Email analytics – what are ‘derived’ metrics?

6 minute read

So far (in Email Analytics – 101) we’ve looked at the so-called ‘standard’ metrics. All of these relate the given metric, for example the opens, clicks or unsubscribes as a percentage of the number of emails sent. This gives you a first view of the effectiveness of any particular campaign and these are always a good place to start.

Now it’s time to introduce two new metrics – Clicks to Opens and Unsubscribes to Opens. These are sometimes referred to as ‘derived’ metrics because they are calculated as a next step from the standard metrics.

Click-to-open (CTO) rates give a deeper insight into campaign performance because they look at actions performed after a campaign has been opened. This puts the focus of the metric on the performance of the actual email content – its design and relevance to the recipients and the strength of your call to action, and removes factors which influenced the recipient to open the email – factors like subject line and sender details. It’s important to remember that different types of email campaigns will have different objectives. Not all campaigns contain click-through links and driving a click-through may not always be the primary objective. Many campaigns also contain multiple links – that’s why we record unique instead of total clicks per open when calculating click-to-open rates.

Unsubscribes to opens (UTO) is a similar measure – relating the unsubscribes to the opens rather than the original number of sends. Unsubscribes and unsubscribes-to-opens are both useful measures of active disengagement. However, although it’s a clear negative action unsubscribe still provides valuable information, especially if you investigate the causes and capture the reason at the point of exit.

Our data indicates that as an average across all sectors click to opens and unsubscribe to open rates are around 11% and 3% respectively – watch this space as our latest 2016 benchmark data will be published very soon.

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Finally, there a few more analysis metrics which can give further specific insight into the performance of your campaigns. These are often referred to as ‘goal-based’ metrics since they measure the performance against specific goals which you may have set for your campaigns.

If getting your readers to share your campaigns with their social followers is an objective then it’s easy to set this and then measure it as an identifiable goal. To make it easy to share your content you can simply include social sharing buttons in your campaign design. However experience shows that these don’t attract a lot of attention, so if sharing is really a specific goal then it’s worthwhile clearly identifying this a specific call to action in your campaign. This way it’s far more likely to be noticed and completed.


Similarly, when your campaigns have specific, precisely defined online objectives – for example getting a recipient to make a purchase from your ecommerce store, or download a whitepaper, then Goal Tracking enables you to accurately measure the success of your campaign by tagging the pages on the destination website where these goals are completed. If you are in the eCommerce business then it’s quite likely that you might want to measure the success of your promotional campaigns by the real online purchases that they generate. Again set this as a goal and then measure resulting revenue as your performance analytics.

Just to recap… here are a few key points to remember about analysing your campaigns.

Firstly always take the time to review your results and use this information to improve your future campaigns. Opens is a very useful metric but don’t forget an opened email doesn’t mean it’s been read! You’ll need to look at other metrics like Clicks and Clicks to Opens to get a better understanding of how people are interacting with your campaigns. Finally we didn’t discuss it here, but depending on the nature of your objective the day of the week and the time of day that you send can be very significant. If you are unsure, check your website analytics to understand how and when people are accessing your site. This will also give you insight as to when might be the best time to send your email campaigns.

If you want a quick recap on the common ‘standard’ and ‘derived’ email performance metrics – here’s a quick video summary: