What Do My Email Metrics Really Mean?

How to Interpret Important Email Metrics

You built your list of subscribers, you sent some creative email campaigns, and now you have started to measure your results. Email metrics are self-explanatory, right?

OR, CTR, clicks, and unsubscribes are all seemingly easy to understand. Numbers like OR and CTR should be higher, and unsubs should be lower. Basic logic aside, there is actually some deeper meaning behind the numbers that’s easy to overlook.

Read on to learn more about analyzing your email results, how different metrics relate to each other, and examples of successes and failures.

Open Rate

Open Rate (OR) means the number of times an email is opened divided by the number of emails delivered. Measuring how many opens usually tells you how well your subject line is performing. If the subject was appealing to your target audience, the OR should be higher. The OR could also tell you if you are targeting the correct audience; for an outbound campaign, a low open rate may mean your product or offering could more appealing to someone else.

However, achieving a high OR is not always a good thing because it’s only a piece of the entire campaign. This is why it’s important to tie the OR to other metrics. For example, this subject line could get a high OR for the wrong reasons:

Subject: Build Your Dream Home on a Budget


Try the newest game in your app store!Build your dream home start to finish, and design each room to reflect your taste. Download the app now for free!

Although the subject line was interesting, it was actually about a new app where you can build your imaginary fantasy home. This subject line’s performance is at the expense of losing clicks. This email also puts the company at risk of damaging their brand credibility, and it would likely drive people to unsubscribe from the list or report as spam.

Some reasons behind an increasing Open Rate:

  • (The obvious) Your subject lines are catchy, funny, or interesting; and they inspire further reading.
  • You are building an increasingly engaged list, and you are reaching your target market.
  • You are removing unengaged people from your list.
  • Unengaged people are unsubscribing, and it’s easy for them to access this option.

Some reasons behind a declining Open Rate:

  • Your subject lines aren’t interesting enough, or they seem spammy.
  • Your emails are getting labeled as spam, or people are filtering them out.
  • You are sending too many emails.
  • You are sending emails on an irregular schedule. Emails sent on certain days of the week at certain times will perform better than others.
  • You are adding unengaged people to your email list.

Click-Through Rate

The Click-Through Rate (CTR) is the number of clicks divided by the number of emails delivered. Because it takes a strong OR to get a good CTR, the CTR is takes into account: the strength of the subject line, the strength of the email itself, and the relevance between the subject line and email contents. Therefore, to understand what’s causing the high or low CTR, you have to break it down by looking at the Open Rate and the Click-Through Open Rate (CTOR).

Click-Through Open Rate

The CTOR is the number of clicks divided by the number of opens. Unlike the CTR that is based on multiple metrics, the CTOR is more straightforward. Assuming the subject line is relevant to the copy, the CTOR takes the subject line’s catchiness out of the equation and solely measures the effectiveness of the email itself. However, an irrelevant subject line could “bait and switch” and damage the clicks.

A high CTOR could mean:

  • Strong email copy: an appealing offer, clever copy, or interesting / useful content
  • Strong email design: visually appealing graphics, eye-catching design, and colors and details that match the target market’s preferences
  • Mobile-friendly: a Litmus test can help you see how your email looks across various devices and email clients
  • Plenty of opportunities to click: the email should include both text links and buttons as the reader scrolls

A low CTOR could mean:

  • Poor copy: unclear benefit, typos and grammar errors, not enough copy to give the reader grounds to make the decision to click
  • Poor email design: too image-heavy, graphics that make the text hard-to-read, or an outdated look with poor aesthetics
  • Poor mobile experience: a bad mobile experience could mean the images and text don’t resize, or certain pieces of the email don’t show up
  • Not enough click opportunities: if there is only one button or one link, it is more likely someone will scroll past it or not scroll down far enough

Number of Clicks

The main point of your email is likely to get clicks. Depending on the link, clicks could: drive traffic to a web page, lead to purchases of a product, get downloads on an e-book, or get someone to subscribe to another email list. Unless your goal is general awareness, clicks are probably the ultimate goal in your email campaign.


Some reasons behind increasing email clicks:

  • A growing email list
  • Increased engagement in a stagnant email list: this could be due to increased value in the offer, or improved email design and copy
  • Increasing Open Rate: refer back to causes of an increasing OR above

Some reasons behind decreasing email clicks:

  • A shrinking email list (due to unsubscribes or cleaning the list)
  • Decreased engagement in an email list: this could be due to repetitive offers, or poor email user experience
  • Decreasing Open Rate: refer back to causes of a decreasing OR above

Other Metrics & Final Notes

Please note, I only picked a few metrics that help me best measure email performance (CTR, OR, clicks, and CTOR). There are plenty of other metrics that are useful! For example, the deliverability of your emails is a very important factor that your technical team should be measuring. Your email list size does not equal the number of emails delivered to an inbox! The number of emails sent does not equal delivered either!

Also note: The reason behind using rates / percentages is to standardize email performance across varying list sizes. If you are comparing different emails sent to the exact same list, raw numbers (like opens and clicks) will be equally effective.

Thanks for reading! Here’s a tip for you: my favorite place for email inspiration is Really Good Emails, and my favorite tool for coding emails in HTML is Brackets. Happy email campaigning 🙂


9 Simple Ways to Make Your SEO Reports Shine

What Makes a “Good” Report?

Creating digital marketing reports is easy, but creating ones that your clients find useful is a different story. The goal of external reports should be: (1) to keep your clients in the loop (on their campaign and in the online marketing industry), (2) to prove to your clients that your services are worthwhile and generating results, and (3) to point out weaknesses and areas to improve.

If your reports meet these goals, you already have a head start for making them jump out. In order to craft monthly, quarterly, or annual reports that are useful, interesting, and easy to read; consider the guidelines below.

The Best SEO Reports:

  1. Color Scheme: Using a branded set of colors may not be the most practical idea. Instead, pick colors that are easy to read as good and bad. For instance, use green for increases or positive results and red for poor results. Good in between or neutral colors are orange and yellow. Blues or purples also carry positive connotations. You can also use separate colors to clearly organize reports into different categories. See my example below:  
  2. SEO Industry Updates: Use your reports as an opportunity to inform clients of industry changes. What is the latest algorithm update? Are people searching differently this year? Most importantly, tie these updates into explaining how they will affect or change campaigns. That way, you justify making adjustments that make your life easy and gain better results for a website. Whether or not your client reads/understands these updates, providing insight builds trust and a sense that you are an authoritative voice in the industry. Show that you are doing your research and know your stuff.
  3. Client Industry Tie-ins: Remember that as a client’s industry undergoes seasonal or radical changes, your strategies will change and results will fluctuate. Stay up-to-date with your clients’ industry and include insight in your reports. For example: As gluten free foods become an increasingly popular trend, we find more people to be landing on the /allergies page of your bakery’s website. In response, we added a link to your gluten free menu on this page so that it is easier to find. We are also researching new keywords to target that are related to gluten free foods and celiac disease, which we will be implementing in your campaign. 
  4. Amount of Data: There is a fine line between overly-simplified, bare reports and overly complex, too-detailed reports. It’s impossible to gauge the right amount of data to display to your clients. The challenge is, some clients are more interested in the details of their campaigns than others. Additionally, some have more complex understandings of the data than others. The best way to standardize reporting and cater to both groups is display larger points (in larger fonts) with sub details (in smaller fonts). For instance, you may have 3 standard metrics: traffic, conversions, and rankings. You can use generalized metrics for each, but include a subcategory below with further details for those who are interested. 
  5. Time Comparisons: Year-to-year improvements paint a great picture without the nitty gritty monthly details. If you don’t have enough data for year over year analysis: start with monthly improvements, then jump to quarterly, then jump to annually.
  6. Avoid Data Manipulation: Don’t waste time (and dishonesty) manipulating data to paint a perfect picture. Instead of omitting the bad results and only showing positives, include explanations of how you will improve upon the unsatisfactory results.
  7. Don’t Send Too Many: Constantly pushing out reports is more than a waste of time – it is stealing valuable time you should be spending working on a campaign. If you feel your clients would like more frequent updates, very simplified monthly reporting mixed with less frequent complex reporting may be a balanced solution.
  8. ROI is #1: Never underestimate the power of ROI – it is equally as important as seeing improvement. If you see a drop in results, but a client is still making more than their investment, it’s okay. Diagnosing the drop is important, but this is hardly an emergency situation.
  9. Measure Reports’ Success: We all hope that clients are reading and understanding reports, but it’s hard to know without testing to measure success. First of all, sending out surveys to clients for feedback on reporting is a direct way to see how they feel. Secondly, track emails to see where people are clicking and which reports were actually opened.

In the end – a well-categorized, visually-appealing, and well-focused report is sure to satisfy your clients. Providing your clients with the best reports is an important component of an SEO campaign to provide some tangibility to an intangible concept. It makes your clients feel safe and secure and gives you the opportunity to stand apart from competition.

These 5 Icky Grammar Errors Leave Readers with a Bad Taste

A Quick and Easy English Lesson for SEO

You don’t need to freak out about your latest web content mistake – it’s totally editable (yes that is a word)! Don’t cry over spilled milk. Let’s move forward: if you have some misspellings and typos, get in there and clean it up stat.

Of course, it’s easier and less embarrassing to have it right from the get go. I would never post a blog without letting it sit for a couple of hours before I come back and fix my inevitable mistakes.

When you are writing web content for a company, grammar errors can both tarnish their credibility and their rankings on search engines. Always run your work by another writer, or look at it with fresh eyes. If you feel that you need some extra help with your grammar, keep reading to learn how to recognize some errors that make readers (and Google) cringe.

There are plenty of typical grammatical errors like mixing up their and they’re, meet and meat, or to and too. These are easy to catch with a quick run-through because your common knowledge will pick up on typical misspelling and word misuse. However, there are additional grammatical errors that you may not recognize as an issue. For clear, concise, and easy-to-follow content; understand the following grammatical concepts.

1)      Comma Misuse

A comma has several main purposes in a sentence: to separate a list, to connect 2 independent clauses in a compound sentence, or to separate short interior phrases. Below is an example of each instance.


My favorite ice cream flavors are chocolate, cherry, and pecan.

Although the 3rd comma is not necessary, it can help avoid confusion in some cases. If it were left out, the sentence would read:

My favorite ice cream flavors are chocolate, cherry and pecan.

It may appear to some that “cherry and pecan” is one individual flavor.

Compound Sentence

I went for a swim, and I laid on the beach.

In these instances, the phrase before the comma and the phrase after the comma should be able to stand alone as complete sentences. If not, you should remove the comma.

Incorrect: I went for a swim, and laid on the beach.

“I went for a swim” is a complete sentence, but “laid on the beach” is not. The comma should be removed in this sentence to read: I went for a swim and laid on the beach.

Separating Dependent Clauses

A fragment of a sentence that does not belong with the rest of the sentence requires a comma to set it apart. A good rule of thumb is to say the sentence out loud or in your head. If you change your tone of voice for a specific fragment, it is typically set apart by commas.

Incorrect: My parents who are in their forties love playing golf.

Correct: My parents, who are in their forties, love playing golf.


2)      Passive Sentence Structure

Moving on to the not-so-obvious, passive sentence structure can be difficult to recognize. When the subject of a sentence commands the verb, it is active. When the verb commands the subject, it is passive. Passive sentences can make for an awkward, choppy structure. Try switching sentences to the active voice to ensure that your writing flows.

The best way to understand when a sentence is passive vs. active is to look at some examples. Notice that passive examples include the sentence structure: “verb” + by.

Active: Katie is eating the candy bar.

Passive: The candy bar is being eaten by Katie.


Active: Kyle hugs his sister.

Passive: His sister is being hugged by Kyle.


Here is an example where both versions sound okay. I would consider this acceptable! 

Active: My mother wrote the book.

Passive: The book was written by my mother.

I doubt Google will doc you for writing in the passive structure, but it can be annoying to readers. Be an active writer for stronger wording.

3)      Parallel Structure

When making lists, it is important for each part of the list to follow the same structure. Can you find the mistake in this sentence?

Incorrect: She is baking bread, cooking pasta, and ordered desserts.

^^It probably sounds funny.

Correct: She is baking bread, cooking pasta, and ordering desserts.

Each verb in the sentence should be in the same tense, and each list element should follow the same pattern. Notice that when combing the first part of the sentence “She is with each list item, it creates grammatically correct sentences:

She is baking bread. She is cooking pasta. She is ordering desserts.


Here is another example of a sentence without parallel structure.

Incorrect: We like to run, swimming, and shopping.


Now separate the sentence out:

We like to run. We like to swimming. We like to shopping.


Here are a couple of ways to fix this sentence:

  • We like to run, swim, and shop.
  • We like to run, to swim, and to shop.
  • We like running, like swimming, and love shopping.
  • We like running, swimming, and shopping.

Do you see how each part of the list matches?

4)      Run-on Sentences

Just don’t do it! Read your paragraph out loud. If you have a sentence where you are gasping for breath by the end, splice it up. Either make it 2 sentences, or make it a compound sentence.

You may also run the risk of having too many choppy sentences in a row. In these cases, combine shorter sentences into 1. Make sure your writing has a healthy mix of short, medium, and longer sentences.

5)      Use Semicolons for Lists within Lists

When making a list within a list, use a semicolon for the larger list and commas for the interior list. Here are some examples:

  • We are making dip, quiche, and salad for appetizers; spaghetti for dinner; and cake for dessert.
  • We want to go to the movies on Friday; the pool, mall, and grocery store Saturday; and the carwash on Sunday.

How many of these mistakes does Google actually catch? How much do they really care? I’m not sure, but clearly written content that is grammatically on point enhances user experience. Even if Google isn’t picking up on these detailed grammar mistakes now, they will in the future! You may as well start practicing good grammar today.





How Your PR Team & Copywriters can Help with SEO

Tapping into Your Marketing Resources Can Push Your Campaign to Page 1

key elements of SEO

Although the key elements of SEO have not changed much, the weighted significance of each element is constantly shifting. While backlinks used to be a primary focus, user experience and quality of content have become more prominent ranking factors over time. One of the key ways to arm yourself for these changes is to coordinate with copywriting and PR departments. Playing to each department’s strengths combined with an SEO team’s analytic qualities can lead to a strong campaign that Google is bound to value.

Element 1: Keyword Implementation

Let’s begin by evaluating the use of keywords.

Old practices: Keyword stuffing

Adding a high volume of keywords into content used to be extremely important. Now, Google’s algorithm has gotten more accurate at detecting synonyms with latent semantic indexing. Using substitutes for words can be more effective than using one term over and over again.

Ex. When someone types an article about pastries with the intention of gaining some online visibility, keyword stuffingthey may want to interchange the term with turnovers, desserts, tartlets, or mini pies. Google’s algorithm detects these words as synonyms or relevant terms.

Furthermore, Google detects overuse of keywords and penalizes websites for keyword stuffing – a form of spam. Keyword stuffing is a manipulative practice that helped you rank higher in the past. However, it also made for awkward sentence structure and low quality content. Fortunately for us readers, Google has made it a priority to weed these articles out and give us something more satisfactory to peruse.

New practices: Copywriting

Now, there is much more value placed on writing good content. But what makes content good? Rewording your copy to be as interesting and factual as possible is essential. Some other great ways to boost the quality of your writing is by using headings, bullet points, and bolded words to visually organize facts and create a clear path for users to follow. Your articles and information should flow easily when people read, and users should be able to find what they are looking for with ease. All of these factors contribute to the user friendliness of a website, and having an A+ copywriter on staff can get the job done.

Element 2: Backlinks

Next is the practice of acquiring inbound links to your company’s website.

Old Practices: Quantity of Links

Getting backlinks to your website is not Google’s favorite practice. There are some more natural waysseo backlink profile of going about link building along with some unnatural, spam-like tactics. In the past generating fast useless articles or website content which linked back to your site was an effective practice. Sometimes, websites called link farms would even host thousands of outgoing links on a single page. Google now doles out penalties to websites which benefited from these tactics in the past.

New Practices: Quality of Links

As Google becomes stricter about the quality of websites linking back to your website, there are a couple of ways to get some higher quality links. First of all, directory listings are a great way to get some visibility. This includes submitting a company’s information and website to Yelp, Hotfrog, City Search, YP, and other directories people use to find business listings.

Another method is to focus on Public Relations and email marketing tactics. Engaging in local communities and with popular news outlets allows you to submit articles or press releases that give you a link back to your company’s website. Collaborating with the Public Relations department can gopublic relations a long way in finding links. Don’t have access to a PR guru? You can also try online tools like HARO to help connect you with reporters who are looking for stories.

Similarly, email marketing campaigns to popular bloggers can be another way to persuade people to link back to your site. Generally, these bloggers should be writing some quality stuff and will find natural ways of incorporating your company into their content.

Because each of these methods encourage quality content to link back without generating useless information, they are considered more White Hat (or ethical in Google’s eyes) ways of acquiring backlinks.

SEO can be difficult for other departments or positions to understand. However, working with a well-rounded marketing team can do wonders for an SEO campaign. Outsourcing to additional agencies or working within your company’s resources is essential to achieving success. Instead of shying away from collaborating, take advantage of others’ expertise whether it is copywriting, PR, email marketing, or another specialty.