By Jamie Turner, Founder, 60 Second Marketer

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of email marketing. In fact, I think it’s a marketer’s secret weapon. Other social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest are fleeting. Email allows you to keep an audience engaged and involved with your brand over the long-haul.

All that said, I don’t have the time (or the patience) to review all the data that’s available to me from AWeber (affiliate link). But that doesn’t mean I can’t get a quick snapshot by comparing my results to industry benchmarks.

That’s what I did this afternoon and it only took a few minutes. The benchmark data I used for comparison purposes is available in a post we did a few weeks ago called “What is the Average Email Open Rate? New Study Has the Answer.” Check it out.

In the meantime, here are the results from my own comparison. Perhaps you can use them as a guide for when you do your own review.

For starters, I don’t worry about averages. Instead, I look at the median. Averages can be skewed by data on the very high side or the very low side. The median gives you a better sense of what the typical benchmark is. Said differently, the median is the mid-point, which is what most people think they’re looking at when they look at averages.

So, the first thing I look at is the median for the gross open rate. That’s the total number of times my email is opened as a percentage of the total people who received it.

(Side note: Open rates in and of themselves are a sketchy metric because sometimes an email is tabulated as “opened” simply because the person’s email software displayed it on their screen. For all I know, they deleted my email without reading it, so don’t hang your hat on your open rate. A better gauge is your click-through rate which we’ll talk about in a second.)

The median gross open rate for my industry (Media and Publishing) is 21.8% (see below). The gross open rate for the 60 Second Marketer e-newsletter is 49.5%. That means we’re off to a good start!

Despite those good numbers, in my opinion, gross open rate can be inaccurate because the data often shows people opening the emails many, many times. That’s why the unique open rate is more important to me. I believe that the unique open rate is more accurate because it only records each person once for their initial open, rather than for each time they open the email (or, for each time their email browser opens the email).

As you can see below, Media and Publishing has a median unique open rate of 14.9%. Mine is 30.1%, so again, it looks as though we’re doing something right with our e-newsletter.

Once I glanced at those metrics, I dug into the really important stuff. In fact, if you’re super short on time, I’d suggest that you could ignore the gross open rate and the unique open rate figures and dive right into the click-through-rate.

In my opinion, your click-through-rate is a better indicator of how engaged your audience is because they have to participate. In other words, they have to take action by clicking a link in order to get registered as a piece of data. It’s sort of like asking a classroom of people to raise their hands in answer to a question. By raising their hands, they’re showing that they’re interested and engaged.

Okay, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the click-through-rate for my industry — the median is 2.5%. Once again, I’ve done okay — ours is 6.8%, which is another good sign that people enjoy our e-newsletter. (By the way, if you’re curious and want to see a sample of our e-newsletter, just click here.)

But wait, there’s one more metric that’s even more important than all of these. It’s the click-to-open rate, which shows the number of clicks as a percentage of the people who opened the emails. To me, it’s a slightly more refined way to see how many people are really engaging with your email.

The median for my industry is 17.8% but my click-to-open rate is 13.8%. That’s an indicator that I still have room for improvement among the people who are reading our e-newsletter. Despite all the good news in the metrics above, this one indicates that there’s still more work to be done.

The biggest secret of them all. Okay, we’ve been through a lot in this blog post. We’ve discussed the difference between an average and a median. We talked about why the median is what you really want to be looking at. And then we’ve gone through several benchmarks and compared our results with industry results.

Keeping all that in mind, here’s the one thing I’d like you to remember — don’t compare yourself to industry standards, compare yourself to yourself. The key thing you want to see is growth and progress vs. where you were a month, six months or a year ago. That’s the only way to tell is you’re having real success.

Look at it this way, if I compared the results of the 60 Second Marketer e-newsletter to industry standards, for the most part I’d be pretty satisfied and might even relax a little bit. But I don’t do that (and I wouldn’t encourage you to do that, either). Instead, I compare my results to my own benchmarks. That way, I can test my way to success and see growth and improvement over the long-haul.

A final suggestion. If you like what I’ve written above, you might also want to sign up for our free e-newsletter. You’ll see a sample on the sign-up page, so you can check it out before you subscribe. And, as you might imagine, we’ll never sell, rent or give away your email address.

Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any comments about your email metrics. And I’ll see you again soon.

Jamie Turner is the CEO of social media and mobile marketing firm 60 Second Communications and is the Founder of the 60 Second Marketer.  He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.