Email plays a major role in our professional lives, serving multiple roles, as a communication medium, a sales tool, a marketing channel, and even a way to track workloads and productivity. It has something to do with nearly every aspect of many modern jobs, from closing deals to instructing coworkers to improving our brand’s visibility—so it stands to reason that the better you understand your team’s email metrics, the more you’ll learn about your efficiency as an organization.
Of course, nothing is this straightforward. There’s no single email analytics tool you can integrate with your Gmail account to tell you yes, this person is productive, or no, this person is not (though our own tool, EmailAnalytics, enables you to make that judgment by visualizing employee email activity).
Aside from that, you’ll have to study multiple different key performance indicators (KPIs) in context, learning more about how your employees are working—and where your team’s email behaviors could use some improvement.
In this article, we’ll focus on two main uses of email. First, we’ll focus on email metrics and KPIs for internal communications, so you can study your employees’ productivity and hopefully make changes to help your organization function more efficiently overall. Second, we’ll look at email marketing metrics, so you can improve your email marketing ROI.
Email Metrics and KPIs for Measuring Team Productivity
First up, we’ll be dealing with KPIs for internal communications and employee productivity. Your team uses email on a daily basis to correspond with clients, relay instructions and messages, and keep each other up-to-date. In terms of productivity, this is kind of a sunk cost, since most messages need to be communicated one way or another, and email is a darn good medium to get the job done.
However, studying your employees’ email metrics can help you understand their respective workloads, their communication preferences, and how efficiently they perform their duties. Chances are, you’ll discover at least some areas that can be improved—oftentimes with minimal changes.
So, what email metrics are important to track and measure? Here’s a list to get you started:
1. Emails sent and received.
How many emails are your employees sending and receiving? This email productivity KPI can tell you a number of things about your employees’ work habits, including how productive they are. For example, if you have one employee who sends and receives 150 emails a day, but another who only sends and receives 50, but they technical occupy the same role, it could be a sign that your workload balancing is off (or that employee 2 isn’t pulling their weight). You could also compare the number of emails a person sends to the number of emails they receive, to see if they’re sending too many emails or if they have a habit of not responding when they should.
2. Emails by category.
You can also observe the number of emails a person has associated with their account, broken down by category. For example, you can see how many emails are in their inbox, how many are deleted, and how many are in various folders (including drafts). It’s a good way to tell how efficiently each employee is organizing their inbox, and could tell you whether an employee is currently overwhelmed.
3. Email traffic by day of the week.
Do you get most of your emails on Monday, or is Wednesday the busiest day of your organization’s week? This may not seem like a big deal, but it could help you plan your resources and balance your employees’ tasks more effectively. For example, you could bring on part-time workers or independent contracts for certain days of the week, to help better distribute the incoming messages. This email metric, as well as the one that follows, is especially easy to understand when you visualize it via charts and graphs.
4. Email traffic by hour of the day.
It’s similarly helpful to view how your email traffic changes hour by hour, especially on your busiest days. If there’s a spike at a certain time, or if there’s a significant drop off, it may be a signal that you need to change how your employees operate, or change your organization-wide schedule to better handle the fluctuations in volume.
5. Average email word counts.
In general, more concise emails are more effective. Lower word counts take less time to write, resulting in an increase in productivity, they take less time to read, and they usually communicate a message with fewer tangents and unnecessary details. However, excessively short emails can also be problematic. Measuring the average word count of your team members’ emails can help you identify the most effective and least effective communicators on your team, setting the stage to help you educate and improve your entire team’s effectiveness.
6. Average email response time.
It’s good to have a team who consistently responds to emails quickly—ideally within a day of sending, or within an hour or two. This is especially important when emailing back and forth with important clients, who may be waiting on updates or further direction. With the right email monitoring tool, you can measure the average email response time of your entire team, as well as response times for the individuals on that team. If someone usually takes a couple of days to respond to messages, you’ll know to have a chat with them.
7. Top senders and recipients.
Another important KPI for email productivity is your top senders and recipients. When looking at the whole team, you can learn which of your team members are emailing with the highest frequency—and which clients are bombarding your team with emails. High-frequency could be a sign of a higher workload, or a more communicative role, but it could also be a sign that someone is over-communicating, ultimately reducing your employees’ abilities to do their jobs.
8. Email thread duration.
Email threads are a common pain point for email productivity, since they often sprawl across dozens of messages, and are sent to many people at the same time. If an email thread lasts longer than it should, it could waste time for everyone in the group. That’s why one of the best email productivity KPIs to measure is the average duration of your email threads; if they frequently go on too long, you may have to impose and enforce new rules on email thread management.
Email Metrics and KPIs for Email Marketing
If you’re using email as part of an email marketing or sales campaign, there are even more metrics for email marketing that can help your organization improve. These email KPIs will teach you all about your email marketing strategy, including whether it’s working, its strengths and weaknesses, and which changes could result in more clicks and higher revenue.
Here are the email campaign KPIs and email metrics to track for email marketing:
9. Open rates.
Are your email recipients actually opening your emails? Or are they just getting deleted without being read? Your open rate is the only true way to tell. Some email marketing platforms will present your open rate as a percentage, while others give you raw numbers. Either way, you’ll be able to tell whether your subject lines are compelling enough to inspire an open—or whether it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
10. Click-through rates (CTRs).
Most marketers relying on email marketing are trying to get more visitors to a website, landing page, or some other destination on the web. They design, write, and optimize emails to encourage more clicks—and accordingly, more traffic. If you track click-through rates (CTRs), you’ll learn which percentage of your subscriber base is clicking the links you provide. If this rate is too low, it may be a sign you need to improve the wording and/or placement of your links. Just make sure you’re considering it in the context of your other metrics; if your other KPIs are low, it may be a sign you need a total strategic overhaul.
11. Click to open ratio.
As the name suggests, a click to open ratio attempts to compare the clicks you’re getting to the number of opens you’re getting. For example, let’s say you send 500 emails to individual subscribers. After a few days, 250 of those emails are opened. Among those opened emails, 50 people clicked the links you provided. This means 50 of the 250 openers ended up clicking through, resulting in a click to open ratio of 20 percent. This KPI is a good way to put your open rates and CTRs in context, allowing you to see the root causes of your success (or failure).
12. Total email conversions.
A conversion is an action taken by one of your site visitors, and one that leads your organization to more revenue (or takes it closer to your goals). It’s commonly defined as completing a purchase, filling out a form, or contacting your company directly. Though it has more to do with the conversion optimization of your site than it does your email content, it’s still important to measure how many of your email-based visitors are converting. For example, if your site-wide conversion rate is 5 percent, but your email visitors are only converting 1 percent of the time, it’s a sign that your email may be misleading, or that you’re targeting the wrong audience.
13. Email-based bounce rate.
Interested customers who click your links will generally want to stick around your site for a while; they’ll visit other pages, read your content, and hopefully be more likely to convert. But if they don’t like what they see, they’ll bounce—and the more people do this, the higher your bounce rate will become. If your email-based site visitors bring a high bounce rate with them, it could be a sign that your landing page isn’t compelling, or that your email content didn’t adequately prepare them.
14. Spam score (and spam complaints).
Nobody likes to get spam. It’s annoying and interferes with your productivity. Whether you feel it’s fair or not, some people will likely consider your emails to be spam. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the number of spam complaints you’re getting, as well as the subjective “spam score” of each email before you send it out. Your spam score is a measure of how likely your email is to get flagged by a spam filter, while complaints are actual marks against you. If you get too many complaints, you could get blacklisted from sending emails altogether—so this is an important email metric to watch.
Most marketers have multiple inbound channels to attract new subscribers to their email lists. If you’re consistently producing good content, marketing your list effectively, and improving your brand recognition, your subscriber counts should rise somewhat consistently. If you notice your subscriber numbers stagnating, it could be a sign you need to give your email list more support.
Unsubscribes aren’t good for your email marketing campaign. When someone unsubscribes, it’s usually because they’re annoyed with your emails or no longer find them valuable—which means either they’ve gone through some major changes or you aren’t doing your job effectively. No matter what, you’ll get periodic unsubscribes, but if you notice a spike or aberrant patterns, you’ll need to work harder to keep your subscribers interested in your email content.
17. Forwards and social media shares.
If someone finds your email valuable, they’ll probably take the extra effort to show it to other people, such as forwarding it to other contacts or sharing it on social media. These metrics can help you measure not only the value of your email, but also it’s shareability. Depending on your email marketing goals, you may or may not want to optimize your email for shareability, but if you’re striving for higher brand visibility, it’s probably worth your attention.
18. Device-based metrics.
With most email tools, it’s possible to review most of your email marketing metrics based on the device used by each subscriber. For example, you might be able to measure what percentage of subscribers are opening your email on a desktop device, compared to a mobile device. Studying how your opens and CTRs change based on the device a subscriber is using can help you design and send more effective emails overall—especially if you find strong preferences among your subscribers.
19. Domain-based metrics.
It’s also possible to track email metrics based on the email domains of the people opening and reading them. This is especially useful if you’re trying to close more sales with a particular client or prospective client. For example, you can learn that the folks at Domain.com tend to open your emails more than those at CompetingDomain.com, and shift your resources and strategy accordingly.
20. Incoming revenue and return on investment (ROI).
With a bit of extra math, you can calculate how much revenue your email marketing strategy is truly bringing you, as well as your total return on investment. If you know the conversion rate of your email traffic and the value of a conversion, you can quickly estimate how much total revenue your campaign is bringing you. From there, it’s a matter of comparing that figure to how much you’re spending on managing the campaign.
Now that you know what email metrics to track for improving team productivity or your email marketing campaign, it’s time to start measuring these KPIs, and EmailAnalytics should be your first stop. With EmailAnalytics, you can use interactive visuals to track how you and your team are emailing, learning the major obstacles standing in the way of your efficiency, and come up with a game plan for how to address them.
You’ll be able to track all the email metrics listed in the first section of this article (and then some), so sign up for a free trial today!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.