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When looking at email metrics, marketers are typically focused on those around performance: open rate, click rate, and total delivered.

While these are very important stats to review, they don’t tell the whole story of your email program.

What is wrong with current metrics?

Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Adestra use activity such as opens, clicks, unsubscribes and spam complaints to estimate user activity and engagement with our emails. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who receive the messages we send also measure user activity, but they can be far more accurate in their measurements because they have access to all the email data their users generate.  Some ISPs can measure not only open and click, but if the message was read without images loaded, if it was deleted, “swept” or saved for later.  All of these stats feed into the ISPs measure of user activity.

The open rate has historically been a very strong indicator of user interest in a particular offer and has been used as an overall gauge of how active the audience is. That said, the open rate is susceptible to being skewed by a variety of things: images on/off by default; spam folder placement suppressing open rates; certain clients methodically dropping all slightly-less-active recipients, thus artificially increasing the open rate. All of these factors can yo-yo an open rate up or down, reducing its relevance.

That’s what the Unwanted Click Rate (UCR) seeks to reveal.

The Unwanted Click Rate in action

If you measure just three simple metrics–easily found in Adestra’s summary reporting–you can determine what rate of users do NOT want to receive your messages. If this rate exceeds 20 percent, then we would recommend you closely reevaluate your acquisition tactics and/or your content stream.

These metrics are Total Unsubscribes, Total Complaints and Total Clicks. Here is how to calculate the UCR:

(Unsubscribes + Complaints)

divided by

(Unsubscribes + Complaints + Clicks)

This metric will avoid all of the previously mentioned issues that issues that reduce the relevance of your open-rate, as this will only calculate user actions which required a click. If a user didn’t see the message because it was filtered to the spam folder, that would not impact this ratio at all.

Higher UCR rates mean your audience is saying “Get me off this list,” not “I’m interested in your content.” If you are above our recommended 20 percent rate, it means that more than one in five of your recipients is indicating that they want off of your list, which is a rate I think is universally concerning. While working with our client base, we have found a very high correlation with clients who have deliverability issues and the UCR.

Wrapping up

ESPs and ISPs alike want to know whether the email going into customers’ inboxes is truly wanted and engaging. Even though some ISPs use different metrics and don’t share all user activity with ESPs, we are all trying to get to the same endpoint. (For more explanations about how ISPs work and how to stay out of the spam folder, see this earlier blog post, “Why your email ends up in the spam folder and how you can stop it.”)

Because all senders lack visibility directly into all customers’ inboxes, estimating based on user activity is the best gauge. The open rate is a longtime but flawed metric, and the click rate doesn’t yield enough insight by itself.

The Unwanted Click Rate is just one of the ways Adestra’s deliverability experts use the email data we do have an an ESP to dive to a deeper level and give you the kind of insights that help you better understand how your population responds to and engages with your email messages.