Email marketing metrics 101: click-through rate

Click-through rate.

Just what is it, how do you measure it, and why does it matter so much in email marketing?

Click-through rate seems—on the surface—to be the simplest of metrics to understand. It’s how many people clicked on a link in your email marketing message.

However, there are a few subtleties worth discussing, including two distinct versions of click-through rate: TCTR and UCTR.

Click-through Rate: TCTR

TCTR is the total click-through rate, or the total number of clicks an email marketing message’s links received as a percentage of subscribers.

This tells you how popular the content in your email message is. 

TCTR is subject to a certain amount of noise, however. Things that can influence TCTR include:

  • People opening the email and clicking through on more than one device.
  • People sharing a link socially from your email.
  • Search engines indexing the view-in-browser version of your email and auto-clicking through all the links.
  • Firewalls (especially for B2B subscribers) that automatically follow each link to verify the email contains no spyware or malware.
  • People clicking on lots of links in your message repeatedly.

Click-through Rate: UCTR

UCTR is the unique click-through rate, or the number of unique clicks an email marketing message’s links receive as a percentage of subscribers.

If you opened an email on your phone, clicked a link, then opened it later on your desktop and clicked the same link, your contribution to the TCTR would be 2. But your contribution to the UCTR would be 1 because you’re one unique individual.

If you opened the email later and clicked on the same link 3 more times, your contribution to the TCTR would be 5… but to the UCTR still just 1.

Which Click-through Rate is More Important?

Neither clickthrough rate is more important than the other. They both have their uses.

TCTR can give you a sense of how popular the links are in your content. If TCTR matches UCTR 1:1, it can sometimes mean no one’s coming back to your newsletter later to re-click or share your content.

UCTR gives you a clean number of how many unique clicks were obtained without all the noise and confusion of TCTR. That’s why many ESPs, including WhatCounts, use UCTR to calculate clickthrough rates.

Click-to-Open Rate

The final computation that matters when it comes to clickthrough rates is CTOR—Click to Open Rate.

When we talk about clickthrough rates, we’re generally speaking about clicks as a percentage of all subscribers. This can be misleading, especially if there’ve been significant changes in the list’s composition since previous sends.

CTOR gives you a rate of how many clicks there were as a percentage of opens.

Say you have a list of 100,000 subscribers. You send them a message, and 10,000 subscribers open the message. Of that, 1,000 of the openers click a link.

Your open rate is 10%.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll use UCTR for the clickthrough rate, which means you have a UCTR of 1% (10% of 10%). Your CTOR is 10%. So far, so good.

Now say you run a massive Google AdWords campaign and attract 50,000 people to your list in a month, but they’re all barely-interested subscribers who were just subscribing for a coupon or a special offer.

You send to your list and NONE of the new people bother opening your message. Your core of 10,000 from your original list DOES open, though. Your open rate now drops to 6.67%. Of those, the same 1,000 click on stuff in your message.

Your UCTR is now an appallingly bad .667%. However, your CTOR remains the same – 10%.

If you just relied on open rate and UCTR, you might think your email marketing program is suddenly failing, losing 33% of its performance from one send to the next. But the reality is the core of your list—AKA your fans—are still behaving the same.

Instead, you now know that your AdWords campaign was a colossal waste of money because those subscribers aren’t doing anything. However, the heart and soul of your email marketing is still strong.

Conclusion: The Big Picture

These definitions and examples should help you understand the value of measuring your clickthrough rate. It’s important to examine all your click-through rate metrics in context, as a part of the bigger picture of your email marketing program.

And a note of advice: ignore industry averages. They’re worthless.

Instead, focus on improving your click-through rate and click to open rate in every email you send, so your email marketing program is constantly improving. That’s the only set of measurements that truly matter.

If you’d like an analysis on your email marketing program’s click-through rate and other metrics, our team of experts have over 15 years of experience in the industry. They know email marketing reporting like it ain’t no thing. Reach out with your questions.

Schedule a demo with WhatCounts Email Service Provider (ESP).

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