How do you define a successful email marketing campaign? What’s the average open rate, click rate, and the most effective subject line? What's a sender score? These marketing benchmarks and hygiene tips will help you to start analyzing and improving your email marketing program.
Benchmarks are essential for evaluating market and behavioral factors influencing campaign data. Knowing the average email benchmarks across all industries is a great starting point for determining your ideal averages.
- Average open rate: 25.35%*
- Average click rate: 3.82%*
- Average unsubscribe rate: 0.39%*
- Average bounce rate: 0.83%*
To hit the mark with your email campaigns, you need strong email deliverability. Email hygiene will keep your deliverability in check by keeping your reputation (sender score) clean. A sender score works like a credit report and helps to determine if your emails reach inboxes or get filtered to spam folders.
When analyzing email campaigns, you should first determine your delivery rate. How many get delivered out of the total number sent? Bad addresses and other factors will affect delivery. If you have a poor delivery rate, you’ll want to look at your email list and check the validity of your leads. The delivery rate is determined by how many emails reach the recipient's mailbox, not their inbox. That means that your email may have been delivered but ended up in a spam or junk folder. So the delivery rate helps you determine how valid your email addresses are and that's important. But it doesn't tell you if you are reaching inboxes.
Getting your email delivered is just the first step. Spam targeting and junk folders will keep emails from their intended inboxes.
The emails that you send will develop a reputation over time. The better your reputation is, the higher your deliverability. Deliverability is not the same as your delivery rate. Deliverability is the indicator of inbox placement. If your deliverability is low, recipients won’t see your emails. Once your email list is clean, you want to focus on deliverability.
Low deliverability will result in a bad email reputation, also known as a “sender score.”
The sender score works like a credit score. Sender scores protect consumers from spam and unwanted email by targeting and eliminating suspicious email IP addresses.
Your sender score is based on:
Spam Reports - If recipients mark your emails as spam
Relevance/Engagement - If your recipients aren’t engaging (opening your emails and clicking CTAs)
Bad Addresses - If you send too many emails to bogus or dead accounts
Email Bounces - Soft bounces (temporary delivery failures) and hard bounces (permanent delivery failures)
If your sender score falls too low, you will end up on an email blocklist (or blacklist), meaning your IP address is tagged, and none of your emails will be delivered. You can (and should) check your sender score here.
Open rates vary by industry. If you can obtain industry-specific open rate averages, that will give you the most accurate benchmark. The overall average hovers around 25%*, and that’s a viable starting point if you can’t get more specific data.
Because of new privacy protocols and email client peculiarities, open rate data is not always accurate. But it can still be valuable to track. If your 30% open rate suddenly drops to 15%, it’s worth investigating. Open rate benchmarks are still valid as averages across industries will reflect any inaccuracies.
Several factors affect actual open rates, but the first and most critical is the subject line. The subject line is a prime determiner of whether a recipient will see your email, open it or report it as spam.
When an email is delivered, the email service checks the subject line, the content of the message, the send time, and the sender's email address. If any of these look suspicious, the email goes to the spam or junk folder.
The AI behind inbox filtering is imperfect, but there are ways to optimize your probability of inbox delivery. Most critically, the subject line.
After the subject line gets you past the inbox filters, it still needs to interest the reader enough to open.
The obvious advice here is to create a snappy, attractive subject line. However - it’s easy to go too far with this approach. You’ll know best how to speak to your buyer personas and what kind of language they will respond to. This is industry-specific, company-specific, and prospect-specific. If you are selling video games, you’ll use a different tone than if selling funeral services. Always be respectful of the reader in the context of who they are and what you are selling.
Read A Practical Look at Creating High-Value Buyer Personas for more about buyer personas.
You’ll have to determine the best subject lines for your business and your clientele, but here are a few to get you started: 150 of the Best Email Subject Lines We've Ever Seen
Once you’ve piqued the reader's interest enough to open your email, you need to deliver. Think of the subject line as a promise. The body of the email has to make good on that promise and provide content that's valuable to the reader through copy and/or links.
If you’ve succeeded in getting to the recipient’s inbox, getting them to open your email, click your links, and give them useful, relevant content, you are on your way to a successful email program.
The average click rate across industries is 3.82%*
This is a much more reliable metric than the open rate for the reasons discussed above. That makes it a very valuable indicator of engagement and interest.
You want as high a click rate as possible, regardless of your open rate. Use the clicks as the measure of real engagement by viable prospects.
If the average open rate across industries is 25.35% and the average click rate is 3.82%, only 15% of those emails that register as “opens” result in an actual click-through. What happens to the other 85% of “opens”?
The average unsubscribe rate is 0.39%*
Don’t fear a higher unsubscribe rate. If your email misses the mark, an unsubscribe is not the worst outcome. If disinterested recipients unsubscribe, it will keep you from damaging your sender score by sending irrelevant content to unengaged contacts. An unsubscribe means that the recipient looked at your email and decided it wasn’t for them. Use that information to better dial in your lead procurement or offering.
The average bounce rate is 0.83%*
The bounce rate is a great indicator of the strength of your email list. Hard-bounced emails can’t be delivered. There is no use in trying them again; that will only hurt your sender score. Soft bounced emails (if you have access to that data) are less common but can occur if the email contains large attachments, if the email is grey listed or if the sender score is low.
Email marketing is a critical piece of any digital marketing strategy. By keeping your email reputation in check with good hygiene and using benchmarks as a guide, you'll reach your customers in the right place, their inbox.
See also: The Evolution of Brand Marketing in 2022
*These numbers are for relative reference only, as benchmarks change over time. These benchmarks were sourced here.