Email marketing click-through rate: A complete guide to CTR

Email click-through rate
What is an email marketing click-through rate?
How to measure your email CTR
What is a good email click-through rate?
How can I improve my click-through rate?
Final thoughts

Whether you want email recipients to buy, donate, share information or visit a landing page, getting them to click and engage is a key part of your email marketing strategy. Your email marketing click-through rate (CTR) helps you determine if and how people are responding to your messages.

An email open rate reveals how many of your subscribers think your email is worth their attention. The click-through rate takes it a step further by showing whether your email can nudge people into action. It’s a gauge of campaign performance that tells you how successful each campaign is.

Understanding click-through rates can help you measure the value of your email campaigns and make plans for future campaigns.

In this article, we’ll talk about what your click-through rate means, how to measure it and share tips for improving it.

What is an email marketing click-through rate?

Your email click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of recipients who click on links in your email campaigns. When it comes to email marketing, every message you send should give people a clear call to action (CTA). This is a link, image or button you want them to interact with.

The click-through rate tells you how many people out of those who received your email were interested enough to engage with the content.

The ultimate goal of your digital marketing efforts is to build relationships with, engage and convert visitors, followers and subscribers. If your CTR is lower than expected, it’s an indication that you may need to make adjustments to your messaging.

How to measure your email CTR

To figure out your CTR, compare the number of clicks to the number of valid email list subscribers (take bounce rates into consideration). To get a percentage, you then multiply the number by 100. The formula looks like this:

CTR Formula

As an example, say you send 710 emails and 10 of those bounce back. You then get 70 click-throughs. Plug those numbers into your formula:

CTR Example

You find your CTR for this campaign is 10%.


Another metric for email engagement is the click-to-open rate (CTOR). While CTR measures unique clicks compared to the total number of email recipients, CTOR measures clicks compared only to the number of subscribers who opened the email.

CTOR Formula

Back to the previous example, if only 250 people opened your email, your formula would look like this:

CTOR Example formula

Your CTOR for this campaign is 28%. It’s a seemingly more impressive number than the CTR, but that’s because the two metrics are measuring different things.

Because CTOR looks only at clicks to unique opens – that is, how people respond after seeing your message – it’s a more precise measure of how effective your email content is.

CTR, on the other hand, is a measure of the effectiveness of your subject line, your subscriber list hygiene and your brand’s relationship with subscribers. It lets you know how good your campaign is at getting attention and inspiring action.

Keep your marketing on track by regularly monitoring email analytics. For a thorough understanding of your email performance, use these two metrics in combination with other metrics like bounce rate and deliverability rate.

What is a good email click-through rate?

Once you know how to calculate click-through rates, the next thing to do is analyze how well you’re doing. Obviously, the higher the number the better. But what is a good email click-through rate?

There is no one answer to this question because rates vary widely by industry. According to recent email marketing statistics, the overall average email click-through rate is between 1% and 2%.

However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Average CTR varies by industry, region and the type of email being sent. A good click-through rate in the real estate industry might be cause for concern in the arts and entertainment industry.

Industry benchmarks

To get a sense of how your emails are performing, look at your industry averages and seek out email marketing benchmarks for reference.

If your email CTR has remained average or below average for some time, you may want to do some email optimization.

How can I improve my click-through rate?

If you want a higher click rate, start by looking at previous campaigns that delivered good results. Analyze key components like subject line, layout and CTA. See if there’s anything that stands out in what you’ve already done that you can replicate.

With each campaign, It’s also a good idea to review email marketing best practices. Here are some tips for boosting reader engagement.

1. Make your email subject lines stand out

Your first objective is to get recipients to open your email. That means distinguishing yourself from the many other messages vying for attention in their inbox. A bland subject line like “newsletter” won’t set you apart from the crowd and pique interest.

Make an impact by personalizing subject lines or using the few characters you have to tell a story, pose a question or promise results your subscribers will care about. For example, consider the subject lines below.

Email Subject Lines

In the first, healthcare appointment brand Zocdoc, cues up a story someone interested in wellness would want to read: “I Got Injured at the Gym So You Don’t Have to”. It uses a curious storytelling hook to compel subscribers to open and read more.

In the second, WordPress plugin MonsterInsights uses its subject line to create urgency: “Last Chance – Sale Ends Tonight!” It tells subscribers to act now or they’ll miss a great opportunity, and it uses an emoji to stand out in the inbox.

Both examples get to the point and give the reader a reason to keep reading.

2. Make your content scannable

Make it easy to take your message in at a glance. People tend to scan more than they read deeply online and the same is true for emails. They’re less likely to invest time in your content if your main points and offers are buried in big blocks of text.

To move subscribers to action, put your important content up front and use headings to help them see exactly what you want them to do. Add relevant images and make CTAs and links highly visible.

For instance, take a look at this email from Hawaiian tour guide app Shaka Guide. Clear headings and obvious links let readers know immediately what question or concern each section addresses.

Shaka Guide

3. Use a responsive design template

A lot of email opens happen on mobile devices, and if an email is hard to read, it’s not likely readers will stick with it until the CTA.

Make sure your email formatting stays intact with a responsive design template. Rather than just shrinking your email to fit a smaller screen, a responsive design automatically adjusts headings and images to look great across devices.

4. Focus your CTA

Each campaign or newsletter has a specific goal, such as to draw attention to an event or drive traffic to a landing page. What is it you want people to do with the information?

Giving readers too many links or CTAs waters down your message. Include a direct call to action that ties to your campaign goal and limit yourself to one or two links per message so subscribers have a clear path.

In the example below, PayPal uses a CTA button early on in the message and the same one below the message. Both lead to the landing page where readers can request a debit card.

Paypal Email CTA

5. Test, analyze and make changes

There is no one formula for the perfect marketing email. Results will vary based on audiences and industry, so it’s a good idea to test the effectiveness of your campaign before committing to it.

Conduct A/B testing on variables like subject line, CTA placement and format to see what appeals to your audience most. For instance, try two different subject lines with separate small groups of subscribers and see which performs best before committing to one for the larger group.

Getting a little more information before you hit send will help you find the right content to speak to your audience and get them to act.

Final thoughts

Successful email marketing campaigns are crucial to growing your customer base and boosting your conversion rate. Email click-through rates are one way of measuring success and helping you see where you can improve.

Used in combination with other metrics like click-to-open rate, conversion rate and unsubscribe rates, this metric can help you get a clear picture of what’s working. Understanding these measures will help you reach your target audience and better strategize to ultimately improve conversion rates.

Driving business growth