Apr 5, 2014

Email Marketing: A Guide to Bounce Rates, Open Rates, and Spam Filters

In email marketing, there are a number of statistics that can be used to evaluate and strengthen a campaign. They pertain to the messages sent, and the proportion of those messages that reach their intended recipient. They measure the messages sent back, in the bounce rate, or the messages opened, in the open rate. Furthermore, spam filters can influence statistics, and email marketers must tailor their messages to avoid them. But before you can use these statistics to your advantage, it is important to have a clear understand of what the statistics are telling you. This article will reveal the most common statistics that you are likely to encounter and show you what these figures can tell you about the performance of your email marketing campaign.

A Review of Bounce Rates

A bounce rate is the proportion of email addresses that did not receive a message because the message was returned by a recipient mail server or client. It is expressed as the percentage of messages returned over total messages sent. There are two kinds of bounces. In a ‘hard bounce,’ the email address entered is invalid or nonexistent. It can be the result of mistyping on the part of the sender or on the subscription list, and can be resolved by finding and correcting the error. In a ‘soft bounce,’ the email address is valid, but the email server has experienced an issue, causing it to send the message back to the sender. Once the issue has been addressed by the recipient or the server, the message can be re-sent and received.

What Bounce Rates Tell Us

Bounce rates aid the email marketer in understanding the efficacy of their campaign. These rates show them whether the marketing is being seen. If monitored, they can also suggest how to alter the campaign’s approach. A high bounce rate leads to lower response and delivery rates, and damages the sender’s reputation. The damage can be reversed, however, by determining whether the bounce is hard or soft, whether it is human error or a server issue, and by fixing mistakes where they occur. It is worthwhile to have a system in place to counter bounce rates and cull subscription lists of non-functional addresses, while aiding functional ones. As the bounce rate lowers, more subscribers can access the content of their messages, and response and delivery rates improve.

A Review of Open Rates

The open rate is the proportion of messages that have been opened by the recipient. It is expressed as the percentage of messages opened over total messages sent and received. The total does not include messages which have been bounced. Often a piece of code is embedded within the message, which is registered by the server or the browser when the message is opened, or there is a link which the recipient must click. The open rate is not an exact indicator of whether or not messages are being viewed, as a user’s server or browser can block the code or the user can fail to click the link. It is nevertheless a general indicator of how an email market campaign is being received.

What Open Rates Tell Us

Open rates greatly impact response rates. While not every message opened is fully read or responded to, the higher the open rate, the more likely the responses. A low open rate suggests that the campaign is reaching relatively few subscribers, even if many messages are being sent. If the messages are ignored, or deleted, they cannot be effective as a marketing platform. The subject lines may not be varied or urgent enough to catch recipients’ attention, or the subscription list may include people who are longer interested in the campaign. Upon observing open rates, the email marketer can refine their format and find which changes lead to increased open rates. If the audience is genuinely engaged in what is being marketed, and in how it is being marketed, then it will more often respond.

A Review of Spam Filters

A spam filter processes messages automatically for the user, separating undesirable or spam messages from legitimate messages. Spam filters tend to target certain phrases associated with scams or random generators, such as ‘free offer’ or ‘buy now,’ and punctuation habits, such as excessive exclamation marks or lines of capital letters. The filter calculates how many of these indicators a message contains, and the threshold past which it is most likely a spam message. A suspected spam message is sent to a spam folder instead of to the user’s in-box. This allows the user to avoid possible spam messages when they first log into their e-mail account, and review the spam folder later. Marketing messages, however, can also be labeled as a spam if they contain a sufficient number of indicators.

What Spam Filters Tell Us

If multiple messages are redirected to spam folders, then many users will leave them unopened. Other users may automatically delete the contents of their spam folders without reviewing the messages inside. This decreases the open rates of an email marketing campaign, in a way which the marketer may not anticipate or account for. It can also negatively impact the sender’s reputation so that other messages will be dismissed as a part of a scam. Therefore it is important to be aware of spam filters when crafting messages, and to avoid the indicators of spam, so that these messages will be viewed. An email marketer should research the variety of spam filters and the phrases and punctuation habits they targets. Some spam filters, such as MailChimp, provide tools with which a prospective marketer can evaluate their content for sending.

Why the Metrics Matter

Bounce rates and open rates are both useful instruments in fine-tuning an email marketing campaign. The data shows the nature of any problems a campaign might have, and suggests which solutions may be taken. An understanding of filters is equally valuable. By keeping this data in mind, you can tailor your campaign to work around any problems that come up. Whether you are new to email marketing or just getting started,

Posted in: eCommerce Applications


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