Standard Email Metrics


The EEC has been working on standardizing metrics used in email marketing. They have published a set of definitions for different terms many email marketers use. They published their Support the Adoption of Email Metrics (S.A.M.E) guide in June.
Under the new EEC definitions an open is measured when either a tracking pixel is displayed or a user clicks on any link in the email, including the unsubscribe link. Open rate is defined as the number of opens (either unique or total) divided by the number of accepted emails. Accepted emails equals the number of emails sent minus the number of emails rejected by the ISP for any reason.
The authors do caution, however, that even their measurements may under count the number of email subscribers that actually open or read an email. Some readers don’t load images or click on links but happily read and digest the content being sent. Others may not click on a link but actually visit a website or brick and mortar store to purchase something based on the email.
Overall, I think the definitions created by the S.A.M.E. group accurately reflect the things they want to measure within the limits of what is actually measurable. Their definitions won’t affect conversations in the short term, but are likely to drive change to standard terminology over the longer term. I do strongly encourage people to grab a copy of their document and see how their definitions compare with your current measurements.

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  • The only metric that appears to be missing is ‘complaints’, should that be included?

  • Good question, Dave.
    The Email Measurement Accuracy Roundtable addressed only those calculations that email deployment vendors have control of in regards to metrics reporting.

  • Dave, I wish more ISPs would do more with feed back loops to help ESPs measure, identify and process complaints. For now, we can only rely on the reports from larger ISP’s that do provide this data and impute what that means for the rest of the lists. As an ESP, we’d love to to remove every single spam complaint immediately as it’s clear that the recipient doesn’t want the email any longer and in many cases the “spam” button works just as well as an “Unsubscribe” button in the eyes of the recipient.
    Thanks Laura for explaining some of the new S.A.M.E. reporting standards and encouraging others to learn more. Your opinion counts.

  • Thanks for the responses John and Peter!
    Given that some metrics have the ‘under reported’ warning, such as render rate, I don’t see why complaints are not included. If we’re meant to only measure things in our control than I would think we could only report on metrics at the server/conversation level since that at least is governed by some standards.
    Adding complaints as a metric puts the onus on the adopting ESPs to report on this information in a consistent way, which seems to be in the spirit of the standard.

  • Dave, I’d love to accurately measure or even somewhat accurately measure complaints but ISPs and email clients don’t tell us every time somebody hits the spam button so we’ve got nothing to measure. We’re limited to a small handful of ISPs that do report back via their Feedback Loops. I tend to watch unsubscribe rates as a measure of complaints since it’s ISP independent and also telling me that the recipient is in effect complaining about the content or frequency of our email.

  • The email marketing industry needs to have standards. If each vendor calculates differently how certain metrics are presented to clients, the clients questions these numbers, how they were calculated and if they can relay on them.
    When there are standards within an industry it leads to trust and better relationship between vendors and clients.

By laura

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