Email Analytics 101: Terminology

Autumn Tyr-Salvia
Feb. 20, 2015 by Autumn Tyr-Salvia

EmailAnalyticsOne of the things that is most exciting and challenging about my position here at Message Systems is that I got in on the ground floor of SparkPost. We started with a fantastic mail server and a bunch of smart people, and are building something great. When you’re part of the startup team, there are a lot of things you get the chance to define, and while this is gratifying, it can also be an extremely challenging task: we want our new service offering to feel familiar, but we don’t want to do what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it.

Our core email platform offers a lot of configuration options. Our on-prem software customers are able to get a ton of information about how their servers and messages are performing. But only a part of this information will be very useful for our cloud services customers. Systems administrators who are concerned with server performance get a ton of data to help them evaluate how they’re doing. But most of our cloud services customers are really looking for us to help them determine which metrics are most important to figure out if their recipients are getting their messages.

Don’t get me wrong – we’re happy when email experts use our services and we’ll give them all the message performance data you can imagine so that they can use their skills as they like. We just don’t want you to have to be an email expert just to make sense and get value out of our reporting. For instance, there is a lot of granularity available in our bounce reporting, but that granularity can also be overwhelming, so we’re defining a smaller set of metrics which will be used to generate more streamlined reports to support our customers who don’t live in email all day, every day.

Similarly, every email provider defines metrics a little differently, so we’ll make sure to be very clear about what we mean by a given term so that those of you who have used other providers don’t find yourselves confused. Here are a few basic email analytics terms you’ll see:

Targeted: the total number of messages you tried to send.

Sent: the total number of messages we attempted to deliver.

Admin Bounced: the difference between Targeted and Sent – messages you tried to send but we didn’t attempt to deliver. This is either because of a technical error, or more likely, because the addresses are suppressed due to bounce processing or unsubscribe or something similar.

Hard Bounce: bad addresses.

Block Bounce: spam block bounces – the address may still be good, but undeliverable due to an antispam system. These are often temporary blocks and will likely deliver again later. We do not automatically retry these sends.

Soft Bounce: a variety of temporary and technical issues that can cause a message to be undeliverable; these may become deliverable again later, or they may not.

Delayed: we will retry messages that fail for temporary reasons; this indicates all messages that were delayed. Delayed messages may eventually deliver, bounce, or timeout.

These are some of the terms you’ll be seeing as you become familiar with SparkPost’s reporting. We’ll be sure to keep you updated and provide a reference for all analytics terminology that you can refer to going forward.

As I said at the top of the page, I’m really excited to be working on such a great product and with such awesome customers, and I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have. Please contact me anytime at

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