Email marketing performance metrics can be challenging to understand for many hotel marketers. Knowing when a campaign is performing well and when it is not isn’t just about understanding open rates or click-through rates. While these are important engagement metrics, and you should pay close attention to them, there are three other metrics that will affect your deliverability over the long run and may fly under the radar of some marketers.

1. Your bounce rate should never exceed 5%

Bounce rate is the measure of how many emails were returned to sender. This can be due to either a “hard” bounce or a “soft bounce”. Regardless, the overall bounce rate should never be higher than 5%.

A hard bounce occurs when the recipient’s email address is invalid. This could happen if the domain is nonexistent or if the user no longer has an active email address on that domain. In the industry, this is called an unknown user. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor the rate of unknown users and can apply reputation-based blocks on a program’s futures sends, depending on whether and how much that rate increases. To prevent this, your hard bounce rate should never be above 2%. 

Soft bounces are similar and caused by temporary failure. These failures can be due to a reputation-based block (as mentioned above) or a full mailbox. Typically, soft bounces will be retried for up to 72 hours, during which time the status of the send will be “deferred”. Your hard bounce rate should never be above 3%.

When a campaign exceeds the recommended threshold for soft bounces, it is typically due to a reputation-based block. If you experience a block like this, it’s time to reevaluate your email strategy. You may want to try changing engagement filters (perhaps only marketing to anyone who’s opened or clicked a message within the last year, or sending only to confirmed opt-ins (which you may want to do anyway), or even reducing the frequency of the campaigns you send to users. 

2. Your spam report should never exceed .02%

This is the most important metric of all because it is determined by real users.  A spam report, also called a complaint, occurs when a message is marked as spam by the recipient. Perhaps you’ve seen an email in your inbox that felt spammy and you’ve marked it as such. ISPs will track this number and use it to define your reputation. Most often this is caused by sending email too frequently, not setting clear expectations about what a user will receive when they sign up for your newsletter or agree to communications from your hotel, or when users perceive a lack of value in the emails you send. 

3. Your unsubscribe rate should never exceed 1%

The number of Unsubscribes represents the rate at which people are choosing not to receive any future emails from you. Unsubscribes aren’t always bad. The action still requires some engagement on the part of the user, and as a result, ISPs may view them as somewhat positive. After all, if unsubscribing was difficult, users would have marked your messages as spam instead.  Usually, unsubscribes are caused by the same reasons as a spam report: too frequent emails, unclear expectations, or perceived lack of value. 

When evaluating the health of your email marketing program, make sure to keep these stats in mind. While you will still want to measure the efficacy of individual campaigns through other engagement metrics, when looking to understand your email marketing long term, having an understanding of these three metrics is vital.

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