Knowledge newsletter: expert advice from Peter Hogenkamp.

The numbers lie: Opening rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, bounce rate – these are the key numbers in email marketing. Well-maintained B2B newsletters should have an open rate of 30 percent, says Peter Hogenkamp, ​​head of domain content that specializes in Swiss newsletter marketing. However, it is advised to monitor the statistics closely because security software and privacy features are increasingly distorting the numbers. Hogenkamp’s expert advice appears as part of the 15th Anniversary newsletter weeks of the turi2 morning newsletter.

What are the key figures to the success of the newsletter and how important are they, Peter Hogenkamp?

“I’m glad you asked” – because in this field, Which had been stable for years, suddenly started moving pretty much. More on that below.

So far, the four key performance indicators (KPIs) have been the main focus of newsletter marketing and their measured values:

1. Opening price: How many recipients open the newsletter?
Open rate describes the number of open emails in relation to emails delivered as a percentage. Most systems characterize the number of slots that occur in aggregate (“total slots”) and the number of people (so-called “unique slots”), with each person counted only once.

2. Click rate: What is the minimum number of people who click on a link?
Click-through rate shows you how efficiently your newsletter is being consumed. Indicates the percentage of people who clicked on a link in your newsletter in relation to all people who received your newsletter. Unique CTR counts people who have clicked multiple times only once.

3. Unsubscribe rate: How many people have unsubscribed from the newsletter?
Few people get lost with each charge, this is normal and doesn’t necessarily have to be an alarm signal. It’s still worth looking at this number after each shipment so you can see if you’ve produced an explicit exogenous value up. Because then you obviously annoyed people, were too provocative, too boring, irrelevant, and sent too much or whatever – here it can be worth asking individually. If the unsubscribe rate is too high (>0.35 percent), the integrity of the email is affected and your email sender can be flagged as spam by the recipient’s mail server, which in turn may also invalidate the message delivery service provider Newsletter.

4. Bounce rate: How many emails didn’t get through?
Divided into “hard bounces”, which are emails that cannot be delivered, usually because the person has left the company, and “minor bounces” (out of office, inbox full, etc.), which may arrive again next week. With every type of newsletter, you should (have) delete the hard bounce and monitor the soft bounce. In the case of B2B newsletters in particular, it is worth following up on the guards individually, as this improves the quality of your CRM data. (Most people can now be easily found again with their new employer and can be tracked down.) Cleaning bounce messages is also important to maintaining email integrity and therefore deliverability, because receiving mail servers classify high bounce rates for a newsletter as spam. Karma is important in newsletters, meaning it is not esoteric at all.

When is the opening price good?

As always: it depends. The open rate of a widely distributed newsletter with millions of recipients from an e-commerce provider like Otto or MediaMarkt is likely to be in the low single-digit percentage range. You don’t even have to be unhappy with it, because sending emails is very cheap – if 2 percent open and buy a handful, it might still be worth it.

On the other hand, if you see your newsletter recipients as an extended circle of friends, as Sport1 editor Pit Gottschalk convincingly explained here recently, you should aim for a 30 percent opening rate. I would also like to get this number for a well maintained B2B newsletter, even if there are no friends there, but there is a business community, but those also are united in a common interest in a topic.

With 30 percent, I think it’s important not to be disappointed and think: “I mean, 70 percent don’t open my newsletter!” This may be true for one issue, but openers at 30 percent spin. If a news portal sent me 26 morning newsletters each month and I opened 30 percent of them, that’s eight, the media brand would probably be stored in my head like this: “I read the newsletter regularly.” This is great for brand loyalty. As I said, sending newsletters is so cheap that you as the sender can get past the 18 unopened messages.

Current Developments: KPI Under Pressure

As I said, everything has been reasonably stable for years, but especially in the last couple of years a lot has started, unfortunately not for the better from a marketing point of view. This is mainly due to two factors: privacy and security.

1. Privacy: Newsletters have always been a great tool for keeping track of readers with pinpoint accuracy, which most of them probably didn’t realize: when and where do they open email, what devices, how long do they read, and where do they click? As in other areas of digital marketing, there have been efforts for several years to significantly reduce this transparency. Apple in particular, which is deeply committed to privacy, introduced innovations last year with the releases of the new operating system iOS15 and macOS Monterey to protect users, whether they wanted to or not, and leave senders in the dark. For example, you can use Apple to create disposable addresses for newsletter subscriptions that only real recipients know about Apple; It’s still a little used option, but who knows how it will evolve.

Also in fall 2021, Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection for its Mail apps. If it is activated, Apple opens almost all emails in advance and thus also triggers the tracking pixel. This increases the open rate, but the statement whether the email has already been read is a fake. As a result, the opening rate, the most important KPI in newsletter marketing to date, see above, loses much of its meaning. Other providers follow suit here, such as Mozilla that makes Firefox with its mail client or provider Protonmail, which places a heavy emphasis on privacy.

2. Security: Every week we all read a new horror story about a ransomware attack in which a poor medium-sized company or municipality finds all of its servers encrypted and has to pay an exorbitant amount. How did the malware get into their network? Practically always the same thing: an unsuspecting user clicked a link in an email to a page with malicious code. Of course there are countermeasures: security software providers first route all emails through their mail server, where the software “clicks” on all links and checks that none of them lead to a malicious site. Unintended side effect: All of the links are suddenly counted as clicked. The sender is happy about the huge increase in click rate – but unfortunately no one participated, so the clicks are worthless. We’ve seen our clients triple from week to week.

Anyone watching something like this should take a closer look at the stats. If, for example, all the emails of all recipients at a bank or insurance company were clicked on, you can be sure that the security software was already working here. So it’s better to take it out of the stats – which is also a shame because some may have already clicked. Some mail systems recognize such automated clicks and discount them automatically, but again, this countermeasure is not yet developed and put in place.

At the same time, A/B testing or automation (“If someone clicks in Mail X, the system sends the mail Y two days later”) becomes difficult if not impossible, especially in the B2B sector. These processes should also be checked.

Conclusion – what next?

Thus, the key numbers of the previous newsletter are under pressure from two sides: while the opening rate, depending on the group of recipients, can sometimes not be used for evaluation, the click rate still works normally, with the mentioned drawbacks. However, it is not clear whether this situation will remain. The described security solutions have been used mainly by large companies so far, but it wouldn’t be surprising if mail providers like Gmail & Co.

What will continue to work: If you set links to your website in the newsletter, you can of course provide it with a tracking code and correctly calculate it as incoming clicks in the analytics tool there. These statistics are powerful and also allow conclusions to be drawn about the newsletter’s performance. However, it is a derivation and therefore less intuitive and interesting.

In any case, you should continue to monitor your opt-out rate, just as you should constantly clean up bounces.

Despite the new challenges in measuring success, newsletter projects are still working perfectly – nothing has changed for readers – and newsletter marketing remains one of the most effective and efficient measures in the marketing mix.

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