Getting familiar with your email metrics gives you a leg up in developing a successful email marketing strategy. By the end of this article you should be able to better understand email metrics and more easily recognize when there is a need for improvement so you can get more mail delivered to the intended inbox.

Plus, at the end of this post we’re including links to additional resources to help further your understanding of how to prevent poor email metrics as well as what steps can be taken when an email metric problem is identified to get you back on track. So, let’s get started!

Key Email Metrics to Monitor:

  • Hard Bounce
  • Soft Bounce
  • Spam Complaint
  • Spam Trap
  • Unsubscribe
  • Open Rate
  • Click Rate

Hard Bounce

A hard bounce is what happens when you send email to an inactive address. This address may have never existed or no longer exists. It can be the result of not using a sunset policy to let go of unengaged contacts before they become inactive or a signal that there is room for improvement with regards to email address collection methods. Once an email address hard bounces that address is automatically unsubscribed to prevent further delivery attempts. Too many hard bounces can negatively impact your sender reputation with mailbox providers. It is best to aim for a less than 1% hard bounce rate on your email campaigns.

Pro Tip: Be sure to bring over any hard bounced addresses you experienced prior to joining SharpSpring and import them as unsubscribed to prevent them from hard bouncing all over again.

Soft Bounce

A soft bounce is considered a temporary delivery failure. While there are many reasons a soft bounce may occur the most common causes include:

  • recipient mailbox is full
  • local policy block placed by the recipient
  • email was sent to a non-existent domain
  • temporary recipient server issues
  • reputation concerns

You can always attempt to resend to a soft bounced contact at another time. If an email continues to soft bounce to the same email address on several different occasions that points to a more permanent issue. In that case, the soft bounce will automatically be considered permanently undeliverable and set to unsubscribed in SharpSpring to prevent further delivery attempts. Too many soft bounces can negatively impact your sender reputation with mailbox providers. It is best to aim for a less than 5% soft bounce rate on your email campaigns.

Did you know? A sunset policy is one of the best ways to minimize soft bounces, hard bounces, spam complaints, while boosting your sender reputation.

Spam Complaint

This is the result of a recipient using the option to Report Email as Spam in their email client. Email addresses that report your email as spam are automatically unsubscribed. Too many spam complaints can negatively impact your sender reputation. Mailbox providers recommend staying below 0.1% spam complaint on email campaigns.

Spam Trap

A spam trap is a valid email address used to identify a sender with poor list maintenance or non consent-based collection methods. Spam Traps can be owned by ISPs, blacklists, and security filters, among others. If you hit the wrong spam traps you could end up with a poor sender reputation and/or blacklisted. Spam Trap data shown on Email Sender Status should be used as an indicator of a list quality issue.

There are three kinds of spam traps:

  • Pristine spam trap addresses have only ever existed to be spam traps – that means they’ve never signed up for email. Pristine addresses commonly signal a lack of direct opt-in methods such as purchased, rented, or scraped data.
  • Typo spam traps are the result of commonly misspelled domains (e.g. instead of Typo addresses indicate a lack of confirmed opt in or direct opt-in methods.
  • Recycled spam traps are email addresses that may have opted into your email at one time but somewhere along the line they stopped accepting mail. After being dormant and hard bouncing the email address is then set back to active by the domain owner to once again accept email deliveries as a ‘trap’. When you send to their recycled spam trap that hit is used to identify senders who do not honor hard bounces and continue to email old, unengaged addresses.

When reviewing spam trap data it is important to remember that the goal is not to get rid of the spam traps specifically. The goal of resolving a spam trap problem is resolving the list quality problem that caused them to exist in your mailing list. You should aim for minimal to no spam traps with your email campaigns since mailbox providers can use this data to determine if your mail should go to the inbox, spam folders, or rejected delivery altogether.

Don’t worry – if our email delivery and compliance teams see an excessive amount of spam traps being hit, they will reach out to alert you to the issue and provide guidance on how to improve your list health.

Unsubscribe Rate

The unsubscribe rate tells you the percentage of recipients who are opting out of your email communications. Recipients can also choose to provide feedback on why they are unsubscribing.

Common reasons recipients unsubscribe include:

  • they no longer wish to receive emails
  • they never signed up for the mailing list
  • the content is not valuable or relevant
  • they consider the email to be spam

If a recipient selects “the recipient considers the email to be spam” during the unsubscribe survey that will also apply to your Unsubscribe for Spam Reason rate. It is best to aim for a less than 1% total unsubscribe rate and less than 0.5% unsubscribe spam rate on your email campaigns. A high number of unsubscribes suggest your mail is not wanted and a need for improvement on collection methods, relevance of content, or the frequency of mail being sent.

Open Rate

The open rate is the percentage of recipients who opened your email. On average an open rate of 20% or higher is considered successful, but open rate trends vary by industry, seasonal sending, sales cycles, and more.

Did you know? If you’re experiencing low open rates with minimal to no spam complaints that suggests a reputation issue causing your email to be delivered to the spam folder. Try focusing on sending your most engaged recipients and implementing a sunsetting policy to build a positive reputation then expanding out from there.

Click Rate

This is the percentage of recipients who clicked on a link in your email. Typical click rates vary based on what the call to action, if any, is requesting of the recipient. Click rates vary by industry but on average a successful click rate can range from 5% to 10%.

Helpful Articles on Email Metrics

New Sender Best Practices

Email Best Practices

Understanding SharpSpring Email Sender Status

Understanding Spam Traps

List Management and Deliverability

Using Email Engagement Tools

5,000 Businesses. 30 Million Fewer Emails Sent. More Opens, More Clicks.

Understanding Purchased Email Recipient Lists and Email Verification Services

Understanding Email Opt-In Methods

Jessica Kaplan