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Email Marketing Stats Don’t Tell the Whole Story

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Open rates. Click throughs. Conversions. Traffic. Opt-ins.

If you’re building your mailing list, these are just some of the numbers you’re watching on a regular basis. It’s the only way to know if your efforts are working.

But it turns out many of those numbers are wrong.

Measuring Sign Ups

Recently a client had a question about her subscriber stats in AWeber. While looking at the “submission” numbers for her individual forms, she noticed those numbers didn’t match up with the actual new subscribers to her list.


So she reached out to AWeber support, who had this to say:

“If you are referring to the number of submissions showing for the form, the reason your submissions may be exceeding the amount of subscribers is because “submissions” total will increase if one person double clicks the submit button when filling out your form (it will count as two “submissions”).”

What that means is if someone comes along and clicks the “submit” button without even filling in their name and email, it counts as a submission on the form stats page. The support tech went on to say that submissions are also counted for those who are already on your list and land on the “already subscribed” page. So they’re not a new subscriber, but just looking at these stats would make it appear that they are.

The bottom line: Use your form stats to test effectiveness against other forms, but not as a way to monitor your overall list-building efforts. A better measurement of your list growth is simply to keep an eye on your total numbers.

The Truth About Open Rates


When it comes to monitoring your email marketing performance, open rates are one of the worst metrics. Here’s why.

In order for any email marketing software to record opens, there must be a tracking pixel embedded in the email and that tiny little image must be loaded in the reader’s email client. If your reader has images turned off by default (Outlook and many other email clients do this for security reasons) then the email may never be marked as read.

But the opposite is also true. If the email client does load images by default, it may also load them in “preview” mode. That means the email may be marked as opened, even if it was deleted without being read.

This is also why you’ll sometimes see one reader who appears to have opened your email dozens of times. She might be a raving fan. Or she might just open her email client multiple times before deleting your mail from her inbox.

The bottom line: Use open rates only as a loose metric by which to judge the relative performance of your subject lines. AWeber argues that you can use a lack of open rates to cull your list too, but I’d be careful with that. You might end up deleting a few fans as well.

Click Rates Tell the Real Story

Did your email hit the sweet spot? The real test is in your click-through rates. Each click represents a reader who was interested enough in your email that he or she took some action, whether it be to click through to a sales page to learn more, or to read the rest of the article, or to visit your “About” page.

Because clicks are tracked via redirect (your email provider creates this in the background) there are no issues with false reporting. The only potential for confusion arises when your email contains more than one link to click. Even that is easily filtered, though, simply by digging deeper into the stats.


Hopefully, you’ll see more clicks to your sales page than to your unsubscribe page. And from there, you can monitor your conversion rate using Google Analytics or another tracking program.


Here’s the big takeaway: Know your stats, but be careful you’re not comparing apples to baseball bats. You CAN accurately use your open rates to tweak your subject lines for better engagement. But don’t try to make assumptions about segments of your subscribers, such as “people with _________ email addresses hate me!” You can’t know enough about them just from the stats your email service provider is giving you.

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