Silverpop - Click-to-Open Rate: Are You Using This Gem of a Metric?
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Click-to-Open Rate: Are You Using This Gem of a Metric?

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
27 August 2012

Email marketing metrics can serve several purposes for the marketer. They can convey how a specific message or series performed, how your program fared compared to competitors, uncover issues or confirm success.

One of my favorite metrics excels as a diagnostic tool: the click-to-open-rate (CTOR), also known as the "effective rate." It measures how effectively the content, design and offers in your message are driving recipient clicks. To calculate the CTOR on an email message, divide the number of unique clicks by unique opens.

The open and click-through rates get all the metric-reporting glory, but the CTOR may actually be a more valuable metric, because it allows you to better segregate aspects of your email message performance and to diagnose issues and success factors.

In contrast, the open rate measures recipient recognition and trust of your “From” name and success of the subject line, while the click-through rate simply measures the total number of clicks. Neither addresses email effectiveness like the CTOR.

In our recent Metrics Benchmark Study, we identified the average CTOR at 19.3 percent, meaning one recipient in five clicked on the email after opening. (Get the latest 2015 benchmark study.) However, the top-performing quartile of marketers achieved a CTOR of 40 percent, or two in five.

In basic terms, an average message sent to 100 recipients receives 20 opens, and about four of those openers then click at least once. By comparison, top performers might receive 40 opens, with about 16 of those openers going on to click inside the message.

While the "From" name and subject line have an impact on the willingness of recipients to click on your message, the nature of the CTOR minimizes this influence.

As a result, the CTOR lets you analyze, benchmark and diagnose design and content issues regardless of other messages' open and click-through rates. You can simply ask, "Did the message effectively drive a high percentage of openers to click through?"

How to Use the CTOR
Here are a few suggestions for using our benchmark numbers and your own click-to-open rates:

  • Measure several messages – but be sure to remove any bias by categorizing them by type of message.
  • Establish your average rate for each message type.
  • Benchmark against the Silverpop averages and top-quartile metrics overall and by industry.
  • Analyze your actual clicks per link in several messages. Establish any patterns and trends for which types of links (e.g., CTA buttons, product photos or text links), location, design, etc. drive higher click-through rates than others.
  • Use the link analysis combined with the overall CTOR to make assumptions about content, layout and offers that drive the highest engagement consistently.
  • Develop an ongoing testing and optimization program to refine your messages continually and to increase clicks and conversions steadily.

More Resources on the CTOR
If you're curious to see how your email program stacks up against your industry peers, check out the sources below:

Got any questions about the CTOR or examples of how you’ve used the metric to diagnose and improve your email program? Please send me a note @LorenMcDonald.


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