Mar 13, 2010

Measuring RSS-to-Email Success

There are a ton of stats you can look at to measure your campaign performance (check out all the reporting options you get from MailChimp).

But which stats you use to measure success really depend on the type of emails you’re sending. If you send monthly newsletters, maybe you focus on opens (reader interest) and what URLs are clicked (their fav content). If you send transactional emails to a million people a day, all you probably care about is deliverability. If it’s one-to-one autoresponders, perhaps you check your overall conversion rate (using our ecommerce360 or google analytics api).

But what if you’re sending RSS-To-Email campaigns?

These emails go out automatically, and "behind the scenes." Depending on your frequency settings, they could be sending daily. That means after a few months, you could have like 5 kajillion emails sent (double check my math).

Here’s what I mean…

I use our RSS-to-email functionality to send a daily email to subscribers whenever we post something new to our blog. I don’t do much to promote this list, but somehow 1,000+ people have found their way on to it. Since it sends emails every day, my campaigns page looks like:

rss-bunnies

They’re multiplying like bunnies!

There’s no way I’d click into every single campaign to check its open/click stats. Plus, I think the clicks would be all over the place, since the topic of our blog posts vary wildly from day to day.

Besides, when it comes to our blog content, all I really want to know is how many people are following us.

What Stats I Look At

So on the MailChimp Dashboard, I look at my list growth:

blog-updates

Nice, pretty growth curve (albeit slow)! If you’re wondering about the increase in November of 241 subscribers, yeah. That caused some problems that I detailed over on this blog post: Why did my open rates go down?

I occasionally look at the geomap to see where people are opening from:

opens-in-japan

That’s only because when I started this, I had 1 person in Russia and 2 people in Japan who opened my campaigns. I really want to be able to say "I’m big in Japan" so I keep checking. Woo-hoo! I just hit 3 opens in Japan! That’s like a 50% increase! Domu haragato!

It’s cool to be some guy in Atlanta with readers that far away.

MailChimp makes it fun to track all that.

I recently talked to the folks at ZIP Products, and learned that they send both promotional campaigns, and RSS-to-email campaigns.

For promotional campaigns, they look at one, and only one stat: Sales.

And our Analytics360 plugin shows them that number in one quick glance, right in their MailChimp report.

But check out this example of one of their RSS-to-email campaigns:

zip-corvette-blog

This is brilliant.

Because they know their blog is different from their monthly-ish newsletter (where they talk about themselves) or weekly promotions (where they sell stuff).

Their blog is for their die-hard, gear-head, monkey-wrench customers (who else would subscribe to frequent blog alerts?). This is where ZIP posts their "how-to" tips (and these tips happen to show you how to use the stuff they sell). ZIP doesn’t just sell Corvette parts. They’ve got a garage and mechanics who will install it for you. So this blog is an excellent way to put the expertise of all those mechanics to good marketing use. Now they need a crazy prize to boost subscribers. Like a giant robot made of Corvette parts. That would be so cool.

Oh right, back to this article.

I asked Paul from ZIP how he measured success from his rss-to-email campaigns, and he told me that in general, he looks for:

1. Overall open rate – This one’s a no-brainer and doesn’t require explanation.

2. Overall tweets & re-tweets – He watches for mentions of their company on twitter, just to see how often his readers are passing on their content. It’s a nice way to see what his readers find interesting or not. Amit from Photojojo does the same (see: Using Twitter to Rate Email Campaign Effectiveness).

One thing you may want to look at is our Tweet Tracking Feature, where we measure how often your campaign was shared via twitter, and even re-tweeted (and by whom). It’s a great way to see how viral your campaigns are. I don’t have it turned on for my blog campaigns, because they send daily (and it would get spammy fast for people who are following MailChimp on twitter). But if you send weekly or monthly blog updates, you might consider it. Here’s what it looks like for my monthly(ish) MonkeyWrench newsletter:

tracking-tweets

On a side note, measuring how email campaigns, tweets, and blog posts influence traffic to your blog can be tedious, which is why we do that automagically under the reports tab in your MailChimp account:

site-analytics360

Just look for the "Site Analytics360" button. It requires that you’re using Google Analytics for your site.

3. Overall traffic to website – We should all be blogging to share useful information with our customers, who in turn (hopefully) share that information with their friends. Word of mouth marketing and all. "Traffic to website" is a good measure of this. I know, duh.

But if you’re a WordPress blogger, and you constantly measure how your blog posts send traffic to your site, try our WordPress Analytics plugin:

You can install it to your WordPress Dashboard to get a birds-eye-view of your website traffic, and whether or not your little orange dots (blog posts) cause any traffic spikes.

The whole purpose of setting up an RSS-to-email campaign is to automate some of your outreach to your most loyal subscribers. Not everyone will want daily or weekly updates from you. Only the people who really, really enjoy your content. For that reason, RSS-to-email campaigns are a different beast altogether from your monthly newsletters and promotional emails. Measuring how these subscribers interact with your content has to be measured differently too.