Clicks, opens, click-to-opens…what should I be measuring?

It’s a common question we get asked by our clients. What should I be measuring when it comes to my email marketing campaigns? Clicks? Opens? Click-to-opens? We’ve always advocated that a click-through rate is more reliable than an open rate, but in this blog, we thought we’d go a little further and explain why we rely on the metrics we do. Hopefully, it will give you a better idea of how to measure your email campaign engagement success moving forward.

Depending on the goals of your campaign, it’s hard to definitively say what you should use to measure your success.

So let’s start with open rates…

Unfortunately, open rates aren’t as reliable as you might think. Sure, they tend to be higher than clicks or click-to-opens, so it’s no wonder marketers like using the open rates in their reports. However, they are a misleading metric and don’t actually tell us anything about what our prospects are interested in beyond the subject line.

While an open rate is the number of opens/number of emails sent, there are a number of things that can happen when you send out an email campaign that affects this metric.

  • Some emails are read in preview without downloading images – which means we can’t track them
  • Some are read in mobile clients. Each client tracks differently, skewing results
  • Some bounce, are blocked or blacklisted – which means they can never be opened
  • Some are deleted before they are opened – which means they’ll never be opened OR read
  • Some, when opened, have images blocked by the mail client

Now, as you can see there are several things that can affect your open rate! Forget the bounces, blacklists and deletes for now. The fact is, a lot of people read emails in the preview pane without downloading images (66% in fact, when we did an internal survey). Also, depending on which email client you use, images can be switched off or blocked, which means an open won’t track either.

What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that you’re more likely to get a higher open rate if you use Outlook-style, plain text-based templates. It also tells us you shouldn’t be relying on open rates anymore.

Moving on to clicks

Now clicks, or click-through rates, show definitive engagement which is what you want from your email campaign. Even if it is “view online link”, the CTR records interest. It says, I’ve clicked through on your email, I like your email and I like your content. Wonderful!

Of course, CTR rates are almost always (99.9% of the time) lower than email rates. The industry standard on click-through rates for B2B email campaigns is 2.75% according to the Smart Insights benchmark. If you’re not meeting this industry standard, check out our tips on how to improve click-through rates.

If you are already surpassing the 2.75% – well done! Still, don’t sit back and relax. Instead, we’d recommend you take a look at our blog on how to get a 15% CTR.

So what about click-to-opens?

Now, click-to-opens are very similar to click-through rates. However, while click-through rates typically measure the click-throughs on all the emails delivered, click-to-opens measure the click-throughs on the amount of emails opened. This means the measurement is usually higher than the CTR and it isn’t skewed by reactions to timing, subject lines, “from” fields, etc.

In fact, what the click-to-open metric really tells you is how successful the content of your email is. In a world where content is king, this is one of the most important metrics to the email marketer.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make your email content more effective to boost your click-to-open metric, take a look at our case study with Brakes. They worked hard to introduce personalised content in their email campaigns to improve engagement. Their tactics could just help you boost your email campaign engagement too.

If you’re looking for any further advice on email marketing such as what metric you should be reporting on, then feel free to download our performance marketing guide!


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