The One Metric Every Email Marketer Needs to Stop Measuring

Successful marketers know the right metrics that are critical for success. If you’re an email marketer, you look to a variety of metrics to determine success such as your open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate. If you’re a Return Path customer you’re probably even tracking your reputation details, as well as your inbox placement rates (IPR). However, there’s one measurement that’s leading most marketers astray: the delivered rate (sometimes called deliverability rate).

When I talk to email marketers, the delivered rate is mentioned as one of the most widely used measurements, but this metric is highly deceptive and completely misunderstood. The reason this rate is so deceptive is because it doesn’t take into account how many of the emails landed in the inbox versus the junk box, or went missing after it was delivered; it simply tells you how much of your mail bounced.

Adding to this misconception, some email service providers (ESPs) use the delivered rate to demonstrate and prove their “deliverability expertise.” On average, most senders have a delivered rate of 96% or higher, and in this extremely competitive landscape, you’ve probably even seen some ESPs touting delivered rates greater than 99%. How do they achieve such stellar numbers? By being super aggressive about removing any address that’s bouncing, regardless of the type of bounce. As a result, ESPs are able to consistently produce exceptional delivered rates and their clients are none the wiser.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re sending to email addresses that don’t exist, you need to stop. These hard bounces, specifically those that are referred to as “unknown users,” will affect your email reputation, and your ability to reach the inbox. Soft bounces on the other hand are an entirely different story. Soft bounces are temporary in nature and should resolve themselves over time, like “too busy, try again later” or a full mailbox. Since soft bounces are considered a temporary issue, they aren’t something that will affect your sending reputation. Removing these soft bounces to keep an artificially high “delivered rate” will only result in upset customers and lost revenue. While a high delivered rate might be good for your ESP’s stats, it’s not good for your list size or revenue.

Now you might be thinking, “But if I’m not tracking my delivered rate,  how will I know if  mailbox providers are blocking my mail?” Well, you could do what some of the world’s largest and most successful email senders do: they track their inbox placement and reputation details.  They not only know if their mail is being blocked, they know if it’s being delivered to the junk box or throttled out over hours.  They’re able to see a breakdown of all the Mailbox Providers they care about and details showing what each did with their mail.

Rather than aiming for a 99% delivered rate, you should aim to get as much mail delivered to as many subscribers as possible.  Don’t remove subscribers from your list just because their mailboxes are full, because they’re on vacation, or because you’re having a hard time getting your mail delivered to their Mailbox Provider.  

Remove subscribers that don’t exist, and focus on getting your mail into the only place your subscribers will ever read it: the inbox.

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