5 benchmark metrics for government email
- By Amanda Ziadeh
- Jul 18, 2016
Government agencies using email to communicate with citizens know that it’s critical to be able to reach the largest number of targeted citizens with clear, engaging messages. But because public- and private-sector messaging conventions and target audiences are so different, it’s often hard to gauge if those agency efforts are successful.
In a new report, GovDelivery, a cloud-based communications solution provider, provides benchmark metrics from its work with 1,800 government clients, and outlines how agencies can best measure the effectiveness of their email campaigns and offers tips on improving engagement. The five key metrics are:
Engagement rate. This metric shows how many people are interacting with content and responding to communication efforts over time. GovDelivery calculated the rate by determining the number of email recipients who opened an email or clicked on an email link over a 90-day period, divided by the total number of email recipients. The average engagement rate in the federal government is about 46 percent and 55 percent at the state and local level.
To improve engagement, the report suggested A/B testing to find the most effective version of an email. Additionally, agencies should be sure to use relevant information and content, relatable imagery to attract the user to the main content, brief yet high-level messages with links to more detail and strong, impactful language for calls-to-action.
Open rate. A critical component of overall engagement, this metric can be used to determine the effectiveness of two similar messages over time or “side-by-side” to find the best approach for the message and target audience. Open rate is determined by comparing the number of recipients who opened an email to the number who received it. The average open rate in the federal government is about 14 percent and 24 percent for state and local.
To increase these rates, it is important that agencies understand their audience. They should customize content to location, community or events and construct a good, brief subject line through A/B testing. Agencies that send more than two messages per day should consider consolidating emails when possible.
Click rate. This metric can determine which messages prompt an action and which need to be refined to do so. It can also be used to evaluate how well link placements and wordings invite a recipient to interact with a message. Those factors, combined with the total reach for a given message, drive the total number of clicks. However, because many public sector emails are informative and don’t include links, click rates aren’t always the best way of determining if a message reached it audience.
The average click rate in the federal government is about 2 percent and 3 percent for state and local. Managers should keep an eye on total clicks as the subscriber base rises to make sure digital communication efforts are improving. Other ways to improve click rates include testing different call-to-action buttons or images instead of hyperlinked text and moving the call to action up front.
Overlay impact. Overlays are windows covering a web page that allows agencies to capture contact information from visitors, so that they can connect with them later. The overlay rate measures the influence an overlay window has on getting website visitors to sign up for further engagement.
An overlay can generate a 200 percent to 500 percent increase in the number of people signing up to receive information. The average rate of subscriber increases in the federal government is 295 percent and 230 percent at the state and local level. To get the most out of overlays, agencies should use a simple overlay and make it appear right away on the website to first-time visitors only. After a visitor signs up, overlays should transition to a list of additional topics subscribers can elect to receive information on.
Subscriptions per subscriber. As agencies attempt to re-engage subscribers with updates and new, broader topics, they can use this metric to measure the success of their efforts. It can also be used to determine if new topics are helping to expand reach. Dividing the total subscriptions by total number of subscribers identifies the number of topics an individual has signed up to receive in email updates.
The average number of subscriptions per subscriber for federal government is 2.95 and 2.30 for state and local government. Besides offering subscribers additional topics when they subscribe via overlays, agencies should also work with other departments on cross-promotional opportunities for subscriptions, ask staff to include a “sign up” link in their email signatures and send monthly emails notifying subscribers of new email opportunities.
View the full GovDelivery report here.
Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.