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Email Delivery Metrics: When Should You Take Action?

(This post was previously published by our friends at Deliverability.com.)

At the 2013 Email Evolution Conference, I led a roundtable discussion on list management — a broad subject that can be highly varied based on the particulars of your business, industry, and customers. However, we discussed the ins and outs on segmenting metrics for sending, reporting and monitoring your email stream.  It was during the reporting and monitoring topics that I received a great question from one of the participants:

How often should I be watching these metrics, and how do I know when to take action?

Figuring out the answer

As in most situations with email, I’ll have to start this answer with “it depends”, but there are a few things you should consider first. Start with your key performance indicators and various diagnostic metrics you probably have at hand.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

These are often how your business measures the value of your email.  If your email program is generating revenue or conversions, you’ll be looking for those end results, whereas if you’re looking for general marketing awareness, you might be looking for opens or clicks.

Diagnostic Metrics

All other metrics like bounces, complaints, opens, clicks, and/or seed results are great metrics but are more useful for diagnostic measures if you’re having a problem or looking to make a change to your email program.

At the minimum of the period in which you’re changing them, you should look at these metrics.  For example, if you change the content of your email campaign weekly, than you’ll be wanting to at least watch these metrics weekly. If you’re dealing with more of a transactional mail stream, you’ll want to measure these on your business cycle (maybe daily or weekly or longer) depending on what makes sense for your business.

When should you take action?

You’ll want to keep an eye on any correlations between a dip in a KPI corresponding to a trend in diagnostic measures.  For example, if you a drop in conversions and see a rise in complaints or seed results, you’ll know you need to take a look into why.  What I’d like to stress with readers is the following:

  • Blacklists and blacklisting can happen on a daily/hourly basis, so you’ll want to be sure to be monitoring these and taking quick action to ensure all your mail is going out.
  • A single day dip in any metric does not always mean you need to change something.  Your recipients may have reacted differently for a variety or reasons, or ISPs may have varying conditions impacting your mail stream.  Dips in these metrics for a single day may not always be explainable, but any clues you can learn about your recipient base are valuable and well worth the effort.
  • Trends for multiple days may begin to indicate a larger domain or IP based reputation issue.  You’ll want to try to understand any changes that may have occurred in the timeframe when the issue began, so good history and records are important!

I hope this gives you a rough understanding on how to think about varying email delivery metrics, and when you should be thinking about taking action on these metrics.  Let me know what you think via email (of course!) or on Twitter.


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Whois: Mike Veilleux

Mike Veilleux is the Director of Product Management for Dyn, a cloud-based Internet Performance company that helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeVeilleux and @Dyn.