click through rate only part of email reporting storyAh, the click-through rate! The number by which we want so much to gauge the whole success of our email campaigns! Beyond the inboxes, beyond the opens, this is what we live for—seeing how many people were interested enough to click on a link in our email! Yes!

But as with so many things email, the click-through rate can be deceiving. So beware this aspect of your email reporting. Your click-through rate, or CTR, is only part of the story. Although it seems straightforward on the surface, it requires a bit more email analysis to really understand it.

Know what to look for
There are several parts to the CTR, but we marketers are sometimes lazy and ignore them. Too often, marketers check the email reporting that’s standard with their ESP without understanding what the CTR metric really means. Although it sounds like a great number, a 30% CTR could mean anything, for example. It could include clicks on the link to your privacy statement or even the clicks on your unsubscribe link. It is what it is: a click-through rate, not a click-through-because-I-want-to-buy-from-you rate.

Just because a CTR reached a certain threshold, that doesn’t mean you got the desired result. Is your end goal clicks or conversions? Most likely, it’s conversions. A CTR doesn’t necessarily reflect conversions. Privacy statement, unsubscribe, past issues, contact us…I’m guessing you have several links in your emails only because there is a lot of business to be taken care of in addition to the marketing you’re trying to do. Yet the more places people can click, the more imperative it is for you to know what they clicked.

(Plus you should look at that data in light of both the open rate and the click-through rate for a much better email analysis of the effectiveness of the campaign.)

Analyze those clicks and figure out what percentage went where. If you had a 30% click-through rate but 28% of that came from clicks on your unsubscribe link because you changed your email design or something, you need to know.

Improving your click-through rate
What do the clicks say about your content? Which parts of your email are most compelling, reflected by the volume of clicks? Once you’ve evolved your email reporting to focus on the real clicks, use the clicks that do matter to analyze the effectiveness and appeal of your content…and then improve it.

When analyzing your email reporting, keep in mind that people are different. Some people click on text, some a headline, and some a picture… so as many elements as possible should be clickable. But you’ll also be able to learn if a red sweater is more appealing than say a green pair of pants, too.

There’s also the possibility that you were working against yourself and lowered the click-through rate as a result. It could be your only calls to action were as buttons but many recipients have images blocked by default and don’t see them. It could be the wording of your calls to action wasn’t compelling enough.

Maybe you didn’t include enough links or maybe too many. Although the general rule of thumb is three to five instances of the call to action (CTA) with two strategically placed above the fold (one graphical and one textual), you’ll need to test to find out how many CTAs will work best for you and where.

Plus you need to take into account the kind of email content you’re sending out and adjust the links you offer accordingly. For example, an email newsletter can provide you with better email reporting if you include only a teaser with a link to the rest of the story, rather than the whole story. If you include stories in their entirety, you won’t know which topics interest your readers. If you include teasers to stories with links, you’ll get more out of your email reporting. You’ll know someone was interested in an article when they click on the link to learn more.

Also ask yourself, did what they clicked on dilute your call to action? Check to see where links are appearing both in emails as rendered on computers but also on mobile devices. It could be that some of your transactional or “business” type links are more prominent than your call-to-action links. Or it could be your links are too small to click on a mobile screen. (Think fat fingers and tiny text and you’ll get what I mean.)

Your list can work against you too. If you’re not segmenting and able to send targeted messages, your click-through rate could be low because you’re sending irrelevant messages. (Do some email analysis so you can segment your audience and send targeted emails instead and see if that helps your CTR!)

This is one area of email marketing that can be easy to upgrade because understanding—and improving—your CTR isn’t rocket science. Analyze what they are clicking on. Offer more of what they do want and less of what you don’t want.


Published On: May 28th, 2014Categories: Email analytics

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

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