us. So a lot of people, especially if you’re buying a list, are going to see a lot of bounces. And that’s a reason not to buy a list: because bounces don’t help with the integrity of your list, and ultimately they don’t help with the deliverability.

What you want to do for bounces is remove them from your list, and only sent your emails to those active people that are actively opening, actively reading, and actively clicking.

Applying Your Email Metrics

Test When to Send Emails

Now we understand what those metrics are, but how do we make informed decisions with them?

Well, if we have a low open rate, the first thing we want to do is test out the day and time. And it’s very easy: you can choose to send to half your list on Tuesday and half your list on Thursday,at the same time, and see how many opens you get.

That’s a very simple split testing way to see what the best day is. Then once you have the best day, consider trying different times. So keep that 9 AM, try a 3 PM, maybe try a 8:30 or 9 PM, and see at what time the most opens occurred. That would help you figure out the best day and the best time to send.

Experiment with Subject Lines

Also consider changing your subject line. If you’re sending out a subject line that says “This is Joe’s pet store newsletter,” no one cares. Ask a question! Use the word You, one of the most important words in marketing. Male them wonder: “what’s in it for me?”

Related: Email Marketing: Why Your Business Needs It

Test Different Release Schedules.

Finally, you want to look at the schedule. So if you’re sending out multiple emails, say you’re sending out weekly or even daily, maybe you want to tone it back a little bit. Maybe it’s the law of diminishing returns coming into play. You’re sending too much content, and as a result, people can open it. So consider a weekly, biweekly, or monthly strategy. And really, with our clients, we say biweekly or monthly works best.

Have a Strong Call to Action

Now if we have low click rates, we definitely want to consider having a strong call to action. Is your button, or your call to action or link above the scroll line? Is it the first thing people see, or do they have to scroll down quite a bit to get there?

Again, it’s just like comedy: it’s a punchline. So we want to get right to the punch line right away. If I’m loading up your email on my mobile phone, I want to be able to take this big thumb, I want to press a button and do what you want me to do.

Be Clear and Concise

Also maybe we want to shorten the email. Maybe you’re writing a diatribe; you don’t want to have too much information, you don’t want to have too much content. People are getting hundreds of emails in a week, and ultimately if you’re giving them too much info, they don’t know what to do and how to act upon it.

So instead, try to keep it to 20 lines of text and three images, because images are content too. That will help you get a higher click through rate.

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About Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. Award-winning CEO of BJC Branding and professional speaker, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics.

Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, BlueHost, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.