Auditing email marketing – the Maileon guide

Regularly auditing your email marketing is a must. Here’s why :

  • It shows you the overall health of your email marketing
  • It gives insight into what’s going well and what needs improving
  • It highlights important changes since your last audit
  • It builds a great foundation for future campaigns
  • You can apply insights from your email marketing audit to your wider marketing strategy, and even your brand as a whole.

But where should you start? And what should you focus on?

Here, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about email marketing, from first steps to actioning your insights.

Start with situational analysis

Situational analysis gives you a baseline to work from. It helps you to understand your email marketing in comparison to the wider holistic picture.

We recommend that you look at:

  • Industry benchmarks – these should act as your minimums
  • Competitor performance – see how you compare to your competitors
  • Year-on-year trends – what’s changing, what’s staying the same?
  • Situational factors (for example, if your brand reduced campaigning last year due to the pandemic, and has ramped up again this year, you need to factor this into your audit)
  • Your tech – particularly your ESP. Is your ESP still providing the right kind of service, or does the upcoming marketing environment and your goals for this year require something different?

Use the SWOT and PESTLE frameworks in your analysis. These frameworks will give you a full overview of relevant factors which will help you establish a baseline from which to conduct your audit.

Analyse your competitors

You’ll probably have looked into your competitors as part of your situational analysis. But it’s worth going a bit deeper than the basics where competitors are concerned.

If you can, do some sleuthing. Sign up to competitor newsletters, or even buy something from them and see how the subsequent email journey plays out.

Take note of everything that seems significant – including wording and design elements. How does the quality of competitor emails compare to yours?

Also pay close attention to:

  • The number of transactional emails you get from each brand
  • The overall number of marketing emails each competitor sends you
  • The number of reorder messages you receive

This will help you to set a benchmark by which to compare and measure your own email journeys.


Work YoY and YTD

Year on Year (YoY) and Year To Date (YTD) comparisons are useful for tracking your progress and identifying areas in which you are falling behind.

Engagement metrics are crucial for a good YoY comparison. Compare things like your CTOR rate, Unsubscribe rate, and so on.

For a thorough analysis, cross-reference any changes in engagement with things like your send volumes and campaign revenue. This will help you to get a better understanding of what’s going on.

For example, if your spam complaint rate drops at the same time as your send volume reduces, it’s likely that people appreciate hearing less from you. You can use this insight to put the brakes on when a campaign you’re working on is getting a bit too email-heavy.

Don’t forget to factor in the wider context. For example, if your CTOR rose sharply during the pandemic and dropped when things opened back up, it might not have anything to do with the strength of your campaign. It’s likely that furloughed people had more time on their hands (and were perhaps bored as well!) to open and click through their promotional emails.

It’s also important to remember that the CTOR isn’t 100% reliable. To draw accurate insights, you need to view it in context with other metrics.

Part of the problem is that the CTOR can be skewed by ‘false opens’. This happens when iOS devices scan emails with images. This is sometimes registered as an ‘open’ by your ESP

False opens make your CTOR look terrible. It will appear that the user has opened your email and immediately deleted  it – when in fact they have not seen it at all.

Comparing your CTOR with your CTR will give you a much more accurate idea of what’s really going on.

Give your email list a health check

A healthy email list makes for a healthy campaign. Giving your list a thorough scrub and health check is a vital part of any email marketing audit.

Make sure that every email in your list is verified, active, and engaged.

If you find that engagement is dropping for some addresses, consider your next steps. Do you have re-engagement procedures? At what point do you scrub a less-engaged address? And how do you prevent them from damaging deliverability in the meantime?


Check your sender reputation

Your deliverability relies on your sender reputation. The higher your reputation, the better your chances of hitting the inbox.

You should be checking your sender reputation regularly. For your email marketing audit, run your regular reputation check and then go a little deeper.

For example, see how your metrics measure up against industry averages. Complaint rates are useful for establishing potential issues with your sender reputation. If your CR is above the industry average, that’s a problem waiting to happen.

Giving your list a thorough scrub and health check is a vital part of any email marketing audit.

Review automated triggers and journeys

If you use automations in your email marketing (and if you don’t, honestly why aren’t you!?), put them through their paces as part of your audit.

Check that the triggers are still relevant, that the journeys make sense, and that your automations are still giving your customers the personalised content that they need.


Keep your campaigns on track with an email marketing audit

No matter how tightly you run your email marketing ship, an email marketing audit will be worth it. Going through your email marketing in detail always throws up some interesting insights!

We recommend that you run an email marketing audit at least once a year. If your email marketing operation is large, you could also run mini-audits on different campaigns, lists, segments and so on throughout the year, to make sure that everything is ticking over as it should.

It might seem like a chore, but running regular email marketing audits really can make a huge difference. As well as flagging problems, audits give valuable insights, which you can use to optimise your future campaigns and get closer to your customers.