As with any online marketing, the trick to successful campaigns is to ensure you are measuring everything.
We’ll take you through what metrics to measure when it comes to email and what to look for in order to improve.
Opens, clicks and conversions
Opens, clicks, and conversions are the three most important metrics when it comes to any single email campaign.
For each campaign, think of these three metrics as a funnel, just like this:
This helps you realize how the three are linked together. Getting customers to convert is the ultimate goal, but measuring clicks and opens allows you to understand where along the funnel customers are getting lost and improve each step in turn. This lets you come up with testable hypotheses:
- Are customers not opening my emails because the subject lines are ineffective?
- Are customers ignoring my emails because I send too many?
- Do customers open my emails but never seem to click because the subject line is inconsistent with my content?
- Is my call to action too weak, do customers not know what to do next?
- Is the call to action of this campaign incongruous with my landing page, meaning customers get lost between clicking and converting.
Hypotheses like these allow you to optimize your campaigns, which we’ll come to in Chapter 6. Here are a few things to bear in mind when reviewing your campaign metrics.
Uniques vs. totals
It’s important to understand the difference between unique and total opens and clicks.
Unique opens/clicks represent the number of individual recipients that have opened your campaign. If you email 10 people, 5 people open it and one of these people opens it 4 times, your unique opens would be 5.
In contrast, total opens includes all opens of a campaign, even if a single user opens the email more than once. If you email 10 people, 5 people open it and one of these people opens it 4 times, your total opens would be 8.
Unique opens is generally the most important figure as it tells you how many of your customers are engaging with your email but, depending on the campaign, it can be useful to look at how many times each individual email is opened as this is often an indicator that a customer has forwarded your campaign to a friend or a series of colleagues.
This great case study from Tzvi at Cartology is a solid example of a situation where total opens and total clicks proved very interesting metrics.
Thanks to the personalized coupons, the campaign was designed to go viral within each recipients’ organization. Many customers forwarded the campaign to colleagues as they would also benefit from the coupon this meant that the total opens and total clicks were interesting metrics. When compared with the unique figures they gave an insight into the virality of the campaign.
Opens are usually under-reported
To track opens, a small image is inserted at the end of each outgoing email. This is often called a ‘tracking pixel’ or ‘beacon’.
One reason why you’d use a dedicated email service provider (as we discussed in chapter 1) is that they will automatically track your opens for you.
This system work very well unless customers have their images disabled. If the ‘tracking pixel’ can’t load then you can’t track whether that email was opened.
Many customers will images emails loading and some email clients do this by default so it is not uncommon for your open rates to be under-reported.
This is important for you to know as you track the success of each campaign. In the past, Gmail was one of the most aggressive email clients: turning off image loading by default in all cases. Recently, however, Google announced that they would begin loading images by default. This has been extremely useful as it restores some of the balance to your opens statistics.
How to track conversions
Tracking conversions is something you must be doing if you want to be successful in your email marketing.
By defining a conversion event you can see the true impact of your campaigns: would you rather have 100 clicks and 2 conversions or 40 clicks and 15 conversions? Tracking goals gives you the ability to make more informed decisions each and every time.
Some email marketing software tools, like Vero, give you the power to track customer actions in real-time and use these actions to define conversion events for each of your campaigns.
In this way a lot of the heavy lifting is done for you this is doubly important when you start A/B testing email variations as this will let you see conversions side-by-side for each variation.
Here’s an example from Vero which lets you track customer actions and use these to measure email marketing conversions:
Regardless of what email service provider you’re using, Google Analytics (free) is still one of the most powerful ways to dive into your conversions and where they’re coming from.
Assuming you have Google Analytics set up on your website (if you don’t – do it now!) it is easy to set up your email campaigns so that each customer that clicks through to your site is tracked as having come from a specific campaign.
To do this, simply tag all the URLs/links in your outgoing email campaigns with Google’s UTM parameters.
This will allow you to see and segment out users based on the email channel and even individual campaigns. Many email service providers can automatically tag your links for you, including the software providers mentioned in Chapter 1: Campaign Monitor and Vero. In Vero you can enable it from within the Account settings:
Within Campaign Monitor you can do the same thing:
Once setup, it’s easy to track the success of your campaigns against your individual goals in Google Analytics.
Say, for example, you have defined a goal in Google Analytics for ‘Completes checkout’, like so:
With this setup it is easy to view goal completions for this conversion event and break down which customers came from which campaign sources. Thanks to the parameter tagging we did earlier in our email campaigns, you can instantly see the conversion rate of those customers that clicked through from one of your emails:
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Using Google’s UTM tags also allows you to set up custom segments and use the attribution reports to play around with different ways of looking at the same data.
Understanding Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Attribution
Tracking basic conversions is one thing but understanding multi-channel attribution is an entirely different beast.
A typical online business might advertise on Google, have a customer click a PPC ad, remarket to them via Facebook’s retargeting platform, send them a newsletter and an automated drip campaign and then have the customer convert.
Which source deserves credit for this conversion? How do you know how effective each channel is?
The truth is that there is no easy answer: after all, they all contributed in their own way.
This is why multi-channel attribution is important.
Most analytics platforms will attribute the conversion to the last direct interaction. That might be a display remarketing advertisement rather than an email or vice versa. This sort of simple attribution is good as a starting point but can lead to under-reporting if taken as the only source of analysis.
With Google Analytics’ multi-channel attribution you can define a custom channel grouping. Here’s an example:
This will then allow you to view your conversions in terms of each specific channels, including those channels that attributed to the conversion, even if wasn’t the last channel a customer interacted with.
The net result is that you will get a truer understanding of the value of each of your marketing channels, both thanks to their direct conversions and conversions they contributed to. No click on any of your ads or in any of your email campaigns will go unattributed.
Setting up your own channel grouping
To setup your own channel grouping, you should follow these steps:
1. Define your own channel grouping
2. Specify each channel using a landing page or UTM codes
Using your UTM tags, define your custom channels. In this example we’re of course setting up the channel for email marketing:
3. View the results via the multi-channel attribution report
Now you’ll be one step ahead of the pack as you have a real idea of exactly how effective your email marketing campaigns.
With this knowledge, you can spend more money on your email campaigns and, in turn, ensure they convert better than any of your competitors’ campaigns. That is what tracking data is all about.
Reviewing email campaigns
One of the benefits of trigger-based email campaigns is that they’re sent automatically: meaning they convert even when you’re sleeping.
They’re basically ‘set and forget’.
…but this is a double-edged sword: it is super easy to forget to review your automated campaigns.
A good idea is to set a reminder in your calendar to review all of your automated campaigns once every two months. Even if it’s just a thorough look at the analytics (as opposed to reviewing every line of content) you’ll be in front of your competition. You constantly pick up new ideas and approaches and reviewing the numbers will give you a new sense of excitement and constantly push you to improve your emails for conversion.
When you review your campaigns, focus on the templates you use, your tone, branding and the timing of these campaigns – the big picture stuff.
Set a reminder in your calendar for every 2-3 months to review your automated campaigns. Put aside at least half a day, even if you only have 4-5 campaigns. Give them a thorough scrubbing over and bring them back up to scratch.
This is also a good time to set up a few A/B tests for the coming few months. To learn more about optimizing your campaigns, let’s dive into Chapter 6!