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Email Tracking: How to read your audience’s mind and listen to them even when they’re not talking

Find out how email tracking can give you a clear idea of what your audiences are expecting from you! Once you figure that out, acing email campaigns will be a done deal!

Last updated on June 8, 2021

I’m going to share some of my lessons on using tracking and analytics in email marketing software today. I think these will have a tremendous impact on your own success too. But a quick flashback before we get to that…

It was my very first email campaign… I had spent three days writing the email, and then painstakingly designed the email. I pressed “Send” in my email newsletter system with trepidations and waited.

And waited.

Did the recipients open my mail?

Did they like the content?

Or did my mail go straight to the trash?

Or worse, did they call it “spam”?

The results started trickling in slowly. People were opening my email. Some even unsubscribed. Some clicked on the link I had sent. My campaign did not create miracles that I had hoped for, but I think it wasn’t a disaster either.

I learned a big lesson that day though.

I realized it is critical to measure and monitor every email I send to my list. And learn from it.

Email tracking and analytics is a feedback loop. You send an email and people tell you how good it was by opening it and clicking on links within. You take your lessons and improve. You can keep sending emails at regular intervals and the feedback loop continues.

In this guide, I will share the mistakes I made in email tracking, how I corrected them, what email metrics you should monitor, and how tracking email marketing helps a business.

So, let’s begin!

The tracking pixel – cool technology behind email tracking and analysis

Have you ever wondered how your email marketing software tracks all those metrics? Open rates, receivers location, Click Through Rate (CTR), time of opening the email, bounce rate, email client, and others?

It’s quite similar to how website analytics and most of the marketing campaigns are run actually. Your email marketing software (for example our popular WordPress email marketing plugin – Email Subscribers) embeds a transparent pixel image in every email it sends out. When the email reaches the recipient and the recipient opens it, images in the email are loaded as well. The tracking pixel is called for as well, and that makes a call to your email marketing software. The software now knows the IP address of the receiver, their email address, and a whole lot of other things. These details are saved in the database. You will be presented with easy-to-understand reports from this data eventually.

There are two things to keep in mind about this.

One, it’s a pretty cool trick! And two, it will work only if the email viewer chooses to view images within the email. If they have email loading disabled, there won’t be any tracking.

This means, as you may have guessed, no email tracking is going to be 100% accurate. But it’s still extremely valuable.

Answering the big question – why is email tracking important?

Because you can make more informed decisions if you know what’s working and what’s not working with your emails.

Being a blogger, I send out different types of emails to different contacts. I send emails to my email subscribers, prospects, customers, and so on. And I should send different emails to different sets of people. The language and other content should be appropriate to the audience. That’s when results will improve.

For example, when I am mailing a customer, I will write about some of the upcoming products, services, or courses that I am launching. On the contrary, in an email to my email subscribers, I can talk about the latest blog that I published.

Then by tracking these emails, I can understand what impact my emails are creating on my recipients. I will check if customers have opened my email or not. And for blog subscribers, I will track if they clicked on the blog link or not!

Google Analytics and other forms of website analytics may be too complex and daunting for many of us. But since email marketing has a limited number of metrics, it’s easier to understand and learn from.

So in my experience, tracking email marketing performance is even more important than web performance monitoring!

Let’s look at some specific examples…

How to read their minds…

How to find people who’re bored with your writing (hint: they’re not opening your emails anymore)

Thanks to email tracking in software like Email Subscribers, monitoring emails doesn’t feel like rocket science anymore!

I have used this email marketing plugin for a long time now and the results are impeccable. With this email analytics solution, I can find out when and how many times the recipients opened my email.

Here’s an example screenshot of email reports in the email subscribers plugin:

email trackingEmail Subscribers Dashboard

The screenshot shows 3374 active contacts on the email lists. It also says that 2416 emails were sent and 1984 were opened in the last 60 days. That makes the average email open rate 82.11%.

82% open rate is rather unbelievable actually! Standard email open rates are anywhere from 18-23% according to email marketing benchmarks by MailChimp and ConstantContact.

If your list size is above 2000 and open rates are above the average – pat yourself on the back! You are definitely doing things right.

If your open rates are not upto the mark, here are some possible reasons and ways to improve:
You may have inactive or bad emails in your list. It may be time to remove those contacts from your list.
It could also mean that some of these contacts find your emails boring. It’s an indication to push yourself and tweak email content to what your audience expects.
It could also mean that emails are not getting delivered properly.

In general, it’s always a good idea to clean up our email list from time to time. There’s no point in having a long email list overflowing with inactive contacts. This way, your email list stays fresh and full of possible leads. I recommend using Email Subscriber’s automatic list cleanup feature to remove spammy, fake and disposable emails from lists.

Keeping an eye on open and click rates will allow you to understand if your audience likes your writing style and if they’re enjoying your content. Keep learning from this feedback and you will develop a strong sense of what works with your audience and what does not.

Identifying people who would take out their wallets and pay (hint: look at what they’re clicking and opening)

One thing that I have learned about writing and selling things online is that not everyone is ready to buy when I make them an offer. But there are some people who are, and making an offer only to those people who are interested saves me a lot of time and increases my revenue.

Whether you’re selling services, online courses, membership, affiliated products or digital products, you do not need to pitch paid offerings to everyone on the list. Not all leads are strong. So the question becomes: how to discover people who’re ready to buy?

The trick is to send offer-related content to your audience in a progressive manner, track open rates, and find out who is opening multiple emails. It’s akin to tracking a prospect from cold to warm to hot state based on their response to your emails. Simple metrics – email open and click rates – can give you a lot of insights when you look at open / click rates across a sequence of emails.

Here’s my friend’s story of doing exactly this, using our Email Subscribers WordPress plugin.

A few days ago, my friend, who is a blogger and digital marketing coach by profession, was tracking people who opened different emails he sent. He noticed one of his subscribers has been clicking on each blog title with the keyword “growth hacking” in it. From different emails he sent, this subscriber opened and clicked on these titles:

  • What is growth hacking?
  • What are the steps of growth hacking?
  • What are the techniques of growth hacking?

My friend quickly recognized a potential lead in this subscriber and sent a personal email with the details of his upcoming growth hacking course. And guess what? The subscriber purchased it right away.

Also, don’t forget to consider the time factor. If your email analytics shows that a subscriber has opened a mail 4-5 times within 48 hours, it’s a strong signal of intent. You have got yourself a lead with a high chance of a conversion. So, try following up and make a good offer to close the deal.

Are you being lousy? How to listen to your audience when they are not even telling you! (hint: how many unsubscribes do you have?)

Well, it may sound weird but it’s absolutely necessary to track the number of unsubscribes. It is a universal truth that you cannot please everyone. You win some and you lose some. Similarly, all email recipients won’t like what you send. Some will enjoy your mail content while some will unsubscribe.

Studies show that only 61% of people prefer to get brand communication emails. The average unsubscribe rate is 0.10% to 0.40% according to MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. This means 39% of people may not be interested in your emails and likely to unsubscribe if you keep sending them content they don’t like. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore unsubscribers.

Unsubscribing from any mailing list takes effort. So they’re actually giving you solid feedback by taking the effort to click that unsubscribe link. I mean, what if some of your emails are lousy? What if you’re making a mistake indeed. A hike in the number of unsubscribes is a signal from your audiences. They’re giving you a message without saying anything directly. Make sure that you listen to it and act on it.

Recently, a concerned friend called me. She observed a spike in the number of unsubscribes. She felt really bad, but she decided to look at email tracking. She was determined to find out why the numbers of unsubscribes were rising.

So we started discussing this on the call. We asked these questions:

  • Was there any gap between the mail subject line and the mail body?
  • Did she experiment with some email sequence that may have backfired?
  • Any other changes that she might have made unintentionally that resulted in this spike?
  • Was there any feedback from website analytics? Were people bouncing from the blog too soon?
  • Was there anything spammy/inappropriate in the emails?

She found out how a silly mistake spoiled all her efforts. The email analytics reports confirmed that she was sending emails to a wrong list. She had different lists based on audience interests, but while sending emails, she selected wrong lists. The result was a sharp increase in the number of unsubscribes. With proper email tracking, my friend could go to the source of the sudden increase in overall unsubscribes and rectified her mistakes quickly.

Here’s an example screenshot of a contacts in our email marketing plugin:

email tracking
Email Subscribers Audience

The screenshot shows that in the last 60 days, there were 1357 subscribers and 4 unsubscribers. The rate of unsubscribers is low right now, which is good. But I would always keep an eye on that number, and even look at individual campaigns to see how they compare to my overall numbers.

Are you engaging sufficient people with your emails? (Again, track the CTRs)

I often have these self-doubts where I wonder if my emails are at all engaging! Thanks to email analytics, I can base my actions on real data – rather than pure emotions.

What I do is review various metrics from my email tracking system every alternate month. I try to understand how my email subscribers are reacting to my emails. I look at click-through rates and see which links were clicked the most.

This exercise helps me improve my email content and strengthen relationships with my subscribers. This strategy has also helped me find out which newsletter template design, content structure and CTAs worked best. I take those lessons to my future emails and newsletters. And things keep getting better on the whole.

Here’s an example screenshot of link activity tracking:

email tracking
Email Subscribers CTR

As you can see, the blog post Why is Email Marketing a Must for Bloggers? 5 Self-realizations has received 573 total clicks and 489 unique clicks. The other blog titled 7 email marketing tips to outsell your competition has received 412 total clicks and 375 uniques.

If you notice, there is an upward trend in clicks. I would review the content of those emails once again to find subject lines, call to actions and link styling that has worked. Now my target will be to increase the number of clicks on future emails. I may even mention an older blog post in a future email to catch the attention of people who missed it initially.

Note: Want to engage visitors on your site? Download Icegram Engage for free and get access to 120+ ready-to-use onsite campaigns.

Bonus Tip: Use email tracking as part of your overall email marketing strategy!

Email tracking helps us discover useful insights, true! But as with any analytics, there are some golden rules you should follow.

  • Gather enough evidence – avoid jumping to conclusions from small-sized or one-off numbers.
  • 2-3 months is a good interval for reviewing email reports
  • If something did not work once, it does not mean it won’t work in the future. Slight changes in language and design can possibly yield large results.
  • Always use email tracking with your overall email marketing strategy – and even your content plan.

Wondering which email tracking metrics to follow?

You don’t need to track every metric that your email provider shows. Too many metrics will make it overwhelming and difficult to “connect the dots” – at least when you are getting started.

Here are the three metrics we recommend tracking…

Email Open Rate

Email open rate is the most basic email tracking KPI. In fact, many free email tracking software also offers an insight into the number of open rates. With this metric, I get an overview of how many recipients have opened my emails for a certain period of time.

Open rates tell you the effectiveness of your email subject lines. Here are some things you may want to experiment with based on open rates:

  • Should I include the recipients’ names in the subject?
  • Do emojis in the mail subject line increase open rates?
  • Should I use a short or long subject line?

CTR – Click Through Rate

Another email metric that I monitor is the click-through rate. This KPI estimates the percentage of recipients who have clicked links in my emails. Here are some things you can try out based on your CTR:

  • Where should I place the links to increase CTR? In the middle of the email or at the end?
  • Is my call-to-action text interesting enough to make the recipients click on it?
  • Does repeating call-to-action link increase CTR?
  • Does formatting it like a button improve results?

Keep referring to these reports in email analytics software, and aim to reach over 4% CTR.

Number of Unsubscribes

Finally, keep a tab on the overall unsubscribes within a particular period – and also assess how each email campaign performs on this metric. Unsubscribe count helps me keep track of the engagement rate of my email content from time to time.

Conclusion

We hope now you have a fair idea of how to effectively use email tracking. You may want to use our free Email Subscribers plugin to track all these metrics and improve your email marketing campaigns. If you have any questions or success stories, do share in the comments below!

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