In order for your email program to be effective, it needs to fire on all cylinders: deliverability, targeting, relevance and copywriting. If any of those don’t work well, your email’s results will also sputter. The most cleverly crafted offer can only persuade the owners of the inboxes it reaches. There is little benefit to 100% deliverability to an audience that simply does not want what you’re selling.

Today, however, I’m going to focus on gauging the success of your email copy. Here are some ways to figure out if your email copy is driving your email program forward, or riding the brakes:

Click-to-Open Rate: Your click rate is the number of Clicks on links in your messages divided by the number of people to whom the message was delivered (not sent). It is a useful metric for your message’s overall performance, though it tells an incomplete story of how truly effective your copy is. The reason is that the only people who can click on your message are those who read it. Many of those to whom it was delivered – and who therefore figure into the message’s click rate – do not read it. To better measure the effectiveness of your copy calculate your click-to-open rate by dividing the number of Clicks into your total number of Opens instead.

For example, let’s say on Week 1 you have 10,000 messages delivered, an open rate of 25% (or 2500 people) and 500 clicks. Your click rate is 500/10,000, or 5%. Your click-to-open rate is 500 clicks divided by your 2500 opens, or 20%. That is, 20% of the people who read your email were moved enough by your copy to actually click on a link. (We’re assuming that “opened” is the same as “read” which is not entirely true, but necessary for any sort of insight from metrics.) Is a 20% click-to-open rate good? Like any metric, it depends – principally on context. How well does it stack up to the following week?

On Week 2 you again deliver 10,000 messages but your subject line bombs and you only get an open rate of 15% (1500 people). Your clicks are down also, to 400. This gives you a click rate of 4%. But your click-to-open is 400/1500, or 27% – 7 points higher than Week 1. So even though your click rate was lower on Week 2, your higher click-to-open rate suggests that your copy did a better job moving your readers to action. If you hadn’t bombed the subject line, you would have had even more readers taking advantage of your expertly crafted prose.

Click-view Tracking: On the Tracking page for any email you send you will see in the right hand sidebar a thumbnail image of the message. Click on it to open Click-view Tracking – a full size version of the message with tags on every link indicating the number of clicks that each link received. It works as a sort of heat map, showing where in the message people clicked, and giving you some insight into the blocks or lines of copy that were the most effective.

In addition to showing you the sections of copy that work best, seeing how your clicks are distributed across the message is very useful. If you have a sidebar and many clicks are there instead of the body copy, it could mean your body copy is either not particularly interesting, or that you have a design problem that pushes your readers’ eyes away from the section you want them to focus on. If you see a lot of clicks at the bottom of your message, chalk one up in the win column. This means your copy was interesting enough to hold their attention all the way through the message.

Replies: The sad irony about email is that despite its billing as a 1-to-1 communications channel, marketers have done a superb job conditioning subscribers to regard it as the do-not-reply channel, regardless of what email address is in the From field. So when your messages actually do get a direct reply from subscribers, it is usually an indication that they have been extraordinarily engaged by the copy. This clue is more anecdotal than the other two listed here, due to the statistically insignificant number of replies. To change that, add a line in your footer or even a PS that reads, “If you have any questions or comments, visit our Contact Us page here, or simply reply to this email – we’re listening.” By telling your subscribers explicitly that email is NOT a do-not-reply channel for you, you’re inviting them to provide the sort of feedback that can dramatically improve your perspective and then your copy.