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How to Measure Email Engagement with the Right Marketing Metrics


You’ve perfected the design, crafted the content, and hit “send.” But how do you know if your email marketing campaigns are performing well?

You can track your email’s engagement metrics. These metrics can help inform future design and content decisions, leading to more effective email marketing campaigns.

Let’s look at some of the basics of email engagement and what you can do to optimize content for your subscriber list.

What are email engagement metrics, and why are they important?

Email engagement metrics are a measurement of how people interact with your email. They are a subset of email marketing metrics. For example, do your subscribers:

  • Open your email?
  • Read your email message’s content?
  • Click on the links? How many do they click?
  • Follow your Call to Action (CTA)?

Each piece of data tells you specific information about your subscriber base, allowing you to fine-tune your email marketing strategy to reach exactly who you want, how you want, and when you want. If you don’t pay attention to email engagement metrics, you may miss vital opportunities to engage with potential clients or retain current customers. Email engagement metrics are also evaluated during an email marketing audit.

Not sure how to get started? Let’s go over some of the most common email engagement metrics below.

What are some important email engagement metrics?

Ready to dive in? Here are some important email engagement metrics:

We’ll expand on each of these metrics and give you some tips on how to improve each metric in the sections below.

What is email open rate and repeat open rate?

One of the first metrics email marketers look at is the number of people who opened an email. Your analytics tool may tally this in total opens or unique opens – the difference being that unique opens don’t include repeated opens by the same user.

Opens and unique opens email engagement  metrics

In addition, you might want to pay attention to how many users immediately delete your email or mark it as spam. Too many of these can result in internet service providers (ISPs) sending your email to subscribers’ spam folders.

Of course, tracking open rates isn’t as simple as it used to be. Apple’s 2021 Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) allows Apple Mail users to hide information about when, where, and how they open emails. However, this just means you have to look beyond open rates to determine email marketing strategies.

Whether or not you have access to your open rates, you can improve them by reconsidering your messaging or reworking your preheader text and subject line. Email personalization and segmentation will also help increase your email open rates. Remember, sending relevant content to your subscribers is the best way to improve email engagement.

What is “read, skim, delete”?

Once you see how many people opened your email, it’s time to analyze whether they’ve read any of the content. These metrics let you dive deeper into whether subscribers find your emails to be engaging.

Many good email tools will provide some kind of “read,” “skim,” and “glance/delete” engagement stats. These stats measure how much time your subscribers spend looking at your email once they’ve opened it.

How can this information help? If you notice people are skimming your email, consider moving important details or a CTA higher in your copy. Doing this can increase the success of your email content.

Depending on the email analytics tool you use, the “threshold” for read, skim, and glance will be set to different timeframes. In the Email on Acid analytics, you can adjust these thresholds yourself. If you don’t adjust them, our defaults are set at:

  • Glance/delete: 2 seconds or less
  • Skim: 7 seconds or less
  • Read: 8 seconds or more
Engagement Time Distribution

If these thresholds can be adjusted, it begs the question: What should the thresholds be set to?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. These engagement rates will vary depending on the goals of your email, the type of content you send, and your audience. 

Our advice: Once you set these thresholds, keep them consistent with each email you send. This will allow you to accurately compare engagement across your different email campaigns.

To improve your read rate, learn how to create engaging content which focuses on your subscriber segments.

What is the link click rate?

Email engagement can also be measured by the number of times users click on a link in your email. Like open rates, your analytics tool will track the number of total clicks and unique clicks. Unique clicks don’t count repeated clicks from the same user.

If you’re interested in click stats, we recommend click tracking. In the Email on Acid analytics tool, we provide the HTML code that will track total and unique clicks for all the links in your email.

click tracking email engagement metrics

Using a merge tag can also help increase the accuracy between total clicks and unique clicks; these tags can help track recipients separately, even if they share an IP address (such as multiple people in a single office or home).

Some tools also include heat maps for your click tracking. These maps give you a visualization of the popular links in your email, which can inform link placement in future emails. In Email on Acid’s heat maps, blue areas represent the fewest clicks, green and yellow are middle-of-the-road, and red areas receive the most clicks.

Click map, heat map to measure email engagement

What is the click-through rate (CTR)?

While link clicks measure any click on any link in your email message, CTRs focus on the number of clicks on a link in your CTA, leading the email recipient to your web page. You can use our Email on Acid analytics tool to monitor click-throughs.

To improve your CTR, remember to use a well-crafted CTA that funnels your reader’s attention to your webpage.

What is the click-to-open rate (CTOR)?

CTOR makes a finer distinction than CTR. Instead of simply tracking the number of clicks on a link in your CTA, CTOR compares the number of people that opened the email to the number that clicked through. In other words, CTR looks at the performance of an email while CTOR looks at the performance of content within the email.

Keep in mind that CTOR will also be impacted by Apple’s MPP since it relies upon the open rate to determine the number of individuals who opened an email. However, as a general rule of thumb,  you can improve your CTOR by crafting accessible content that is relevant to your subscribers.

What is the conversion rate?

Conversion rate is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link within your email and completed a desired action, such as subscribing to your newsletter or purchasing a product. This way, potential clients become new subscribers. Another way to view conversion rate, specifically in the context of newsletters or email subscriptions, is the subscriber rate. A related KPI is the unsubscribe rate.

To increase your conversion rate, you need to craft a clear CTA and ensure you’re reaching the right segment of your email audience.

What is the bounce rate?

The bounce rate is the ratio of your total number of emails sent that couldn’t be successfully delivered to the recipient’s inbox. Some of your emails may experience soft bounces if there’s a temporary outage on your recipient’s end. However, you should be concerned about hard bounces, which means your email is permanently undeliverable.

This is an important metric because it can tell you whether your mailing list is up-to-date and whether you’re reaching your target audience or if your email campaign is failing before it has even been opened. The bounce rate is also crucial because email service providers (ESPs) may flag your emails as spam if too many of your emails suffer from hard bounces. Too many spam complaints might prevent your emails from reaching your recipients. This also negatively impacts your sender reputation.

To improve your email bounce rate, you’ll need to improve your email deliverability overall. 

What mistakes negatively impact email engagement metrics? 

Now that we’ve discussed some key email engagement metrics to keep in mind when monitoring your email marketing campaign, let’s go over some common mistakes that could negatively impact your digital marketing efforts. After all, we don’t want to jinx our efforts before we’ve even started.

Here’s a list of common mistakes to avoid:

  • Writing poor subject lines: We’ve talked extensively about subject lines elsewhere and whether or not to use emojis in subject lines. But as a reminder, it’s good to A/B test your email subject lines and make sure your first impression doesn’t derail your email engagement efforts.
  • Not segmenting your mailing list: This is also known as the pray-and-spray approach. However, your subscribers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Your email message should aim to reach specific segments of your audience instead of trying to (badly) appeal to everyone. Check out our tips for email segmentation to improve your email engagement metrics.
  • Using too many unclear CTAs: Your subscribers are human and have a limited attention span. If you distract them with too many CTAs, you could alienate your reader instead of inviting them to click through to your web page. Learn how to write a killer CTA.
  • Forgetting mobile devices: If your emails aren’t mobile responsive, you could be alienating large segments of your users.
  • Not checking your links: A broken link is a great way to lose a potential convert. If your user can’t easily find your webpage to continue shopping or sign up for your newsletter, they may give up. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. Check out our testing features, so you don’t lose subscribers to bad links.

Track your email performance

The bottom line: Tracking your email engagement takes some time, but it’s worth it. These metrics can help you make better decisions with your email campaigns, ultimately saving you time and money.

At Email on Acid, we help you test and track your emails. After setting up your email campaign, take advantage of our advanced analytics tool to track email engagement metrics like email opens, reads, clicks, and more. We also analyze the different platforms and devices your subscribers are using, so you can craft the perfect email for your audience.

Ready to superpower your email marketing campaign? Get started with Email on Acid today.

This article was updated on May 17, 2022. It was first published in February of 2018.

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Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.

Author: The Email on Acid Team

The Email on Acid content team is made up of digital marketers, content creators, and straight-up email geeks.

Connect with us on LinkedIn, follow us on Facebook, and tweet at @EmailonAcid on Twitter for more sweet stuff and great convos on email marketing.