post from Mike May, Real Magnet’s Director of Insights
I talk a lot about engagement, not just because it’s going to start impacting deliverability, but also because engagement is the primary objective of most email programs. You send email because there is a connection between your organization and a subscriber, and you wish to nurture that connection. The desired end result is usually some action – registering for a conference or webinar, downloading a research report or white paper, participating in a survey, or consuming some relevant content online. But when your subscribers take these actions they are exhibiting the engagement your email strives to foster.
Alas, not all of your subscribers take each action you present to them in every one of your emails. Fortunately, there are other ways to measure how engaged they are – and how engaging your emails are – independent of the results of your message’s primary call-to-action. Here are a few metrics to employ to evaluate how engaging your email program is:
1. Open Rate. Open rate is typically used to evaluate the effectiveness of subject lines. But syntax aside, open rate also measures a very important component of engagement: anticipation. Your subscribers are more likely to open an email from you if they are expecting it and looking forward to receiving it (and any subscriber looking forward to receiving your email certainly qualifies as engaged). How do you tell which part of open rate measures the effectiveness of your subject lines, and which measures engagement? It’s impossible to pinpoint one from the other, but you can find some clues. If your open rate doesn’t move much, despite very different subject lines from message to message and even A/B testing within the same message, your score is probably more a reflection of your engagement than what’s actually in the subject line itself.
2. Click-to-Open. The number of click-throughs (or “Links” in your Real Magnet reporting) measures the number of message recipients who clicked on one or more links. Your click-through rate (or Link %) is that quantity divided by the total number of delivered messages. What this measures is the size and shape of the funnel, from your universe of recipients down to the success of the call-to-action. But while click-throughs are evidence of engagement, this metric doesn’t measure how engaging your messages actually are. A better metric is click-to-open, or the percentage of the people who opened your email who went on to click something in it. Only the people who open and read your email can judge whether or not your content is compelling.
For example, let’s say Company A sends its newsletter to 10,000 people. It gets a 50% open rate and a 5% click-through rate, for 500 links. Company B also sends to 10,000 subscribers, and gets a 20% open rate and a 2.5% click-through rate for 250 links.
Company A got double the click-through rate, but because its open rate was much higher, it had a larger universe of subscribers who saw the content in the first place and were in a position to click on it. Company A’s Click-to-Open rate is 10%. Despite Company B’s lower click-through rate, it had a Click-to-Open rate of 12.5%. Company A’s open rate could be evidence of a stronger relationship with its subscribers and greater anticipation, but Company B’s content is more compelling – pulling more of the people who read it to take action.
3. Unique and Gross Clicks.
The number of “Links” reported by Real Magnet Overview Tracking Page is the number of people who clicked on one or more links within your message. You can drill down into your Links metrics to see these Unique Clicks (the total number of clicks excluding multiple clicks of the same link) and also Gross Clicks (the total number of clicks including multiple clicks of the same link).
In the example above, Company A might find that its 500 recipients who clicked through actually generated 600 Unique Clicks and 700 Gross Clicks. That means that many of its subscribers were reading the email, clicked through, and then returned to the email to either click on something else, or to click again on the same link later on. The larger the difference between the number of Links and the Unique and Gross Clicks, the better your content is working to compel action from your recipients.
4. Social Clicks.
If your message includes links to follow your organization in social channels like Facebook and Twitter, or links to Real Magnet’s SWYN (Share With Your Network) feature, the activity around these social icons can also telegraph engagement. The easiest way to get a sense of the effectiveness of these icons within your message is to use Click-View tracking, which is linked by the thumbnail of your message on the top level of Message Tracking. You’ll see how many clicks the Facebook and Twitter and other social icons attract.
Activity here is evidence of your most engaged subscribers, as they are the ones who are most likely to forge a connection with your organization in addition to the email, or pass along something you’ve sent to their friends and colleagues.
5. Recipient Level Tracking. You can run extremely informative reports with Recipient Level Tracking. One of my favorites to measure engagement is to quantify the number of subscribers who click-through emails on a regular basis. Customize a report to show how many recipients have clicked 2, 3, 4, 5 or more times in the past 10 messages, and compare these quantities to your total subscriber base. Very quickly you’ll have a sense of how large your most active and engaged population is. You can even drill down into these reports to identify who these subscribers are, to target them for other high-engagement campaigns. (There is an added cost for recipient level tracking because of the costs associated with keeping such a high volume of data available and current for immediate reporting. Contact your account manager for details.)