It’s really important to understand what is a click-through rate, what is a good click-through rate, and why you need to monitor your own email click-through rate (also expressed as “CTR”). Click-through rate and open rate are the two metrics that are the twin canaries in the coal mine when it comes to email deliverability. When you monitor these two rates, you can be tipped off to deliverability issues that are brewing and nip them in the bud before they become serious problems, such as your email going to the spam folder or being rejected or blocked. (And this is why it is still important to monitor your open rates despite what some others may say.)

What is a Click-Through Rate with Respect to Email?

Click-through rate is a measure of how many people click on the links in an email. The ability to track and monitor click-through rate is built in to nearly all Email Service Provides (ESPs), as well as in many self-hosted email sending packages. This is because it is an incredibly important metric for at least two reasons.

Click-Through Rate is Important to Your ROI and Bottom Line

Your click-through rate is directly tied to your ROI and bottom line: if the people to whom you are sending email aren’t clicking on your links that means that they also aren’t purchasing from you or taking whatever other action you want them to take. You need to know whether they are clicking on your links and, if they are but they are still not buying, then you know it’s something else that’s the issue, such as the copy on the website page to which the link takes them. On the other hand, if they aren’t clicking on your links in your email then you know you have a different problem, which could be the copy in your email isn’t compelling, or it could mean they aren’t seeing your email at all, which brings us to the second reason that it’s so important to monitor your click-through rates.

Your Click-Through Rates are Monitored by Inbox Providers

In the receiving world (inbox providers, webmail providers, and ISPs) your click-through rate is part of your engagement rate that the email receiving systems monitor and analyze in order to determine whether the email that you are sending to the users of their system is actually email that people want. If you have good engagement (the canary twins of open rate and click-through rate) then that signals that people want your email and so your email will continue to be delivered to the inbox. But if your engagement rate is poor, you are more likely to end up in the spam folder. If you have decent engagement rates, but they start to slide, that is a warning to you that something is amiss, and you need to figure out what it is before it becomes a problem.

How is Click-Through Rate Calculated?

Your email click-through rate is calculated as the percentage of people who click a link that is contained in the email that you send. It is measured on a per-send basis. So, for example, let’s say that you have a mailing list of 100 people (nice, round numbers make it easy). If you send an email to your mailing list on Monday and 10 people click on the link in the email, and you send another email to your mailing list on Thursday, and 3 people click on the link in the Thursday email, your Thursday email has a click-through rate of 3%, and your Monday email has a click-through rate of 10%

What is a Good Click-Through Rate?

If you aren’t tracking your click-through rate, you may be thinking right about now “Shyeah – way more people than 10% click on my mailings.” And you’d probably be wrong. In fact, we wouldn’t bet on it being higher than 1%, and if you don’t know for certain, neither should you. It’s too useful a metric to take for granted, and too easily determined to take a chance on just guessing.

And remember that even if you aren’t monitoring your click-through rate, the inbox providers and ISPs are. The average click-through rate across all industries is between 3% and 5%. Of course that’s a gross generalization, and click-through rate is highly dependent on several factors. For a breakdown on average open and click-through rates by industry, see Campaign Monitor’s excellent report on Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022. The important point for you to know is that if your click-through rate averages below 2% you are heading into deliverability issue territory and are at risk for being spam-foldered.

So, in fact, it turns out that CTR is a good predictor of the future of your deliverability, and if you don’t have a sense of your click-through rate, well, you should. It’s one way to have your finger on the pulse of the success of your email campaigns.

As we mentioned above, if people are not clicking through the links in your email, that means one of two things – either they are not even opening your email (see, again, why your open rates are important), or it means that they are opening your email (whew!) but they find nothing in it compelling enough for them to click on your links.

Of the two, open rate is the more critical one, but, again, click-through rate is a good leading indicator of the direction of your deliverability. The good news is that if your CTR is low, but your open rate is not (yet) low, then the low CTR is a wake-up call – one you should appreciate, and one you should heed. Because a low CTR almost certainly means that your email deliverability is going to head south. But you have had a warning, and you can do something about it.

Now, that ‘something’ that you need to do about it will be very fact and context specific. It may be that you need more enticing creative. It may be that you need better offers. Or a fatter incentive. That’s something that only you can determine. Similarly, “what is a good click-through rate” will depend greatly on what you are sending, to whom, and about what.

But the one thing that is universal is this: if your CTR isn’t where you think it should be, and especially if it’s falling, listen to that wakeup call, and be thankful for it.

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