Email Marketing Metrics: Open Rate and CTR DON’T Matter!

Email Marketing Metrics: Open Rate and CTR DON’T Matter!
Heather Rubesch - Mon Jan 28, 2013 @ 09:18AM
Comments: 29


We are please to have a guest post today from Diane Vukovic.  She is a long-time blogger who tackles online marketing from a humanistic, not algorithmic, approach. When she’s not writing for or, she’s making delicious vegetarian food.


Mouse_Hand.pngThere are numerous email marketing metrics which you will need to look at to run an effective campaign, such as list size, subscribes, unsubscribes, and bounce rate, amongst others.  Of all the email marketing metrics though, novice marketers tend to put too much focus on just two of them: open rate and click through rate.  


While these two metrics are important, don’t make the mistake of just looking at them by themselves.


Problems with Open Rate and CTR

A high open rate likely means that your emails:

  • Are being sent on a good frequency (subscribers don’t forget you, but don’t get annoyed by you either)
  • Your subject lines are compelling
  • You aren’t getting caught by spam filters


A high click through rate means that your emails:

  • Have interesting content that subscribers want to read
  • Have content which compels readers to take action
  • Have clear calls to action


(Note: These are generalities.  There are numerous other factors which can influence open rate and CTR email metrics!)


Yes, you should be paying attention to these two email marketing metrics.  However, here are the problems with just looking at them by themselves: 

1) Open rate doesn’t tell you how many people actually read your email

2) People who didn’t open your emails can’t click on the emails, so this skews CTR

3) Open rate nor CTR tell you the level of engagement of your audience


Along Came Click-to-Open Rate

Many email marketing service providers now include click-to-open rate (CTO or CTOR) as one of their metrics. 


CTOR = Number of Clicks/Number of Opens


By looking at CTOR, email marketers can get unique, valuable information about how engaged your audience is.


Take this situation as an example:


A marketer sends out 1000 emails and 100 of them get opened (10% open rate, which is rather poor).  Out of the 1000 emails, 50 get clicked (5% CTR, which is also poor).  


Based on this information, the marketer might decide to change subject lines and frequency, and then experiment with new email designs and call-to-action placement.  However, if we look at click-to-open rate, then the marketer may decide on a very different strategy.


In this case, the click-to-open rate is 50%!  From this information, we can glean that most subscribers are NOT interested – but the subscribers who are interested are very active.  Instead of making drastic campaign changes, the marketer may instead want to:

  • Segment active subscribers in a separate group and continue marketing to them in the exact same way
  • Figure out where the active subscribers came from and work on getting more subscribers through these channels
  • Create a new group for the inactive subscribers and try to reengage them with new subject lines and content


Email Marketing Metrics Matter As a Whole

All email marketing metrics provide valuable insight into your campaign – but they must be looked at in relation to each other if you want to get value from them! This doesn’t just apply to open rates and click rates. You must also look at how your growth rate relates to unsubscribe rate, how unsubscribes are affecting open rate, and so on. Only then will you be able to get a holistic view of your email marketing campaign so you can make strategic decisions.




Tags: Guest Post
Comments: 29


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One of the most important thing is, "being sent on a good frequency (subscribers don’t forget you, but don’t get annoyed by you either)"
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