Email analytics should not be on the bubble for email marketers, first to bounce off the to-do list when the workload increases. Email is valued for its ROI, but without spending some time in analytics ongoing improvement of your email program (or merely keeping step with landscape changes) comes down to luck. The good news is that analytics need not be a full-time job. Of course the more time you can spend learning about what works and why the better, but even a little time can make a big difference in understanding what drives performance.

How little time? Less than you think, and just barely more than none. Here’s my guide to 8-Minute Analytics for the email program you’ve always wanted:

Step 1: Scan and Record Top-Line Analytics.
For each message you send, take 90 seconds to scan and record the top-line analytics: delivered (number and %), opens, clicks and unsubscribes. Keep a spreadsheet or a whiteboard or a piece of graph paper where you record all of these for each message. Even though you can pull up the analytics at any time and compare as many messages as you want, the recording part of this step is still the most important. What you are looking for are not absolute results, but trends. Taking a moment to record your numbers into a table allows you to spot trends quickly. Knowing that your open rate is 20% this month means a lot more if you know that last month was 30%.

Step 2: Use Visual “Heat Map” Tracking.
In the Message Tracking section of Real Magnet’s analytics we offer something called Click-View tracking. It works like a heat map, displaying your actual message and then showing how many clicks each link within the message received. Heat maps allow marketers to quickly glean which sections of the message drove the most activity, and also lend some insight into the copy, design and content elements responsible. Additionally, by seeing how many clicks occur further down the page it is possible to take the pulse of your audience’s engagement as well; the further down they click, the more of them are reading the entire message. No clicks below the fold and your engagement is tenuous.

Step 3: Look at % of Mobile Opens.
Mobile is the most disruptive technology change in email right now. The iPhone is now responsible for more email opens than any other client, including Microsoft Outlook. When you track your message, be sure to glance at the percentage of opens that occurred on mobile devices. The first time you do, it may be quite an eye-opener, as many of our clients are seeing 30%, 40% or more opens on mobile devices. Is your design mobile-friendly? What about your content strategy – would you draw more clicks if you knew that many people are reading on a small screen?

Step 4: Review Analytics Before your Next Message, Not After the Last One.
We all know that the majority of our responses to an email come within the first 24 hours, and that further activity reaches diminishing returns after 3 days. Most marketers look at their analytics sometime within this time frame – from 1-3 days after sending. But the objective of analytics is not just to inform you about what worked in your last email; analytics’ higher calling is to make your next message even better. So reserve your analytics work until right before you start working on your next message. What you learned will be fresh in your mind, allowing you to immediately capitalize on your new insights.