Measurable Email Metrics: Click-Throughs Versus Click-to-Open Rates
Understanding the critical components in a successful email marketing campaign may seem relatively straightforward: open rates and clicks, right? Well, not really. These rudimentary metrics can give you an idea about how your campaigns are doing directionally, but they don't provide the nuanced results that allow you to gain the deep insights needed to truly optimize your email campaigns.
Email marketing is very much an art and a science: art in designing the right ratio of graphics to words, and science in determining everything from which size font causes people to click on a button to the exact placement of that button within the context of the email as a whole.
Don't get intimidated, though! While you can dig deep into these detailed findings as you expand your knowledge, the first few steps to campaign optimization are relatively straightforward and can be enhanced by reviewing the difference between click-through rates and click-to-open rates.
What's a Good Email Open Rate?
This perennial question is one that keeps marketers up at night and leaves business leaders scratching their heads. The truth is that all email marketing metrics are variable based on several different items: the size and make-up of your list, the message, your industry, and even how often you're sending messages. Comparing your campaign to another one sent from your organization can be tough enough. When you add in all of the other variables, it can be difficult to even draw comparisons. However, there are some generally accepted email open rates for small to mid-size businesses listed by industry:
18.48% Beauty and Personal Care
20.97% Business and Finance
22.41% Creative Services / Agency
21.93% Health and Fitness
22.14% Media and Publishing
20.84% Real Estate
17.26% Vitamin Supplements
You'll see that the majority of email open rates linger right around the 20% mark, give or take a few percentage points. If your campaigns are in this range, great! You're definitely doing something right. However, keep in mind that these are averages from hundreds of companies, so your results can vary quite significantly.
Now, some organizations stop when they hit an exceptional open rate. But you're going to keep pushing for more optimization, aren't you!? Stop pushing and exploring new options, and you'll fall below the curve quickly.
Clicks and Click-to-Open Rate
Clicks, or Click-Through Rate (CTR), is perhaps one of the least understood metrics in email marketing. Not only is it judged more harshly than the open rate (which is often a falsely inflated number due to opens triggered by scrolling through Outlook), but it often causes business leaders to ask the questions that all marketers dread: "How did you have 100 people click on the ad, but only one person completed a purchase?"
While you're groaning and rolling your eyes about having to explain this issue yet again, consider changing up your metrics to provide a more accurate measure of success (or not!). Utilizing Click-to-Open (CTOR) rate as your success metric, together with the overall open rate, can provide you with an easy way to refine your messaging during A/B testing.
The subject line and preheader may actually muddy the metrics water around whether the content of the email is intriguing enough to cause a purchase action. Fortunately, the CTOR negates that activity by only showing the actions taken by individuals who have already opened the email. For instance, consider this simplistic A/B test:
Email A: 1,000 delivered emails with 100 opens and 50 clicks
Email B: 1,000 delivered emails with 500 opens and 100 clicks
Initially, you would think "Wow, Email B really killed it! Let's stick with that body messaging"—but you would be wrong. Look at the percentages before you make a snap judgment: Email A has a 50% CTOR, while Email B has a measly 20% click to open rate! This is a very significant difference in quality of the body message and means that you could potentially be losing a significant portion of your sales should you decide to scale Email B instead of Email A.
It also indicates that there's a mismatch in the subject line, preheader, "from" field, or timing for Email A that needs to be addressed before you move forward with a full campaign. This quick example really illustrates the value of continuous testing for email marketers.
Just Pick One?
Unfortunately, there isn't a single metric that tells you everything that you need to know about the efficacy of your email marketing campaign. While that would be nice, it's simply not realistic!
The good news is that these two metrics together, along with open rate, can provide you with a high-level understanding of how well your email marketing campaign delivered. The true value is found by taking the time to analyze each email send and make incremental improvements based on your learnings—every time an email leaves your building. This strict adherence to testing and creating iterations offers the dedicated email marketers with access to the holy grail: increased sales and customer engagement.
Email marketing results vary from incredibly subtle and difficult-to-discern to in-your-face crude numbers that leave little room for interpretation. The good news is that you shouldn't feel alone in interpreting the results. We are always looking for ways to optimize digital marketing and lead generation, and our professionals are happy to work with you to refine your messaging and improve your email marketing outcomes. Give us a call, today, at 800-790-6638, or fill out our quick online contact form.