The humble email remains a cornerstone of any marketing strategy. Tried and tested, but also improving all the time, a good subscriber list and quality content direct to these inboxes can be one of the most effective ways of driving your audience to action. To make sure you’re getting the best out of your email campaigns, you should always be tracking and comparing your own key performance indicators (KPIs) against each other, as well as against competitors and industry at large – and one of the most important of these metrics is click-through rate (CTR). In this article, we’ll explore key ways to boost your email CTR.
What is email CTR and how do I calculate it?
Let’s start at the beginning. It may seem obvious to state that click-through rate or click rate is how many people clicked a link in your email, but it’s important to understand what it is, how to calculate it, and what this actually means as far as your email performance (and later, the all important ‘how to improve it’).
When prioritizing your email marketing metrics, CTR should always be in the mix – see must-haves in this guide to email marketing KPIs.
Typically, CTR will be spoken of as a percentage. To calculate it, divide the number of people who clicked at least one link in your email by the total amount of emails delivered. Then multiply this number by 100 to make your percentage. (Note that it is the total emails delivered, not the emails opened. For that, Mailtrap also has a handy guide to calculating your open rate.)
What’s the average CTR?
Now you know your rate, but what constitutes a good CTR, you may ask? It differs between industries and across devices, and it will also depend on knowing the regions you’re targeting.
According to Campaign Monitor, the average click-through rate across all industries in 2020 was 2.6%. MailChimp turns out a similar figure, by analysing their own data – which comes from small businesses as well as established corporates – and putting the average CTR across all industries at 2.62%.
Generally, both reports conclude that higher CTR belong to sectors such as government and politics as well as the broad category ‘hobbies’. Conversely, food and beverage and retail tend to come at the lower end of averages.
We also know that a user’s behavior on mobile and desktop are different, and the way your audience consumes your content is an important factor in how much they engage and click. Interestingly, many reports point to a higher CTR from desktops than from mobiles. An analysis by Super Office puts desktop CTR at a massive 72% of all email click-throughs, compared to 19% on mobile and just 9% on tablets. Considering this, it’s worth keeping in mind how your audience is reading your emails and planning content accordingly.
Now you’ve got the background, it’s time to think about applying this to your own email marketing. We’ll take it in steps.
1. How should I prepare to send out a campaign?
Control your email list
You won’t get very far without a subscriber list, so this is the first thing to get under control (or build up if you’re just starting out). For recipients that are active, try sending them friend referral offers to keep them engaged and further build your list. As good practice, remember to systematically remove dormant subscribers. You may choose to give them a final reminder, but if they’re not interested, don’t hang on for the sake of numbers – it will give you inaccurate figures and pull down your CTR and open rates.
Perfect your opt-in offer
What you want is a subscriber’s email address, but in return, you need to offer them something. This isn’t just about including a ‘subscribe’ pop-up on your landing page. An effective approach can be to offer a new-subscriber discount on a purchase, exclusive content, early booking to events – whatever works for your brand.
Essentially segmentation is what it says on the tin: dividing your subscribers into groups based on common characteristics. The criteria is defined by your brand’s needs, and effective segmentation will lay the foundation for personalization down the track. Start with the basics, like age, gender and geography, but over time make sure you take your segmentation beyond this. What do they like to do on weekends? Do they drive or get public transport to work? The deeper you go, the more relevant you’ll be able to make your content.
2. What should I check before sending?
There are several key things to check in your HTML formatting – check all your links are there, check none are broken and that all sharing buttons are working. Also do a sight check for image distortion or any design formatting that’s gone rogue. Consider including a web-based version, so if anyone does have trouble viewing your email, it’s not an instant delete.
All the design in the world doesn’t make up for sub-par content. In fact, design should enhance already strong content, not carry something that’s just so-so. It also can’t compensate for blatant mistakes: so, proofread!
We know that sometimes emails end up in junk folders – it’s for this reason that we talk about email deliverability, sometimes also called inbox placement. There are tools available on most of the popular email sending platforms, which will give you a deliverability score based on the quality of your content, your reputation as a sender and authentications. Handily, these kinds of tools also give you tips to improve.
3. I’ve sent out my campaign. Now, how can I improve my email CTR?
It’s important to have good content, but it’s equally important that your content is on show in the best way possible. Make your emails skim-able, but engaging. Judge where to put detail, and use headings and bullet points cleverly: lead your readers to follow your links.
Your subject line matters. It needs to communicate what your email contains as well as why your recipient is going to get value from it. It can be tricky to toe the line between clear and interesting, without overpromising, but the best-performing emails do it well. You could also try asking a quippy question. For example: ‘Long day? We have three before-bed products that can help’.
And lastly, test your email subject lines! Most email marketing tools will allow you to split test your emails – in other words, send two versions out and compare which subject line results in more opens, more click-throughs and less unsubscribes. You’ll get better and better at knowing what resonates with your audience as a result.
Email personalization is something that started and never stopped, and the reason for that is that it works. Why? Personalized marketing stands out more and personalized emails are more likely to generate click-throughs. Once you have your list segmentation set up (as discussed earlier), it’s easy to tweak messaging for your different groups and make sure you’re catching their eyes. Personalized emails will definitely increase your chances to get a higher conversion rate.
An oft overlooked feature, the preview text (sometimes referred to as pre-header text) plays a key part in getting your email opened. After seeing the subject line and the sender, this is the next thing your email recipient sees. It should support your subject line (not repeat it) and is also a good way to include some additional keywords, a call to action or expand on personalization.
Recent data suggests sending one email a week achieves the highest CTR on average. This is also the most popular approach – with 49% of the businesses analysed in this report opting for one newsletter a week. Once you’ve been tracking trends on your own emails, start looking for the times of day when the CTR is high compared to open rates, rather than necessarily when both are high (this will separate your active customers from idle readers).
Your email campaigns shouldn’t feel separate from your other marketing collateral, so try to keep any visual elements unique and on-brand. For inspiration, look at which trends are cropping up in email marketing campaigns. It’s also become a must-have to consider accessibility so, as discussed earlier, make sure your email template is responsive for different devices as well as for both plain text formatting and HTML.
Your calls to action are where you’re going to drive your CTR and ultimately convert your audience – whether the aim is for social media following, getting in touch with your brand, or buying something. These should be visible, intriguing, and clearly communicate what the reader is going to get by clicking. Again, try different approaches and compare which seem to yield better results – over time, you’ll know exactly what works.
And that’s it. We know, there’s plenty to consider when it comes to perfecting your email CTR game. But if you plan it well, keep track of your findings, and keep on with incremental improvements, you’ll start to see results.