When we send emails to customers, our main goal is not for them to simply open the email, but to read it in its entirety and engage with our business. For this, we need to make sure we’re using good, clear subject lines, that our content is engaging, and that customers can comfortably read the email, whether on their desktop or mobile device.

One of the great things email marketing is that you can get all kinds of data and insights about your customers through email reports. Every campaign you send has the ability to provide certain nuggets of data — or email marketing metrics — that tell you how effective your email was at meeting your business goals.

One of these metrics is the click-to-open rate, or CTOR. A CTOR is one way to look at the actual clicks that come from your emails — and clicks are important as the first step in driving valuable actions for your business. In this article, we’ll explain what CTOR is, how it interacts with some of the other data in email reporting, and how you can use this data to improve your campaigns.

What is CTOR?

CTOR stands for “click-to-open rate.” It’s the percentage of people who opened your email who then clicked a link within that email.

You can calculate CTOR by dividing your unique email opens by your unique email clicks and multiplying by 100. So let’s say you send an email to 100 people and 10 of them open it. Of those 10, 5 click a link in the email. That means your CTOR for that email is 50%.

Here are a couple of top questions we frequently get asked about CTORs:

What is a good CTOR?

A “good” CTOR will depend on your unique subscriber list and your goals, but as a benchmark, the average CTOR for all industries as of June 2021 is around 11%. However, these numbers will likely shift drastically in the fall of 2021, as open rate data becomes less reliable (more on that in the next section).

The best way to set a CTOR goal is to self-benchmark. You can track your CTOR for each campaign type over time. For example, track your CTOR for newsletters, drip campaigns, promotional campaigns, transactional emails, each email in an automation series, and so on. By identifying the best and worst-performing campaigns, you can determine an acceptable range for CTOR for your business, and then set improvement goals through content and creative optimizations.

Whats the difference between open rate and click-to-open rate

Open rate is simply the percentage of email recipients who open your email, regardless of if they take any further action. Click-to-open rate measure the percentage of those people who actually then click something within your email.

Why you shouldn’t rely on open rate and click-to-open rate alone

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that as of September 2021, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature has made email open data unreliable. With Mail Privacy Protection enabled, marketers are no longer able to know if Apple Mail users opened their email or not, and Apple Mail users currently account for approximately 52 percent of email opens.

Unreliable open rates mean unreliable click-to-open rates. So take your CTOR with a grain of salt. Most other email metrics that don’t depend on opens will still be useful, like click rate, which is a simple measure of the percentage of email recipients who clicked your email. Speaking of other metrics, let’s take a quick look at other things you can look at alongside CTOR to get a clear idea of your campaign performance.

Other metrics to paint the full picture

You need to know which metrics will help you create a perfect email marketing strategy. These aren’t the only indicators of optimal email performance, but they’re a good start:

Total sent: The total number of emails sent to your contacts.

Email Open rate: The percentage of recipients who opened your emails.

Click-through rate: The percentage of recipients who clicked a link within your email.

Email Conversion rate: The percentage of recipients who followed through the action toward which your email pointed. For example, if the goal of your email is for customers to download a free eBook, the percentage of downloads will create your conversion rate.

Bounce rate: The percentage of emails that didn’t make it to the intended recipient’s inbox.

Unsubscribe/Opt-out rate: When one of your subscribers no longer wants to receive your emails, so they remove themselves from your list.

Together these email marketing metrics tell the story behind your email, and answer the  question: “Do my customers care about what I’m sending in my email marketing campaigns?”

What CTOR can tell you about your email marketing

CTOR measures how relevant the content of your email is to those who open it.

Remember — CTOR differs from the click-through rates (CTR) in that the CTOR is based on the number of people who opened your email, rather than your entire recipient list.

You can monitor your CTOR to see whether your content actually resonates with your email subscribers. Even if CTOR is not perfect, it’s better than only tracking opens or CTR, because it adds context that helps you understand the level of engagement in your list, and it can help guide your content decisions.

Tips to improve your CTOR

Now that you understand click-to-open rate and why it’s an important metric, here are a few tips on how to make your marketing emails more engaging:

1. Keep it concise

Your audience won’t always have the time to read your entire email. A newsletter that’s two lines long can be just as effective as one that’s 6,000 words long, if not more effective. Make sure your content is high quality and highly valuable, to keep customers engaged in what you’re sending.

People read online content, like your emails, differently than books or magazines. Structure your email in easy-to-read chunks, put the most important piece of information first, use an image to grab their attention, and include valuable links to more content.

2. Focus on the customer

It’s important to remember that different customers have different needs. Segmenting your email list allows you to put together lists of people who share the same interests. By taking this extra step, you’ll be able to send targeted content that is even more valuable to each of your groups of customers maximizing the effect of your email marketing efforts.

When you’re dividing your audience into segments, make sure to remember the stage of their customer lifecycle, whether they’re a new customer or one who left something in their cart. A little extra effort when segmenting can go a long way.

3. Use dynamic content

Make sure your readers see the information that is most important to them by using dynamic content. Using the details you have collected about your recipient, you can display the right content for their interests. You can swap out images, call-to-action buttons or even whole sections of text to align with the individual looking at the email. The more the content resonates with your reader, the more likely they are to click through.

4. Have one clear call-to-action (CTA)

Customers get really confused when an email links to multiple things. Do you want them to download your eBook or check out the interesting video? Subscribe to your blog or follow you on social media?

It helps if your CTA buttons all are working towards the same goal, like driving traffic to your website or asking readers to download your eBook, but avoid pushing customers to both at one time. Asking customers to complete multiple actions will only reduce clicks.

5. Review your results

When you are analyzing your email campaign metrics, CTOR is one way to gauge how effective or valuable your email content appears to customers. If you see high open rates, but low CTOR rates, this indicates that you nailed the subject line, but left more to be desired on your offer or the copy within your email.

However, tracking the other metrics as well helps to find a balance between a perfect email open rate and click-to-open rate. Each metric has merit, so strive for both.

Is email marketing really worth your time?

To really be in control of your marketing, it’s crucial that you know how to interpret the results of your email campaigns.

Constant Contact provides easy-to-read reports and email metrics that help you track your marketing success in real-time.

Start by taking a look at the open rates and click-through rates of your latest email campaigns. Then, compare your results with averages in your industry. Constant Contact Industry Average Benchmarking Report makes it easy for you to see how your campaigns stack up against others in your industry in terms of overall email engagement.

Use smart marketing metrics to guide your email marketing strategy

Email metrics are essential to make sure you’re on track towards the goals you’ve set. Use your email insights and reporting to know what’s working well and what needs improvement. Remember, your emails and subscribers aren’t static, so keep experimenting to find what works best. Knowing what works and what saves time, effort, and money in the future, so get excited about email metrics that guide your way to successful email marketing!