Improve Your Email Marketing Results for These Critical KPIs

Email marketing is one of the most important tools to generate more leads and sales for your business, yet few marketers and business owners track their email analytics in a meaningful way. In this article we’ll look at the email marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that deserve your attention, how to best track them, and the strategies to improve them. Let’s dive in!

The Email That Changed My (Marketing) Life

Years ago I was nominated to the board of MEBSR: Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility. They had an annual meeting where new board members were voted in. It was suggested that we let our colleagues know about the event, so I decided to send out an email to my contacts. The subject line was “Stop MEBSR before it goes too far!”  

In the email I listed the (absolutely fabricated) reasons why MEBSR shouldn’t add me to their board, like my fondness for spotted-owl kabobs and my gas-powered Mac laptop. (Unfortunately that email has been lost to time…I remember it had quite a few self-inflicted zingers.) It ended with a call to action to come to the meeting and vote me out.

I was surprised when many people came up to me at the event and told me the only reason they showed up was because of that email. (No, they weren’t there to vote me out.) While that’s an uncommon KPI, and not one that I’ll be covering in this email, it did make me realize the power of email marketing.

Permission-based email marketing grants us access to the most valuable real estate on the internet: our ideal customer’s inbox.

Identifying Email Marketing KPIs for Your Business

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the most common and important metrics that you might want to track:

  • List Growth Rate – Are you gaining or losing subscribers?
  • Emails Delivered – How many of your emails are actually delivered to the intended recipients?
  • Email Open Rate – What percentage of recipients open your email?
  • Click-through Rate – What percentage of people click on a link in your email?
  • Unsubscribe Rate – What percentage of your recipients say “no mas!
  • Bounce Rate – What percentage of your emails bounce?
  • Spam Complaints – How many people are complaining that you’re spamming them?
  • Conversions – How many people take a desired action (as determined by you) from your email?

Depending on your industry, your audience, and where you are in your own email marketing journey, you may not care about all of these KPIs, or there may be other KPIs you wish to track as well. Some digital marketers might track email sharing/forwarding, social shares, replies, engagement over time, and device and platform performance.

Ultimately, the KPIs to track are the ones that will contribute to your bottom line. 

Tracking and Analyzing Email Marketing KPIs

Once you’ve determined which KPIs you want to track, you’ll need to make sure you have the systems in place to track them.

ESP Reports

Almost every ESP (Email Service Provider) will offer reports and analytics that will greatly assist you. There are an endless number of ESPs, but MailChimp, Constant Contact, and ActiveCampaign are just a few trusted by businesses interested in getting their emails delivered. Klaviyo is one that many of our e-commerce clients use.

email report


UTM Codes

Google Analytics is often confused by website traffic coming from emails because it could be from a web-based email platform, from an app, from desktop, tablet, or mobile. It becomes even more challenging because most ESPs will add their own tracking links to the links in your email so they can provide those critical email marketing analytics we mentioned earlier.  

This means tracking the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns requires an extra step: creating UTM codes.

What does UTM stand for? No one knows! (Nah, I’m just kidding. It stands for Urchin Tracking Module…but no one cares.)

A UTM code allows you to add some information to your link so that when someone visits your website from an email (or a social post or a digital ad, etc.) you can track where that traffic came from. The campaign source, medium, name, and more.

Thankfully, creating these powerful tracking links is free and easy. There are plenty of tools online to create them, although I recommend Google’s URL Builder if you’re just getting started. Here at flyte we have created custom spreadsheets with pulldown menus so our entire team can be consistent in our use of UTM codes.

campaign url builder


If you had an email newsletter that had a link going to after running it through a UTM builder it might look more like

Most people will never see the full URL, but you can always shorten it with a URL shortener like or the Pretty Link plugin for WordPress. For example, this URL could be shortened to or, which then redirect to the desired page. URL shorteners make QR codes cleaner and simpler, too, as there’s less information to pass along.

For a more in-depth look at creating UTMs check out our post How to Campaign URL Builder for Better Reports and Marketing.

GA4 (Google Analytics 4)

Assuming the objective of your campaign is to drive traffic to your website, you’ll want to have an optimized version of GA4 running on your website. For a little help, I turned to flyte’s Digital Marketing Manager, John Paglio, who said:

“We've seen time and time again ESPs attempt to perfect the UTM process. Some providers will provide their own UTM builder and some will just “connect” GA4 and your email provider. Regardless, neither of these options will not give you the accuracy you need to measure the effectiveness of each email you send. 

“By just investing a few extra minutes in your email marketing by creating your own UTMs, you can ensure that your email analytics are providing you all the insights you need.

“The easiest way to look at your UTMs inside GA4 is by:

  1. Go to your User or Traffic Acquisition (Whichever suits your fancy.)
  2. Your first column will be Session/User Campaig
  3. Add a secondary dimension of Session/User Source/Medium.
  4. In the search bar, include the unique identifier you used in your UTM for the ESP. (Ours is MailChimp.)
  5. As you can see in the screenshot below, it will give you a solid breakdown of your campaigns so you can continually improve on them.”
GA4 UTM reports


Thanks, John!

Strategies to Improve Your Email Marketing KPIs 

Now that we have a good sense of what KPIs are important to our business and how we can track them, let’s move into specific, actionable steps you can take that should improve those KPIs.

Tactics to Grow Your Email List

While the subscriber base needed for success may vary from business to business and industry to industry, you should always be looking to add new subscribers to your list. This is due in part to the constant shedding of subscribers that is a natural part of all lists. People change jobs, their kids age out of school sports, or they just don’t need your products or services any longer.

To combat this, you’ll need to create easy pathways and incentives for new people to join your list. We’ve written before on specific tactics to generate more signups for your email newsletter.

Without rehashing all of those ideas, here are some key elements that should be included in any list building campaign:

  • Incentivize signups – People are already getting too many emails; they don’t need yet another email newsletter, and they’re not excited about sharing their email with yet another company. You’ll need to provide them with a valuable trade to get them to give you permission to market to them in their inbox. This might be a discount in the company store, a white paper addressing their pain points, or some other freebie that provides value to your ideal customer.
  • Simplify signups – To paraphrase my limbo instructor, how little can you ask for? This is an email signup, not a contact form or formal interview. Can you get away with just email? I like to ask for a first name, too, so I can personalize the emails we send out.
  • Add an opt-in option your contact form – Note I said opt-in, and not opt-out. If people are interested enough to reach out to you through your website contact form, they may be interested in your email newsletter, too. A simple checkbox is enough.

Think outside the website – Do you have a physical store where you can collect emails? Or do you present to live audiences? I’ve found great success in having a QR Code and a link on my final slide to my slidedeck and other relevant resources tied into an email registration. I’ve often seen over 50% of an audience signup for our newsletter on that last slide.

Rich Brooks - qr

Improve Your Email Deliverability Rate

Getting your emails delivered to your opt-in list is critical as well. The way that emails are handled has evolved over the years, moving away from just banning spammy words and instead looking at a wide range of variables for a more nuanced approach.

Here are a few of the items you (or your developer) can work on to improve deliverability:

  • Leverage DMARC, SPF, and DKIM – These three email validation systems: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, Sender Policy Framework, and DomainKeys Identified Mail, protect both you and the recipient from email spoofing, phishing scams, and other cybercrimes. Even if you’re using an ESP, you should be implementing these systems on your own domain. The technical details are a little outside the scope of this article, but you can learn more at the DMARC Wiki.
  • Unsubscribe the Unengaged – If people aren’t opening or reading your emails, why are they even on your list? Email services look at engagement metrics and if your emails are falling on deaf ears, that can hurt your ability to reach otherwise interested subscribers. I recently interviewed an Email Deliverability Nerd (his words, not mine), who said that they kick people off their list after just 60 days of no engagement. Note: you can send out emails to non-engaged subscribers before you remove them as a last ditch attempt to re-engage them.
  • Ask for a Reply in Your Welcome Series – In your first email in your Welcome Series, aka “drip campaign,” you should ask people to hit the reply button and answer a simple question. This act can “train” their email app to treat your emails as priority deliveries. This can also keep you out of Gmail’s dreaded Promotion Tab.

Increase Your Email Open Rate

Just because your email is getting into their inbox doesn’t mean it’s getting opened. I delete 5X the number of emails I open each day, and likely you’re the same. What variables get you to hit “open” rather than “delete” (or worse, “spam”)?

  • Create a compelling subject line – My two approaches to creating subject lines are pretty much mutually exclusive: either tell the subscriber exactly why they should open your email (“Summer Sale Ends Saturday! 💸”) or create an information gap (“The secret your insurance company doesn’t want you to know.”) One of the most successful open rates I ever had was with a subject line that simply said “Tuesday?” People told me that they wondered if we had a meeting they had forgotten about…it was actually about whether they realized the last day of our early bird discounts was on Tuesday. (I lost a lot of friends that day.)
  • Consider the sender – Most experts tell you that emails sent from people are more likely to be opened than one from brands. While this tracks, in my opinion it’s more true if the recipient knows the person. I realized that I was ignoring emails that I had signed up for because the sender was an employee…but I had never heard their name! I would have been more likely to open an email from the company itself. At flyte, we straddle the gap by listing our sender in this format: Rich @ flyte new media. Two birds, and all that.
  • Consistency matters – While the type of business you have may determine frequency, it’s important to be regular with your emails. Whether daily, weekly, or monthly, people should come to expect your emails and wonder about them if they don’t arrive.
  • Quality matters – While people won’t really see the quality and value of your email until they open it, if you have trained them that you pack every email newsletter with incredible value they’ll be much more likely to open your emails in the future.
subject lines

How to Get More Clicks On Your Email Links

For me, the goal is to get someone out of their inbox and onto my website or landing page. The percentage of subscribers who click-through to a destination from your email is your click-through rate. Here’s how to improve your numbers:

  • Focus on One Call-To-Action – When you give people too many choices it can cause paralysis and they’ll choose nothing at all. This is often referred to as the paradox-of-choice. From an email newsletter standpoint, having too many links or choices of what to click on can have the same effect. If you must have multiple links, try to keep them separated. Maybe you have one lead article and then some additional resources below, or one primary item for sale and then more choices if you scroll down.
  • Create a compelling CTA – Rather than “Continue Reading” or “More…”, use links and buttons that offer concrete, specific results like “Book a time with our friendly psychics now.”
  • Make your CTAs pop – While inline links are fine, consider using buttons with a contrary color that catches your reader’s eye. You can also include elements like arrows or photos of people looking in the direction of the button to further focus your reader’s attention.

Reduce Your Unsubscribe Rate

You can always reduce your unsubscribes by never sending out another email, or by illegally removing the unsubscribe link and sending your emails from a no-reply email. However, this is true evil, and I don’t recommend it.



Try these tips instead:

  • Pack each newsletter with incredible value – The dreaded “value” argument. Still, it’s valid. If you’re creating content that helps your subscribers with each email that goes out, they’ll stick around a lot longer.
  • Segment your list – If you have different types of readers, or people interested in different services or products, you can send emails to just specific segments within your list. The fewer off-the-mark emails a subscriber receives, the less likely they are to unsubscribe.
  • Be OK with people unsubscribing – Life happens. People move on. They outgrow you or you outgrow them. It’s OK. As discussed earlier, an unsubscribe can be better for your email deliverability than someone who just stays on your list and never engages.

Keep Your Email Bounce Rate Low

There are two kinds of email bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces are dead ends; those addresses should be manually removed from your ESP. Soft bounces are often due to autoresponders or overfull email inboxes. They can be ignored…at least for a little while.

To keep those bounce rates low:

  • Maintain list hygiene – 4 out of 5 email marketers recommend cleaning your list annually or even quarterly. There are services such as ZeroBounce or BriteVerify that can review and clean your list regularly, reducing bounces and improving deliverability.
  • Keep an eye on bounce reports – Any good ESP will have a report on bounces. Make a habit of going in there regularly and removing any hard bounces. Plus, depending on your ESP, you might be bringing down your monthly fees by doing so.
  • Get whitelisted – Instruct your subscribers on how they can whitelist your email address. While most will ignore this extra bit of work, it can help lower the likelihood of soft bounces due to spam filters.

Keep Your Spam Reports to a Minimum

Even if you have an opt-in email newsletter, you’re bound to get some spam complaints over time. People forget they subscribed, or they don’t like your content, or they’re just maladjusted jerks. It’s probably the last one.

Still, it’s best to keep these complaints to a minimum, so here goes: 

  • Follow best practices – Don’t add people without their permission, don’t trick them into subscribing, don’t hide your unsubscribe link.
  • Deliver on promises – If you promised tips on reducing debt and all you do is send people come ons for new credit cards, or if you promised an occasional email and you’ve sent three before lunch, it’s your own fault for being labeled as spam.
  • Send more emails – I know, counter-intuitive, right? But I’ve talked to many people who don’t want to “bother” their subscribers with weekly or even monthly emails. Then why bother them at all? In my opinion, if you’re not sending out at least monthly, you run the risk of being forgotten. If people don’t remember signing up for your email newsletter because they haven’t heard from you since last Christmas, they may just hit spam instead of unsubscribe.

How to Generate More Leads and Sales Through Email Marketing

Let’s face it: the purpose of email marketing is to make sales.

If you’re in the non-profit world, feel free to use the word “donation” or “volunteer signup.”

But the bottom line is, we want people to take action, and when it comes to marketing we call those actions conversions. That could be getting people to sign up for a course, get a free quote, or buy a product.

To improve the value you generate from your email marketing, you’ll need to improve your landing page: the page where you send the people who click on those wonderful links and buttons on your website.

For a detailed list of 8 Expert Tips to Improve Your Landing Pages you can follow that link, but elements like an easy sign up, consistent messaging (keeping in line with the email they just received) social proof, and badges of authority can all increase the conversion rates, driving more sales and revenue for your business.

Putting It All Into Action

To get the most out of this article, I’d recommend the following steps: 

  1. Identify the KPIs that are most relevant for your business.
  2. Use the appropriate tracking tools (your ESP reports, GA4, etc.) to get benchmarks for where you are now.
  3. Create goals for where you’d like those numbers to be in 6 months and a year from now.
  4. Implement the appropriate steps to increase those KPIs.
  5. Regularly check the results of each campaign to better understand what’s working and what needs to be tweaked or tossed out.

This isn’t rocket science, but it does require goal setting, consistent, quality content, and measuring your results. Put that into action and you’ll be generating more leads and sales from your email marketing in no time!


Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure where to start, or looking for a helping hand because you’ve already got too many things on your plate? We got you!  

Just reach out to us today and we can help you with all aspects of your email marketing, digital marketing, and conversion rate optimization!

Expert Quote - Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media, a digital agency in Portland, Maine, that’s been in business for 25 years. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and social media.

He founded The Agents of Change, an annual conference and weekly podcast that focuses on search, social & mobile marketing. He recently co-founded Fast Forward Maine, a podcast and workshop series for growing Maine businesses.

Rich is the author of The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, a popular and well-received book that helps entrepreneurs and marketers reach more of their ideal customers online.