E-mail newsletter benchmarks

Here are some benchmarks to use as a guide when setting KPI goals for e-mail newsletters or alerts.  The open rate and the bounce rates are the most important.

The benchmarks come from a study by a e-mail vendor featured in an eMarketer story.

Metric Low High
Open rate 20% 31%
Click rate 4% 7%
Soft bounce rate .1% 2%
Hard bounce rate .3% 3%
Unsubscribe rate .4% .5%


The open rate is the most important; the total number of subscribers much less so.  You’re not engaging your audiences if you’re pushing e-mails to them but they’re deleting them without even looking at them.

If the content in your newsletter is pretty complete in itself (e.g., breaking news alerts, news briefs), your click-through rate will be low.  You might not even want to monitor it.

Not all e-mail newsletters should relentlessly focus on pushing traffic to sites.  Segment your audiences and ask each segment how they would most like to get your content.  Perhaps an audience largely gets its e-mails via a smartphone, and don’t want to link to a site.

A little bit of engagement – subscribing to and regularly reading your e-mails – is better than none at all.

Hard bounce:  The number of e-mails returned due to invalid e-mail addresses or spam filters.

Soft bounce:  The number of e-mails returned due to temporary reasons such as inboxes being too full or the subscribers’ e-mail services being down.


Some numbers for setting goals for e-mail newsletters

Here are some e-mail newsletter baselines to use when setting goals, as reported by eMarketer.   No surprises here:   E-mails set to smaller (and probably more targeted) numbers of people are opened and used more than those sent to higher numbers.

Media/Publishing Industry E-mail Rates

Number of e-mails sent

Percent of… 25 to 499 500 to 999 over 1,000
E-mails opened 4.3% 2.7% 2.7%
Links in e-mails clicked through to a website 28.9% 24.8% 14.2%

Source: “E-mail Marketing Click Rates Worldwide, by Industry and List Size, Second half 2008,” eMarketer from a MailerMailer LLC June 2009 report, July 6, 2009