Before diving in, it's important to emphasize that all email metrics besides “sent" are approximations. This is true for any ESP due to technical limitations. One quick example: if a recipient of an email has “automatically show images” in their email client disabled, then an “open” event will not be recorded even though that recipient did open the email. In this example, there is no technical way to know that an open occurred. Different email services and clients will handle email differently and senders will not always know the precise state of the email. From my experience, trying to determine an absolute perfect list of people that have interacted with an email is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Everything should be viewed as an approximation that will allow you to see trends over time.
The “best” email metrics to look at in Marketo are the ones that are in the email performance report (it also matches the summary page of a smart campaign) or in RCE. There may be other ways that users can try to get metrics, but it’s not going to tell you what you’re interested in. The issue mainly occurs when people try to inspect our activity log (which is what you’re seeing when you click “View Results” of an Email Program) or use Smart Lists. For example, a customer might create a Smart List with “Was Delivered <my_email> in the last 6 months” and expect the count returned to match the delivered count in the Email Performance Report for the same email and date range (last 6 months). In practice, these numbers won’t always match for good reason. One example of why the metrics will differ is that a certain category of “soft bounce” or “hard bounce” events can occur after a delivered event occurs. This means that the delivered count in the Email Performance Report could initially look higher, then slowly decrease (it may decrease steadily over time) as we receive bounces from mail servers. It's a weird concept to grasp, but sometimes that is the order in which bounces are reported to the sender. In the Email Performance Report and RCE, we have additional business logic that will count this as no longer being delivered. In the smart list and activity log, however, it will always just give you an unfiltered count of leads that had the “delivered" activity occur for that email in the last 6 months, even if some other activity later occurred that nullified the previous activity.
Quick overview of some the business logic present in the Email Performance Report:
- Rule 1: Each email activity record is set to one, and only one, of the following: Delivered,Hard Bounced, Soft Bounced, or Pending.
- Rule 2: If the email record shows Opened, it is counted as Delivered.
- Rule 3: If the email record shows Clicked Email or Unsubscribed, it is counted as Delivered and Opened.
- Rule 4: If the email is Opened, bounces are ignored. If the email has not been opened,Hard Bounced takes precedence over Soft Bounced and Delivered.
Quick overview of the business logic present in RCE:
Email Event Chain in RCE
Sent ---> (Delivered | Hard Bounced) ---> Opened ---> (Clicked | Unsubscribed | Complaint)
- All subsequent events after Sent are tied back to the its latest Sent.
- If the preceding event is not present, RCA will generate that event. For example, Click does not have Opened, RCA will generate the Opened for the latest Sent.
- Generated event takes the date of its subsequent event. For example, Click does not have Opened, RCA will generate the Open with the Click date.
- If the real event comes later after the event is generated, RCA will determine if the event should be updated or leave as it.
- Sent can have either Delivered or Hard Bounced
- Hard Bounced negates Delivered.
- Opened negates Hard Bounced.
- Data reported in CST timezone only.
- Unique Click counts the first click.
- Deleted lead email activities are not counted but deleted email still show.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you are running something like a Smart List or looking at activities, this only applies to leads that are currently in your lead database. So, If you sent an email to 10 people and all 10 opened the email, the Email Performance Report would say “10 sent” “10 delivered” “10 opened.” If an hour later one lead was deleted from the database, and you then were to run a “Did Open <my_email>” Smart List, you would only see 9 leads returned since the 10th person no longer exists in the database. The Email Performance Report would still read “10 sent” and “10 opened."
There are many many more examples like the above, but it should indicate that the best thing to look at is always the Email Performance Report. While RCE operates over the pure activity log (which doesn’t always reflect reality), we’ve also added similar business logic there so those numbers are also good to look at. There may be a few minor differences in business logic between RCE and Email Performance Report. One example is that RCE doesn’t show data for deleted leads.