Jun 19, 2018

7 Ways to Boost Your Email Marketing CTRs

by Digital Marketing Institute

Email is one of the simplest and most effective ways to connect with your current and potential customers. No matter who you’re reaching out to, you only have seconds to capture their attention of the reader in what is most likely a busy inbox.

Well, therein lies the challenge. In this blog, we outline a few strategies that can take your email campaigns from good to great without much detailed technical knowledge. If your overall Click Through Rate (CTR) is low, you’ve got a problem; the good news is that sometimes all you need are some small tweaks to boost it. 

What’s the Ideal CTR Rate?

Before we talk about how to improve your rate, first it’s important to get a sense of where your current ones stand in the context of your industry, business or product. Some suggest that 10% or higher is a decent number to aim for. This handy comparison chart from Constant Contact can help give you a sense of the best rate for your industry. You should also be able to find information on your CTR via your email provider.

If you’re looking to boost your CTR - which is always a good goal, no matter where you’re at with it - here are some tips for creating awesome emails that will bring more traffic to your website and boost sales.

1. The Opt-In

Setting up your marketing strategy to encourage people to actually give you their emails is really the first step in lead-generation at the top of the sales funnel. You can choose to lead with a single or a double opt-in. A single opt-in is usually just an email address submission without a confirmation, and a double opt-in refers to the type of signup where there is a confirmation email following the initial sign-up.

A single opt-in is more immediate and direct, but you may also end up with plenty of fake and incorrect emails on your list, which is a waste of everyone’s time. Using a double opt-in option will prevent this as well as re-confirm the user’s interest in joining your list. It can also protect you from spam. You can also use tools like Optin Monster to set up subscription forms and build campaigns.

2. User Experience (UX)

You know your own inbox is too full, right? Don’t you get annoyed at all the “extra” stuff it seems to be stuffed with each morning? You have to assume that your own experience is not much different than that of your clients or customers, at least, in a general sense. Hence the need to focus on UX (user experience) when you’re doing any type of digital marketing. This basically means that you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and be sure to offer something of value every single time, rather than stuffing their mailbox with junk mail.

3. The Subject Line

Subject lines, like any headline, matter more than they ever did before, because of the attention span of the average Internet user these days. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened. If you visualize a user, which may be yourself, scrolling through your Facebook feed, for instance, you know that it’s only a matter of seconds that leads you to click on a certain headline versus another.

Subject lines, like headlines, are the first people that people glance at as their going through their inbox in the morning. This is the hook that’s going to get them to open the email; or not. Thus, it is the first step in determining your CTR. You have approximately two seconds to hook the reader. How do you do this? You demonstrate clear value in a concise way. You need to address a pain point, spark an interest, make them feel something, in the space of about five words.

Open rates will rely on the type of value you express in that first few seconds. And doing this well will improve your brand recognition as well. Here are some basic suggestions for creating eye-catching subject lines: 

  • Customize – create a buyer persona
  • Create urgency – highlight an offer that is time-sensitive or scarce
  • Query – ask a question
  • Be concise – especially for mobiles where space is limited
  • Incentivize – make them an offer they can’t refuse (to be curious about) 
7 Ways to Boost Your Email Marketing CTRs

4. Layout and Design

The first thing you need to remember when you’re working with emails is that mobile can still be a bit finicky when it comes to UX. This means that having a mobile-friendly website and email setup is essential. The problem is that many email programs that offer a mobile-friendly setup may not actually be that functional on mobile in that some components of the email, like buttons, don’t adjust properly to fit the screen.

Another thing that you’ll want to consider when it comes to layout is having colorful, easy-to-see HTML buttons as your call to action. It’s as simple as drawing the eye to an offer, an interesting article or sale. You will want to play around with the size of these kinds of visuals in relation to the text, both in size and in placement. Any visual has the potential to pique a person’s interest, or do the opposite, so be sure always to have a few versions to test. 

5. Segmentation

Depending on how you’ve actually built your email list in the first place, your product and other factors, generally, you can’t assume that a generic Email “blast” is going to be an effective way to reach every corner of your audience. That’s why most email programs have a segmentation option, which may be based on factors such as: 

  • Demographics
  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Date subscribed
  • Interest group

This is all about targeting your market. According to a MailChimp study, segmented campaigns average an open rate that is over 14% higher than non-segmented campaigns. It may feel like second-nature to keep a close eye on your most-engaged set of followers, but what you should be doing is the opposite; tracking the behavior of your least interested segment, including keeping an eye on the unsubscribe rate. Generally, the low end of unsubscribe rates fall in the area of 0.2-0.3 %, and this varies according to the industry. 

6. Get Creative about Testing

There are so many variables that can affect your open rates, which is what makes this all more of an art form than a science. Of course, you’ll always be drawing on data to help you define and refine your strategy, but there are some things that you can consider as you do so.

First, you will want to position your offer. Is it at the top? The bottom? Is it in a bold color? Is it tied to an interesting article? You will want to consider how many times you are sending the same email for the same offer, or switch it around to promote different items at different times. If you start with a lower discount offer and don’t see an increase in the click-through rate, for instance, you can make a point of highlighting the higher discount in the next email.

Other examples of things to try during testing include dividing your list in half and a/b testing different subject lines, sending at different times of day, experiment with urgency indicators in subject lines, being slightly vague in the subject lines, varying your signoff strategy, using statements versus questions, and experimenting with layout.

7. Make it Action-Oriented

Any good content marketing strategist will know that in order to have an effective marketing campaign, you need to start with your call to action (CTA) or your key marketing goal and create a consistent user journey across various channels. To this end, you have to ensure that you include your CTA somewhere very obvious in your emails. This sometimes takes the form of a long-form sales page, but sometimes including your CTA early on in the email can be just as effective. And having action-oriented phrasing and language all the way through is a must.

Consider creating a CTA that’s in the form of a demo video, a discount, “click for more” button or a lead towards an interesting article. The point is to highlight the value  for your users, that’s easy to digest, as often being overly text-heavy will bore the reader. Give people a reason to act almost as soon as they open the email, make it as easy as possible to take action, and they will.


For almost everyone, boosting their CTR is a bit of a trial-and-error process, but so long as you have some time, the right tools, and some creativity, it can actually be fun to experiment with. Keeping an open mind and trying new things is what digital marketing is all about, so if you and your team keep working at it, you’re bound to see success. 

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