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Open rates have long been a key performance indicator for marketers, but continually evolving regulations and privacy concerns—and email platforms' response to those regulations and concerns—have resulted in skewed open rate data.

Email marketing regulations such as GDPR and CCPA have changed how open rates are calculated and reported, making them less and less trustworthy.

Some email clients, such as Gmail, are using machine-learning algorithms to sort emails into different folders (think "Primary," "Social," and "Promotions" folders), which can impact the likelihood of an email being opened.

Apple's Mail Privacy Protection feature also aims to give users more control over their email privacy by preventing senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about when and how an email is opened.

In short, one of the more popular email marketing metrics has lost much of its significance.

All those recent changes may seem like new barriers to success, but the truth is that relying solely on open rates has always been a problem. Open rates have never told the whole story behind the success of email campaigns: Just because an email is opened doesn't mean it was read or engaged with.

That doesn't mean, however, that open rate hasn't been and isn't still a somewhat useful metric; rather, it must be viewed through the right lens. When you're evaluating the success of your email marketing strategy, open rates are just one piece of the puzzle.

Additional metrics, such as conversion rate, clickthrough rate (CTR), and overall engagement, allow you to find even more valuable insights and build a truly effective email marketing strategy.

Here are eight suggestions to help you get started with more valuable metrics and ultimately boost your email marketing strategy.

1. Focus on CTR

Because tracking open rates has become less reliable, monitoring your clickthrough rates can provide valuable insights into subscriber engagement. A high CTR indicates that your audience is interested in your content and is more likely to take action.

2. Personalize your content

Your email content should be relevant and valuable to your subscribers. If you send the same type of email every time, your subscribers may become bored and disengaged. Fortunately, effective personalization can help your emails stand out and foster a connection with your audience. Ensure you do it right by checking your lead lists for accuracy and avoiding over-personalization.

3. Test design elements

Experiment with differing design elements to see what works best for your audience and keeps your emails from being flagged as spam. You might, for example, test various types of hyperlinks and CTAs, or even remove design elements altogether.

4. Track conversions

Monitoring the number of subscribers who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form, after clicking through your email is essential for evaluating your campaign's overall effectiveness.

5. Analyze your email list

Regularly reviewing your email list can help you identify trends and areas for improvement. For example, look for patterns, such as high bounce rates, lack of segmentation, and low engagement. Noticing trends will inform your strategy and optimize your campaigns.

6. Monitor your reputation

Your email-sending reputation can affect deliverability and inbox placement. Keeping your list clean by removing inactive or unengaged subscribers and avoiding sending emails too frequently are crucial to ensuring your emails are seen.

7. Diversify your content, and A/B-test

Try new tactics, such as including videos or interactive elements in your emails, and analyze the results to see what resonates with your audience. For example, send a newsletter one week and a promotional email the next week. By diversifying and testing your content, you can increase the likelihood that your subscribers will open and engage with your emails.

8. Add more touchpoints

As technology and privacy regulations continue to evolve, tracking your email marketing performance will become more complicated. With that in mind, plan ahead and diversify your marketing strategy to provide more opportunities for leads to engage with your brand.

* * *

Successful email marketing requires a flexible and adaptable strategy that incorporates multiple touchpoints to effectively drive your brand's success.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of email marketing, it's essential to focus on the entire picture, build multiple elements and touchpoints, and embrace adaptability to stay ahead of the competition.

Although open rates are an important metric to track, they tell only part of the story. To truly measure the success of your email campaigns, you need to focus on metrics such as CTR, conversion rate, revenue per email, and subscriber growth rate.

By tracking those metrics and personalizing your emails, you can improve the effectiveness of your email campaigns and drive more sales for your business.

More Resources on Email Marketing Metrics

How to Use Email Metrics to Optimize Your Campaigns [Infographic]

What If Your Email Metrics Are Off: Who's Really Clicking on Your Emails?

More Meaningful Metrics: Four Tips for Marketers Post-Apple iOS 15 Privacy Updates

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Beyond Open Rate: Eight Metrics for More Effective Email Marketing

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image of Danny Shepherd

Danny Shepherd is a co-CEO of Intero Digital, a digital marketing agency that offers comprehensive, results-driven marketing solutions.

LinkedIn: Danny Shepherd