Is CTR dead? Why Email Marketers Are Chasing CTOR Instead

Since email marketing became a legitimate marketing channel in the 1990s, email marketers have largely measured their performance by two metrics: open rate and click rate.

The open rate measures the percentage of recipients who have opened your email. This is a great way to measure the performance of your subject line and preview. Your click-through rate (CTR) measures the percentage of recipients who clicked the links in your email versus the total number of subscribers who received the email.

This means that a low open rate can decrease your CTR, even if a large percentage of the recipients who opened your email clicked on your website. With that in mind, your CTR may not be your best indicator of engagement.

How exactly do you measure the actual engagement of your email campaigns? Cue the click-to-open rate or CTOR.

What is a click-to-open rate (CTOR)?

A click-to-open rate measures the percentage of unique recipients who clicked a link after opening your email. Most email marketers prefer to measure engagement using CTOR as this metric only takes into account the recipients who have opened and read their emails.

At HubSpot, our email marketing team measures their campaigns engagement against CTOR as this is a clear indicator of response.

“CTOR helps us understand and measure how our email messages and CTAs are being received and functioning by our audiences,” said Ari Echt-Wilson, Conversational Marketing Manager at HubSpot and former experimenter on the HubSpot Global Messaging team. “Since the only people who see the message are the ones who open the email, it makes sense for us to measure clicks by those who opened the email.”

How to calculate the CTOR

To calculate the click-to-open rate, the formula is simple: you first divide the number of unique clicks by the number of unique opens. Then multiply that number by 100. The answer is your CTOR.

CTOR formula

Let’s use an example: You send an email to 1,000 subscribers. Twenty subscribers open the email and there are a total of 15 clicks. How to find the CTOR: (15/20) x 100 = 75%. This would mean your CTOR is very high and the majority of the subscribers who opened the email are clicking the links.

When using this formula, it is important to only count unique openings and clicks. For example, when one of your subscribers opens your email in the morning and clicks on a link. Then later that night they return to the email and click on it again. You don’t want this subscriber to be counted twice as that would mess up the data. For this reason, the CTOR only needs to consider unique openings and clicks.

Now that you know how the CTOR is calculated, you may want to benchmark your own emails. A report from the Campaign Monitor 2020 found that the average click-through rate across all industries is 14.3%. Brands in the real estate, design and construction industries have the highest CTOR average at 17.7%. The same report shows that food and beverage brands have the lowest CTOR at 8.9%.

Use these numbers as a benchmark for your own campaigns.

CTR vs. CTOR: which one is better?

According to Echt-Wilson, CTOR is arguably the best metric for measuring the response to an email campaign. However, this rate can provide even more insight into your email marketing and help your team understand how to improve your campaigns.

“When an email never opens, it’s hard to understand how we can move the needle in terms of engagement,” said Tova Miller, senior marketing manager and former demand generation marketing manager at HubSpot.

However, click through rate is still a valuable metric, especially if you need a holistic view of your email’s performance.

“I look at CTR for a full understanding of the overall performance of my email,” said Jordan Pritikin, marketing manager for email and growth at HubSpot. “Since CTR takes into account deliverability, subject line performance, and email content performance, it’s a good metric if I want to take a quick look at the overall performance of my email.”

How to improve your CTOR

Whether you’ve been following your CTOR for a while or planning to start, there is always room for improvement. Here are some steps you can take to improve your CTOR:

1. Use the CTA buttons.

There are a few elements to a great email: great copies, enticing images, and compelling calls to action. And in an email full of text, button CTAs are great eye-catchers.

You can use text-based CTAs such as: B. “Click here for more information.” However, some data reports suggest that buttons can result in higher click-through rates. In an A / B test, Campaign Monitor increased conversions by 28% by using a button instead of a text link.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when using buttons:

  • Keep the prompt short: one to three words.
  • Use action-based verbs like “learn”, “discover”, “find” and “start”.
  • Place your CTA after the offer is presented, not before.

Finally, your CTA button should be prominent enough to stand out, but not big enough to detract from the overall user experience. If you’re not sure, do a squint test to make sure it’s just right.

2. Re-evaluate your offers.

One of the reasons your click-to-open rate may be low is because your offerings don’t align with your audience’s interests. You might find subscribers opening your email, but none of the links address them as you scroll.

There are a few ways to fix this:

  • Segment your email list – This way, you make sure you’re sending out emails that your subscribers are actually interested in. Your leads shouldn’t get the same emails as your customers. You are at different stages of the funnel and can have different motivations.
  • Send survey – If you’re unsure of what offers your audience wants to see, who better to ask than the source itself? You can also include link triggers in the email survey that can be used to segment subscribers based on their responses.

3. Stick to a CTA.

There are a few tactics you can use when emailing CTAs. Some brands prefer to use multiple CTAs in their emails so that subscribers can click on the ones they find most interesting. You will often see this in emails for retail offers. The idea is that more CTAs mean more opportunities to increase your click-through rate.

A disadvantage of this approach is selection overload. It happens when consumers struggle to make a decision because they are faced with too many options.

With that in mind, you should test a single CTA. If only one action is desired, you can increase your CTOR using this focused method.

Note, however, that this approach may not work for all campaigns. Experiment, A / B testing and adjust as needed.

Email marketing always adapts

Email marketing may be one of the most established marketing channels in the digital age, but it is constantly adapting. CTR has been the superior measure of engagement for most of email marketing history. However, the click rate to open it turns out to be much more revealing and revealing than that of the predecessor.

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