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Click-through rate (CTR): The most important email marketing metric ever

When evaluating the success of an email marketing strategy, there is a lot to consider.


We’ve looked at click rates, open rates, conversions, average revenue per email sent (ARPES), and even ROI at length already. These metrics are each, in their own little way, extremely important in helping us understand how well our email marketing campaigns are performing.

But, there is one metric that looms large above all others and looks down upon email marketing’s lesser metrics with utter disdain: The click-through rate (CTR).

When crafting a marketing email campaign, it is important to be aware of brand voice and the psychology of branding. After all, every impression matters and impressing consumers with a brand’s message has been the main focus of advertising for centuries. However, one of the most amazing benefits of digital advertising (and email marketing in particular) is that it presents brands and marketers with the opportunity to transcend that traditional advertising dynamic. Digital technologies like email allow brands to engage consumers and move them along the sales funnel in mere seconds.

If a marketing email really does its job properly, this engagement can be a smooth and seamless process that traditional, offline advertising could never hope to match. It’s the key reason that email marketing’s famously high ROI exists. A consumer who sees a marketing email can be moved toward purchase where they are, in real time, with relative ease.

But this can only happen if a marketing email’s recipient decides to “click-through” to the next stage of the sales process. The rate at which a campaign’s recipients do this is called the “click-through rate”.

So what is a click-through rate and how is it measured?

Click-through rate (CTR): The most important email marketing metric ever

What it is

Click-through rate (CTR) is a measurement of how frequently people who see a digital advertisement wind up clicking on the link attached to said advertisement. Unlike many of the other metrics that we have discussed, CTR is not strictly an email marketing metric and can be applied to almost any form of digital advertising.

CTR is calculated by dividing the total number of users who click on one or more of the links included in a digital ad by the total number of impressions that ad generated, then multiplying the resulting number by 100.

Click through rate: the most important email marketing metric ever

For the purposes of email marketing, “impressions” can simply be replaced with “recipients”, and the rest of the equation remains the same. The total number of persons who clicked on one or more of the links included in a marketing email is divided by the total number of persons that the email was sent to. Once again the resulting number is multiplied by 100.

What it tells us

Measuring the CTR of an email marketing campaign gives us a clear indication of how effective our campaign has been in generating subscriber interest and moving recipients down the sales funnel toward making a purchase or otherwise becoming a conversion.

Unlike measuring the conversions or ROI that a campaign generates (which do not differentiate between sales/conversions lost after a subscriber has clicked through to a website) CTR provides insight into not only the marketing email itself but also into the effectiveness of the website that subscribers are directed to when they click.

This distinction is important, because even if we produce the greatest email marketing campaign in the history of email, if the website those who click wind up on sucks, they are unlikely to wind up making a purchase. Such lost conversions and revenue may not reflect in any way upon the marketing email we are measuring.

CTR offers a window into exactly how well a marketing email is accomplishing its goal of moving subscribers onto a website where they can make a purchase. From there, it is the website’s job to close the sale. If the website can’t do that, it isn’t the email’s fault.

How much CTR is a good amount of CTR?

Like many of the metrics we have discussed previously, CTR can vary widely from industry to industry.

This means that determining a good benchmark for CTR success is most effectively done by comparing the performance of a campaign against previous campaigns from the same company. If a campaign generates a strong CTR when compared with a company’s previous campaigns, it can be considered a CTR success. If the campaign’s CTR is markedly lower than that of previous campaigns, it may be time to reconsider your approach.

Not convinced? Maybe you’d prefer ROI: The most important email marketing metric ever!

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