Ask our experts: Other than open rates, what should creators focus on to measure success?

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Open rates have been considered a vanity metric for a long time.

There are several factors that make open tracking inaccurate. And with the latest Apple announcement, open rates will soon become even less reliable when it comes to measuring the success of your email efforts. For many senders, open rates were the metrics they have historically focused on most. Now they’re left wondering, “what now”?

It’s important for senders to determine what action they want subscribers to take, and to use that as their key measure of success with their email marketing.

For example, when you send an email, are you hoping to receive more podcast downloads? Then your target metric should be the number of podcast downloads that originated from the link in your email. Are you hoping subscribers will purchase a product you’re selling in your email? Then your focus metric should be purchases or revenue generated from the email.

Aside from accuracy, though, open rates paint only a small part of the picture. While we do want subscribers to open our emails, maximizing open rates shouldn’t be the end goal. Instead, it’s best to focus on the action that we want subscribers to take to best determine the success of our email efforts.

In the first edition of our “Ask our experts” blog and podcast series, team members from ConvertKit are providing insight into which metrics senders should focus on, outside of open rates, in order to gauge their email marketing performance.

Replies are an excellent way to measure engagement and boost deliverability

Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKit, shares her best advice on measuring replies:

Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKit Open rates can be helpful when looking at a sender's overall deliverability—there's no doubt about it. On the contrary, they can also lack accuracy. If an open tracking pixel is triggered by non-human interaction situations, we aren't always able to weed out those ‘inaccurate opens.’

The good news is, there are plenty of other metrics we can encourage senders to focus on! Clicks and replies are two very important metrics that come to mind. My favorite though, are replies. Ask your audience a question they feel excited to answer. Receiving those replies is not only fantastic for your sender reputation, but often provides great insight into your audience's interests. This usually helps senders zero in on the content their audience really wants to see.

– Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKit

Conversion rates are the truest measure of success

Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKitAkos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit, shares a handy formula for measuring conversion rates from emails:

Aside from open rates, you should be paying attention to your conversion rate. This is the metric that, in the end, will show you the true engagement of your list. A conversion can refer to any desired action that you want your customer to take. It can be a purchase, clicking a link, or subscribing to a form.

How can you calculate the conversion rate? It is easy. You follow this calculation:

Conversion Rate (%) = Number of Conversions / Number of Delivered Emails × 100

For example: Let’s say you are planning to launch a new email campaign via an automation that begins with a form signup, and you inform your subscribers via your newsletter to subscribe to the new form. If 100 of your subscribers sign up to the form (you can check this in the form report) and you have sent 10.000 emails, your conversion rate is (100/10.000)*100=1%

And now the million dollar question: what is a good conversion rate? The answer is: there isn't a right number for everyone. What’s considered a good conversion rate entirely depends on the market and industry you are in. Location, demographics, and other factors might also be changing the end result. What we recommend is aiming for a conversion rate that helps you reach your goals and start working with your numbers from there.

Here are some examples you may find useful (Source: Movable Ink):

Email conversion rates

These guidelines are a good starting point, but you can set your own goals and measure your success. From there, you can spot trends and areas where you may need improvement, finding new ways to engage with your subscribers and actually convert them as paying customers.

With the help of the metrics you can find in ConvertKit such as open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates, and bounces, you can calculate your own conversion rates and it will help lead your business to rise and shine.

Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit

Unengaged subscribers can provide valuable insight into what’s working and what isn’t

Helen Anders, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit, explains how it's just as important to look at people who don't open your emails, not just those who do:

Helen Anders, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKitOpen rates have, and will in some ways continue to be a great way to measure email performance. However, we tend to get tunnel vision and focus solely on the subscribers who are opening emails, forgetting about our subscribers that aren’t opening any emails—our cold subscribers.

At ConvertKit, we define cold subscribers as any subscriber who hasn't opened or clicked an email in the last 90 days. For subscribers who have been active for fewer than 90 days, we define cold subscribers as anyone who hasn't opened or clicked an email in 30 days.

While cold subscribers may not be the most exciting email performance measurement to review, I believe the subscribers that are opening our emails say just as much about our content and list as the subscribers who aren’t opening our emails.

I think there are a few questions that we can ask ourselves when we look at our cold subscriber list. Are there any trends on your cold subscriber list? Are there groups of subscribers that are more cold than engaged? Are you sending emails often enough? Are you sending too many emails? Is it just time to say goodbye to a few subscribers? Or maybe time to reintroduce yourself? *Que “Hello” by Adele*

Regardless of whether your cold subscriber list can be counted on one hand, or is looking a little long, it’s important to keep your chin up and just take one step forward. We look at cold subscribers because our focus is on our email list as a whole. Here’s to the hard goodbyes and long awaited reunions with our cold subscribers.

— Helen Anders, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit

Account organization is a necessity for success

Becky Linot, Implementations Specialist at ConvertKit, has tips on keeping your account organized:

Becky Linot, Implementations Specialist at ConvertKitBased on what I see when helping creators on a daily basis, an extremely important area to focus on is account organization! I can’t preach this enough to folks, especially those managing more than one website/brand within their account. Creators need to be specific and intentional about naming conventions with their forms, automations, tags, sequences, etc. Calling your form ‘Form 1’ and connecting it to ‘New Sequence’ doesn’t cut it.

The goal with your accounts should be that if you don’t touch something for 6 months or if you have someone new working inside your accounts, it should be crystal clear how all automations, sequences, forms, and tags are related. It makes everyone’s lives so much easier!

— Becky Linot, Implementations Specialist at ConvertKit

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Alyssa Dulin

Alyssa is a Deliverability Lead located in Nashville, TN. She loves helping senders reach the inbox of their subscribers. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys traveling, indoor cycling, and spending time with family.

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