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What Does Engagement Mean?

Rob Schneider
What Does Engagement Mean?

If you’re asking, you either have commitment issues or you work in email marketing. Seeing that I work in email, we’ll just stick to this side of the fence. Plus, it’s a much longer and more interesting read (trust me!) and marketing always likes content, so let’s make everyone happy and see if I can’t stay on the payroll another month.

It’s All About the Opens and Clicks, Right?

If you’ve done any amount of email marketing you’ve heard about engagement, and more specifically, opens and clicks. These are probably some of your most popular and most viewed metrics or signals because they give you a baseline of how well your subscribers are interacting with your mail. The more people that open your messages, the higher your open rate and similarly, for click rate, the more people that click on links in your messages, the higher the click rate. Easy, right?

But then you get on the phone with one of these “Deliverability” people and they’re talking about things like people who delete without opening, hitting spam traps, reply rate, and other weird metrics from some big brother sounding over-reaching viewpoint of the mailbox providers. So now you’re like “Uhh, OK, but my open rate is 25%, where’s these other metrics? Are they in my dashboard? How do I see them?”

Here’s the fun part! You don’t. The simple truth is that each of these mailbox providers all use their own metrics and algorithms (ala “special sauce”) to determine your level of engagement which all come into play when determining your overall reputation and how much mail makes it to your end users.

They Track WHAT?!

While you probably know some of the more common engagement metrics and signals, here’s a glimpse of some of the lesser known engagement signals. These also play an important part in your engagement levels from the mailbox provider point of view, but that you most likely will not see in your ESP dashboard but are still important to keep in mind.

Delete without opening – Just like it sounds. The user deleted your message without even opening it. It shows they didn’t even care to read it to see what it was about. They already knew they didn’t want it just by seeing who it’s from or the subject wasn’t relevant. Bad signal.

Replying – Again, pretty basic. If the subscriber replied to your email, it means they were interested enough. Good signal.

Moving out of Junk – This is a really positive sign. The subscriber actively went into their Junk folder and moved it to their inbox letting the mailbox provider know that this is wanted mail. Sometimes mailbox providers might periodically put stuff into junk as a test to see how much gets moved back to the inbox. Good signal.

Moving to a folder – Another good sign. It means they wanted it enough to keep it around for safe keeping and potentially send to others. They kept it, therefore they want it. Good signal.

Add to Address Book – They cared so much for the sender that they were concerned the mail might not get through, so they added it to their address book or whitelist. It’s nice to be wanted. Good signal.

Move to Junk – Boo! Yup, this is the buzzkill. Big badness happens here. They don’t like your mail and want the rest of it in the junk folder too and they even hope subsequent messages from you go to junk as well. Bad signal.

Report as Phishing – Eww! Yeah, bad, really bad. Subscribers think you’re one of those nefariousists we talked about in my How to Burn Your Reputation with Spam Traps article. Somehow you gave the subscriber the idea you’re trying to steal their personal or financial information. Bad, be ashamed signal.

Read Time – The amount of time spent reading an email. If you only spend a second on the email it doesn’t show as much engagement as the reader who spent 30 seconds on it. Mixed signal.

Keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list and not all mailbox providers may use these. But I’d propose that you keep these in mind when setting up campaigns in case you can tweak them to better appeal to these additional signals. If you do this, you’ll boost both your deliverability and reputation at the same time. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? I’ll toast to that!

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