Email Click-Through Rate: What is Email CTR (and How to Improve It)

Email Click-Through Rate: What is Email CTR (and How to Improve It)

Your email click-through rate (CTR) measures how many people who received your email clicked on at least one link. This percentage tells you how many emails successfully got one click from the recipient. It’s one of the most commonly talked-about email marketing metrics — but does it tell you the full story of your email performance?

Keep reading to learn:

  • How to measure your email CTR
  • What’s the difference between CTR and CTOR?
  • What is a “good” email click-through rate?
  • 6 ways to increase your email click-through rate

How to measure your email CTR

There are a few steps you can take to calculate your email CTR.

  1. Take the number of people that have clicked on a link in your email
  2. Divide that by the number of emails delivered
  3. Multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage

Voila! You have your email click-through rate.

Infographic explaining email click-through rate and CTR formula
Here’s the email CTR formula.

If your email makes it into the inboxes of 100 people and 10 people click on a link within your email, you have a 10% click-through rate.

Why do we use the number of emails delivered rather than the number of emails sent?

Bounces. The enemy of email marketers everywhere.

In a perfect world, every email would have 100% deliverability. In reality, email marketers have to deal with hard bounces and soft bounces:

  • Hard bounces happen when the recipient’s mail server rejects your email. This could be because the email address is invalid or the domain name doesn’t exist.
  • Soft bounces mean there’s a temporary problem with the email address or the recipient’s email server. Even if you send your email to a valid email address, the message could bounce if the recipient’s mailbox is full.

There are a lot of reasons for a high bounce rate, but the two most common are:

  1. Would-be subscribers are giving you fake email addresses
  2. You’re not regularly cleaning your email list, so you have a bunch of unengaged contacts

Luckily, there are a few solutions. To lower your bounce rate, we recommend:

  • Adding a captcha to your forms. Robots, be gone! Adding a captcha to your email signup forms ensures that you’re only collecting emails from real people.
  • Using a double opt-in. Double opt-in requires new subscribers to verify their email addresses, so they can’t give you a fake one.
  • Practicing good email hygiene. Good email hygiene means regularly cleaning out inactive email subscribers — and keeping your remaining list engaged with consistent, high-quality campaigns.

What is the difference between CTR and CTOR?

CTOR (click-to-open rate) measures how many people who opened your email clicked on a link.

Unlike CTR, which measures clicks as a percentage of all subscribers, CTOR looks at clicks as a percentage of opens.

To calculate CTOR:

  • Take the number of people that have clicked on a link in your email
  • Divide that by the number of emails opened
  • Multiply that number by 100 to get a percentage
Email click-to-open rate formula
Here’s the email CTOR formula.

CTR vs. CTOR: Which one should you measure?

If you want to measure the performance of your email content, measure your click-to-open rate. CTOR doesn’t take the effectiveness of your subject line into account.

Instead, your CTOR:

  • Focuses only on how well the content of your email convinces people to click on a link
  • Doesn’t penalize you for unopened emails
  • Separates the strength of your email content from the impact of your email list hygiene, subject line, and other factors

If you want to gauge the performance of your subject line, measure your email open rate.

CTR can still work as a more general metric. It gives you a high-level view of how your emails perform. But for a more detailed (and actionable) analysis, focus on CTOR and open rate.

What is a good email click-through rate?

A good email click-through rate is anything above 3%. An average email CTR is 1-5%.

Because it only takes into account opened emails, your CTOR will naturally be higher than your CTR. Experts recommend aiming for a CTOR of 20-30% for promotional campaigns.

But before you start comparing stats, keep in mind that there’s a ton of information out there about what is considered a good (or even average) CTR.

What we consider a good email CTR or CTOR varies based on:

  • Company size
  • Industry
  • Country
  • Type of email
  • List hygiene
  • And endless other factors…

If you notice that your CTR and CTOR are low, it may be time to segment your email list and reactivate them. This is a balancing game.

Which industries have the highest CTOR?

Industries with the highest CTOR:

  • Media and publishing
  • Hobbies
  • Gambling
  • Games
  • Daily deals/e-coupons

Industries with the lowest CTOR:

  • Restaurant
  • Public relations
  • Construction
  • Real estate
  • Politics

Which types of emails have the highest click-through rates?

Not all email types are created (or clicked) equally.

Infographic with stats explaining different types of emails
Check out the big differences in email performance between these three types of emails. (Source)

Triggered emails and autoresponder emails have higher click-through and open rates because they’re more immediately relevant to the subscriber.

  • Triggered emails get sent based on a subscriber’s action (like completing a purchase, visiting a certain page on your website, or filling out a particular form)
  • Autoresponder emails include welcome email series and lead magnets like downloadable content or demos

Newsletter emails and promotional blasts have the lowest open, CTR, and CTOR rates.

When sent at the right time, cart abandonment emails are also more relevant for subscribers — so they also have higher CTR, CTOR, and open rates than average marketing emails and newsletters.

Infographic with stats about abandoned cart email performances
Timely cart abandonment emails can work wonders for your click-through rate — and conversions. (Source)

Set your own email marketing benchmarks

Instead of trying to figure out what a “good” or “average” CTR, CTOR, or open rate is, focus on two things: where you are now and where do you want to be.

Measure your email campaign performance now, then see if you can improve from there. Track your average CTOR for each type of email:

By identifying your best and worst-performing email campaigns — based on CTOR, CTR, deliverability, unsubscribe rate, and open rate — you can determine what a “good” CTOR means to your business and set goals for improving that and other email marketing metrics.

Instead of trying to figure out what a “good” click-through-rate is, focus on where you are now vs. where you want to be. Click To Tweet

6 ways to increase your click-through-rate

Here are six tried-and-true tips for meeting your email CTR goals:

  1. Make it scannable
  2. Limit your number of CTAs
  3. Add some awesome images
  4. Optimize for mobile
  5. Personalize your emails
  6. Test, iterate, repeat

Need a place to test these tips? Our email marketing guide will help you get started in ActiveCampaign – fast.

Make it scannable

Bad news first: People decide whether to delete your email within 3 seconds of opening it.

More bad news (from 1997): People don’t really read online. They scan. And emails are no exception.

Now the good news: You can make your emails scannable!

The easier your emails are to read, the easier it is for subscribers to find calls to action. And the easier it is to find calls to action, the easier it is to click on them!

To make your email super-scannable:

  • Put the most important piece of information first
  • Supplement with images, details, and links

In journalistic writing, this is called the reverse pyramid.

The 5Ws and One H of jorunalism
Tell them who, what, where, when, why, and how — before their attention span runs out (or the telegraph lines get cut!)

Correspondents first used this format during the Civil War when telegraphing their stories to their newspapers. Because saboteurs cut telegraph lines, the correspondents learned to transmit the most important information first. (Source)

Limit your number of CTAs

Imagine you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch but you’re out of jelly.

You pop into your local grocery store, only to find an entire aisle of floor-to-ceiling jam, jelly, and preserve options. You browse for a couple of minutes, but feel overwhelmed by the number of choices — so you leave without picking a jelly. You just have peanut butter and bread for lunch. (It’s easier than choosing from 100 types of jarred fruit spread.)

This phenomenon is called analysis paralysis — too many choices means you avoid choosing.

The same applies to email calls-to-action (CTAs): Include too many links, and subscribers might decide not to click through at all. According to Ellie Mirman, VP of Marketing at Toast, only including a single CTA increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%.

Screenshot of Shopstyle home page
An email from ShopStyle with… a lot of CTAs.

This email from ShopStyle looks great, but it gives me way too many CTA options. Analysis paralysis sets in; I’m more likely to delete it than I would be if it had just one Shop Now button.

Because readers tend to scan and use easy-to-spot CTAs, we recommend using buttons over text links — and make sure they’re bulletproof buttons.

Bulletproof buttons are responsive buttons you can code into your emails. Since they don’t count as images, they decrease email load times and are less likely to get your email flagged as spam. Plus they look great on all devices.

Add some awesome images

Sure, plain-text emails are classic. But when you want someone to click through to a landing page, your emails need to be visually appealing.

Email campaigns with images have a 42% higher CTR than campaigns without images.

Screenshot of Warby Parker website
What a pawfect email.

This email from Warby Parker uses dogs to model the brand’s sunglasses. It’s adorable, attention-grabbing, and much more fun than typical product shots.

You can even take it up a notch by using GIFs. Email Institute found that emails with animated GIFs see an increase in click-through rates of up to 26%.

And a Dell case study on using GIFs in email showed:

  • 103% increase in email conversion rates
  • 42% increase in click-through rate
  • 109% increase in revenue

(Quick note: Make sure your GIFs are under 1MB. Too-big images take forever to load and can even be flagged as spam.)

Optimize for mobile

Mobile email is a tricky beast.

Readers who open your email on their desktop are 3x more likely to click through than those on mobile. But desktop clients represent only about 16% of all opened mail — and mobile accounts for a whopping 55%.

To increase your mobile email CTR, make sure to optimize your emails for mobile. Use responsive design to ensure that your emails look awesome — and clickable — on every device.

Here are some of our top tips for creating a mobile-friendly email with ActiveCampaign’s drag-and-drop email editor:

  • Keep your email width to no more than 650 pixels
  • Use alt text with your images. If the images don’t load on a mobile email client, subscribers will still have a description of the image. (Plus this makes your emails more accessible.) This is especially important if you need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You can click here to learn more about ADA email compliance here.)
  • Use image blocks instead of inserting an image into a text block
  • Use the spacer widget to create white space around content and images
  • Use the “hide on mobile” feature to keep certain content from showing up in mobile email apps
  • Experiment with preheader text to find which one looks (and works) the best on mobile and desktop email apps
  • Test your email – we have a compatibility preview feature that lets you see how your email will look on each device
Desktop and mobile optimized email
Preview your emails for mobile optimization in ActiveCampaign.

In ActiveCampaign, you can test how your email looks in different email clients and on different devices — including on mobile — so you can make sure it looks great wherever your subscribers access their email.

Personalize your emails

By now, it’s no secret that personalization plays a big role in successful email marketing. Marketers who use personalization in their emails see 39% higher CTRs.

Audience segmentation and dynamic content make it easy to customize your message and send the right email to the right person at the right time. Personalize email based on your subscriber’s demographics, behavior, and email preferences.

ActiveCampaign lets you send different emails to different audiences — automatically.

75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a brand that personalizes messages. Dynamic content lets you do just that.

Automatically change out the text and images in an email based on the recipient. You can serve up different messaging to different groups of people — and get more contacts to become customers.

Example of a personalized email being built
Dynamic content at work.

Test, iterate, repeat

Last (but never ever least): Test, test, test. Testing everything is the only way to keep improving.

Test your emails on different devices and different email clients before you send them. If an email app makes a major change, test again. You make sure each email you send is the best it can be — so make sure your subscribers see what you want them to see.

Use split testing to A/B test every piece of your email.

ActiveCampaign makes it easy for you to A/B test:

  • Email subject lines
  • Email content
  • From information
  • Images
  • CTAs
Email campaign workflow
You can even split-test entire automations.

You can choose how you want each split test to run and which metrics determine the winner. Run the tests that make the most sense for your goals — then beat your own benchmarks.

Looking for inspiration when writing subject lines to test? We’ve got you covered.

Over to you

Choosing which email marketing metrics to measure can be tough. Here’s a quick list of when to measure what:

  • Your CTR measures the overall performance of your subject line and content
  • Your open rate measures the performance of your subject line
  • Your CTOR measures the performance of your email content, without taking the subject line into account

When you measure email marketing metrics, focus on where your business is now and where you want to be. For a true vision of how well your emails perform (and improve) over time:

  • Set your own benchmarks
  • Track the success of your campaigns
  • Follow best practices to increase your email CTR

Now get out there and get those clicks!