By John Simpson, Engagement Consultant at GovDelivery
Most government organizations don’t need to be convinced of the importance of email and its impact in reaching key audiences and getting people to take action. However, not every organization knows how to best measure the results of its outreach or even what metrics are available. Although every organization’s goals and content are unique, there are some basic components you should be measuring to ensure your content is optimized to drive the most engagement.
Below are seven metrics — some that you’ve likely heard of and some that you may not have — that you should be paying attention to.
1. Engagement Rate
For government organizations looking at performance, Engagement Rate is one of the most important metrics you should be measuring. This represents a percentage of trackable recipients who were sent a message and opened or clicked on a link in that message. Within GovDelivery, this metric is tracked over the previous 90 days. Engagement Rate adjusts for the public sector, showing how many of your subscribers are interacting with your content and responding to your communication efforts over time. It also considers that the information coming from government is timelier so messages such as alerts on closures or time-sensitive notices may not require a click-through to be considered successful. This is why Engagement Rate is a more accurate parameter for the success of your overall communications than other metrics.
Best use: Tracking Engagement Rate for your organization’s communications rather than individual message metrics to gain a more holistic view of communications success and help your organization develop its own communication best practices.
2. Unique Email Open Rate
Open Rate is defined as the percentage of unique people who opened messages from the number of messages delivered (opened emails/delivered emails). Any analysis of your message will include Open Rate, but this metric is not the most important measurement to consider, especially because its tracking depends on the recipient allowing message images to be displayed because opens are recorded when an invisible 1×1 pixel loads. This is how email opens are tracked in all industries (of note is Gmail’s recent change in automatically downloading images. Read more in this blog post). Build it into your tracking reports as a data point for your communications engagement strategy, but you shouldn’t make critical communication strategy decisions on Open Rate alone.
Best use: Comparing the Open Rate of one message to other messages that are sent to the same audience, especially when performing in A/B testing on subject lines.
3. Total Email Opens
Defined as the total number of messages opened, this metric helps tell the story of your messages’ scale. While helpful in depicting the complete reach of your content, this number is just a part of your message’s performance and should be used only in the context of its overall success story. Like a message’s Open Rate, this metric also depends on the recipient allowing message images to be displayed. Because of this, your message’s reach may actually be greater than what the Total Email Opens calculates to.
Best use: Demonstrating broad interest in messages or subject lines.
4. Click Rate
Click Rate is defined as the percentage of unique people who clicked links within a message out of the messages delivered (link clickers/delivered emails). When you’re analyzing what messages worked and which ones need to be refined, this is a great metric to consider. Since most emails are designed to encourage an action or drive a recipient to a piece of content on your website, the click rate is a good parameter for your ability to drive your audience to click through. Evaluate messages by the performance of different links, their placement in emails, and the wording used to entice recipients to interact with your message over the course of time.
Best use: Evaluating which links and content resonate the best with different audiences. Trying different calls to action, such as a button or an image, instead of hyperlinked text, to see if you can drive more click-throughs.
5. Total Link Clicks
Defined as the total number of clicks your link or links received, Total Link Clicks helps tell the story of how many times your message generated an interaction. Since this does not consider just one click per recipient for each link, it should only be used in conjunction with other metrics. It’s a good metric to keep in your back pocket when comparing the popularity of different links or content in message campaigns.
Best use: Comparing overall popularity of links in your messages or in your outreach campaign.
6. Unsubscribe Rate
Unsubscribe Rate is the percentage change in those who have unsubscribed from your updates either by individual message or from month to month. People will naturally unsubscribe from your content periodically so you shouldn’t obsess over bringing this metric to zero. Instead, track the growth or decrease in the amount of people who unsubscribe over time so you have better insight into whether your messaging is still holding the attention of your subscribers. If you are worried about increases or abnormal changes in your Unsubscribe Rate, try to create more focused campaigns tailored to specific audiences rather than broader or more generic messages.
Best use: Flagging any high increase in your messages or outreach campaign’s Unsubscribe Rate and breaking down performance by each message. You can also call out your preferences link, giving end users the option to reduce the message frequency or opt out of one topic vs. all topics.
7. Conversion Rate
For most organizations, this is where the rubber really hits the road. Conversion Rate is a metric you can use to show how your messages have driven stakeholder action. This can be anything from people downloading a resource from your website to signing up for a webinar to getting a flu shot. It’s important to keep in mind that a conversion rate is not influenced only by how well you’ve crafted your message or the images in your emails. If you are driving an online action with your message, your portal’s user experience and the relevancy of your site’s content can affect your conversion rate. With digital actions, if you’re struggling with how to track your conversion rate, tools like Google Analytics can help. Additionally, GovDelivery provides a targeted messaging solution that can create communication touch points along an online form submission or even a purchase process to move stakeholders through each step resulting in increased conversions. If you’re engaging stakeholders with offline actions, such as making an emergency preparedness kit, you’ll need to be able to get that offline data and map it back to the messages used to drive those actions. There are many ways to do this, and GovDelivery clients can tap into our Program Services experts to provide strategy and insight into public sector best practices that help map offline actions to digital communications.
Best use: Comparing Conversion Rates of messages across different actions and content types to determine what is resonating with audiences and where there may be areas to drive greater engagement to meet mission or program goals.
There is no magic formula that will push your audience to take action. If your messaging isn’t compelling or your content isn’t relevant, no numbers and figures will help change that. But by measuring what you are doing today, you can use these results to help determine where you can improve, where you have been successful, what quantitative impact you have made, and what best practices to implement to better meet your program goals. Only by combining the results of all of your work into one complete picture will you be able to tell the story of your true communications impact.