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How to Interpret Three Important Email Marketing Statistics

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You developed personas, segmented your email list, personalized your marketing messages, and designed a beautiful campaign. Now, as the campaign lands in your recipients’ inboxes, the statistics start racking up. The bounce rate generally calculates first, followed by your opens and click-through rate. These numbers continue to update as the next few hours pass.

In a small business you wear many hats, and most small business owners don't have the resources to spend hours analyzing each percentage and learning how to improve them in the next campaign. For companies lucky enough to have a dedicated email marketer, or ones that can afford to hire an agency, it's still important for other interested parties—the owner and salespeople, for example—to understand the most basic email marketing statistics.

Every email you send has a bounce rate, open rate, and unsubscribe rate. Here is what each of those metrics can tell you about the effectiveness of that email.

Why You Don't Want Emails to Bounce

The bounce rate is the number of emails that could not be delivered divided by the total number of emails sent. Campaign Monitor explains email bounces in detail: A soft bounce is temporary, and your email program will keep trying to send your message. A hard bounce, on the other hand, is permanent and causes your email program to automatically remove that address from your list.

Some reasons for soft bounces include:

  • General technical issues
  • A problem with the recipient's email server
  • The recipient's inbox is full
  • Your message is too large
  • An error between the servers
  • You've been blacklisted or aren't whitelisted
  • Your message looks like spam

You obviously don't want a high bounce rate because that means fewer people are receiving your email. More importantly, though, your bounce rate indicates the health of your email subscriber list. According to Campaign Monitor, "Low bounce rates are a sign of a healthy, permission-based list with active and engaged subscribers. High bounce rates indicate that there may be problems with the way your list was grown, or how it is being managed."

A low bounce rate is between two to three percent, and higher percentages will raise a red flag with your email marketing provider. This is because all internet service providers (ISPs) have setbounce rate limits in order to protect their customers from spam. If your bounce rate is too high, your email platform will give you a warning and will want to discuss how to lower your percentage. Failure to improve your status can result in account suspension.

Keep your bounce rate in the clear. Your goal is to keep your email list as healthy as possible.

  • Make sure every email address is from someone who has opted in. A single opt-in is standard, while double opt-in is preferred.
  • Monitor subscriber engagement. Run a report to see which recipients haven't opened your emails in a while, then reach out to find out what you can do to rekindle your company's relationship with them. Update their email address or unsubscribe them as necessary.

The Top Two Factors Affecting Your Open Rate


Emails that survive the electronic trip and don't bounce are delivered. Once your email marketing reaches inboxes, the next step is for your recipients to open it. That's easier said than done.

Open rates are calculated by dividing the number of emails that are opened by the total number of emails successfully delivered. Your recipients primarily open your email based on either or both of the following reasons.

  • Who the email is from
  • What the subject line says

These aren't the only factors, of course, but are arguably the most important.

An email from an unknown sender is far less likely to be opened than one the recipient recognizes. Most experts recommend you use your company's name in the sender's name field for email marketing and send from a branded email address—one with your company's domain name.

Some recipients are interested enough in what you have to say to open your emails no matter what's in the subject line. Perhaps they enjoy your content and look forward to what your emails say. Congratulations! You are among the few who have mastered the art of email marketing.

Most companies, regardless of industry, size, product, service, or any other combination of qualities, need to entice recipients to open their emails. Enter the subject line—nine to 14 words, or roughly 40 to 50 characters. This is your opportunity to tell the reader what the email is about and convince them to open it.

When you consider your open rate and compare it to your industry average, look into these two factors first. Conduct A/B tests to find out what name needs to be in your sender field and experiment with subject line best practices to find out how to most effectively invite your email subscribers to read your emails.

More ways to improve your open rate include:

  • Extensive email testing
    Your emails need to display correctly. All the links need to work. Don't let formatting ruin your email marketing's reputation.
  • Timing
    Conduct testing to find out when—both day and time of day—your open rates are highest. Don't send too few and don't send too many: Consider your recipients to be pickier than Goldilocks.
  • Segmentation and personalization
    Only send emails that are pertinent to that particular audience. This takes a lot of time and effort, but it's what consumers expect.

What Your Unsubscribe Rate Actually Means

No matter how much effort you put into your email campaign and how perfect it may seem, a few people will invariably unsubscribe from your list. Just like other percentages, your unsubscribe rate is the number of people who unsubscribed divided by the total number of emails successfully delivered in that campaign. Like your bounce rate, a high unsubscribe rate carries consequences.

According to Mailjet, you need to keep your unsubscribe rate as close to zero percent as possible.

  • Below 0.2%
    You are within the norm and in an acceptable range.
  • 0.2-0.5%
    You're in an acceptable range, but need to keep an eye on it.
  • Above 0.5%
    Your unsubscribe rate needs work.

Again, just like your bounce rate, if your unsubscribe rate goes above a certain threshold, your email platform will send you a warning and suspend your account. Their concern is that you're spamming your recipients. To comply with federal law, providers monitor your unsubscribe rate to make sure you use email marketing appropriately.

Every email marketing message you send is required to have options for recipients to unsubscribe. Some email marketing platforms provide reports so you can see reasons why people unsubscribed, which can help you improve your campaigns.


You can try to reduce your unsubscribe rate through other methods as well. Some of these methods have been mentioned previously, which should give you an idea of just how important they are:

  • Improve the health of your email subscription list.
  • Find out if you email too frequently.
  • Segment and provide valuable, relevant content to your subscribers.
  • Become a trusted authority whose emails people want to read.
  • Make it easy for readers to control their settings.
    • Keep your unsubscribe link visible.
    • Make sure your unsubscribe process works properly.
    • Give them the option to reduce the number of emails they receive or to individualize the type of content you send them.

The Power of Email Marketing Statistics

With each email marketing campaign you release, you have an effect on your relationship with subscribers. The health of your list, quality of your content, and other important aspects all factor into your bounce, open, and unsubscribe rates. Pay close attention to these metrics and continuously strive to improve in order to stay compliant with federal law.

Legalities aside, you want to follow the tips listed in this article in order to continue your relationship with your customers. Keep them happy, and make them want to be part of your email list. When you improve each of these metrics, you end up improving your reputation and the effectiveness of your marketing.


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This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. SurePayroll is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, SurePayroll. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. If you require legal or accounting advice or need other professional assistance, you should always consult your licensed attorney, accountant or other tax professional to discuss your particular facts, circumstances and business needs.