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Guide to tracking email campaign engagement

In this article you’ll learn about what email engagement is and some ideas for tracking engagement over time. This will help you build a picture of what resonates with your audience so you can build up a healthy relationship with your email subscribers.

What is email engagement?

Email engagement is all about how much people interact with your emails. There are positive and negative ways people might interact with your emails, which you can track in your Email Service Provider (ESP). Your ESP is the software you use to send bulk emails from, such as Mailchimp, dotdigital or WordFly.

Examples of positive engagement

  • Opening your emails
  • Clicking through on your emails
  • Converting – clicking through from your emails to take action, such as buying something, booking a ticket, or making a donation

Examples of negative engagement

  • Unsubscribing from your mailing list
  • Marking you as spam

As an email marketer, of course, you want your emails to be opened and read. Ideally you want people to click through to make a purchase or support your organisation in another way. But there’s another reason engagement is so important, and this is down to something called sender reputation.

What is sender reputation?

Your ESP will be keeping an eye on the balance between your positive and negative engagement, and if you tip too far into the negative, this will give you a bad sender reputation. In the worst cases, your ESP might even block you from sending any more emails.

That sounds dramatic and is unlikely to happen if you are sending regular, interesting content to people who have opted in to receive your emails. Even so, it’s important to keep an eye on your engagement to ensure you don’t slip too far into the negative.

There are some tools that enable you to check your sender reputation and give you a score. For most small organisations, keeping an eye on your email engagement will be enough to maintain a decent sender reputation.

How engaged should my audience be?

We would encourage you to note that all your email marketing statistics need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as none will be perfectly 100% accurate. In particular, your open rates will be less accurate since Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection.

These are the kinds of figures you should be looking for in your email marketing.

  • Open rate of at least 17%
  • Click-through rate of at least 2%
  • Unsubscribe rate less than 2% (preferably much lower)
  • Spam complaints – 0*

* Having someone mark you as spam is worse than them unsubscribing, which is why you should always make it easy for people to unsubscribe rather than trying to hide the unsubscribe link.

How can I get my subscribers to engage more?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was one simple trick you could use to increase engagement with your emails? But, as with so many things in marketing, your email engagement will have a lot to do with the kinds of people who are in your audience, what kind of organisation you are and what you’re trying to achieve with your email marketing. This means that increasing engagement with your emails will be a bit of a learning process. Before you download and start to use this engagement tracker, make sure you ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to achieve with my email marketing?
  • What does success look like for my organisation?

Without an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, there’s nothing to measure, so make sure you do this first. If you’d like some more advice in this area, you can watch James’s webinar all about how to track marketing campaign performance.

How does the tracker work?

This tracker is designed to help you spot trends in what encourages the people on your mailing list to engage with your emails. It will help you learn more about what drives your audience to engage, rather than giving you generic tips like ‘use this word in your subject line to get more opens’.

Each time you send a campaign email, check the report in your ESP and add the data into the tracker – one row per email sent. You won’t get much insight from the first few rows, but as you add more email sends to the tracker you’ll hopefully start to spot some patterns. If you have time, you might like to add data from some of your previous sends so that you have more data to work with.

When should I use the tracker?

Most of your engagement with emails is likely to be in the first few hours after you send your email. This means that you could fill in the tracker the day after your send and it won’t change much. But it can be better to leave it a few days to get the most accurate numbers. One of the easiest ways to fit this task into your newsletter schedule is to check the numbers just before you start planning your next one. So, if you send a monthly newsletter, you might check your results from the previous send 2 weeks after the send date, ready to start pulling together the content for the next month.

Tips for using the tracker

If you’re short on time, you don’t have to complete every column. For example, if you want to track the kinds of calls to action (CTA) that people tend to click through on, you might just complete the fields for CTA text, click-through rate and sales, and track those over time. You can look at an example of how the data might look in the second sheet of the download.

If you want to track other parts of your email, such as button colour or email length, add in columns as needed. You can use this tracker as a starting point to create something that’s useful for you.

To make the tracker quicker to fill in move around the columns so they match the order of your campaign report. They’re currently in the correct order for Mailchimp campaign reports.

If you regularly send emails to a particular audience group, add a new sheet to track these emails. For example, you might have a sheet for primary school teachers and another for secondary school teachers. To do this, right-click the Tracking template tab and select Move or copy. In the dialogue box that appears, check Create a copy and select OK. You can then right-click on the new tab to rename it to match your audience name if you like.

Over time, you’ll start to build a picture of the key things that engage your audience, and you’ll be able to quickly spot when emails perform better or worse than your average engagement.

Further reading

You can find out some tips from the top ESPs used by the people we speak to in these articles.

What’s next?

The Digital Culture Network is here to support you and your organisation. Our Tech Champions can provide free 1-2-1 support to all arts and cultural organisations who are in receipt of, or eligible for, Arts Council England funding. If you need help or would like to chat with us about any of the advice we have covered above, please get in touch. Sign up for our newsletter below and follow us on Twitter @ace_dcn for the latest updates.

Original article by Peggy Naumann, reviewed 2023.

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