9 Ways to Boost Your Click-Through Rate (and when NOT to boost it…)

Most email marketers consider click-through rate to be a critical metric.

A high click-through rate means your content is engaging and relevant to your audience, and that you make effective calls to action in your emails.

And a low click-through rate means you have big problems like bad content and low list quality.

But I love to destroy conventional wisdom so at the end of this in-depth guide, I’ll explain why:

  • A high click-through rate may not make you more money
  • Why your conversion rate is 10 times more important than your click-through rate
  • When to optimize for click-through rate, and when not to

Let’s start with defining terms:

What Is Click-Through Rate?

what is click-through rate?

*sad pug doesn't know what CTR is...

Click-through rate (or CTR) is calculated as the number of link clicks in an email divided by the number of users you received the email.

So if you get 1,000 clicks out of 10,000 emails received, your click-through rate is 10%.

CTR is a valuable metric for two reasons:

  • A click is a real action taken by your reader which indicates interest in your content and products

And it’s the second-most watched email metric behind open rates.

*BEWARE: click-rate accuracy will fall over time because of mail providers like Apple and Proton blocking tracking mechanisms

Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR) is a related metric that measures clicks relative to email opens.

If you get 1,000 clicks out of 5,000 email opens, your CTOR is 20%. But we’re going to focus on click-through rate in this article.

Moving on…

Now let’s talk about how you can boost your email click-through rate well above industry averages.

All of the factors you'll learn today about are based on my real-world experience performing over 1,000 split tests and sending 100,000,000+ emails.

#2 will be the biggest surprise for most people, even though it’s stupid-obvious. So pay close attention to that one.

And #4 may be most important of all.

And later on, you’ll learn why conversion rate is far more important if your goal is to make money.

1. Craft a Compelling Subject Line

You’re thinking “isn’t subject line more related to open rates?”

The answer is yes - but your subject line still has a massive impact on your click rate.

Because people can’t click on emails they don’t open!

Your subject line has one job: get people to say “I want to open this email and see what’s inside”.

Now, I’ve seen plenty of advice saying that your email subject line should be compelling, clear, and relevant.

Focus on “compelling” because your email has to drive curiosity above everything else. 

And then once people open your email, you want to…

2. Offer Something People Want to Click On

When researching this article, I can’t believe how few people mentioned that it’s key to have SOMETHING PEOPLE WANT TO CLICK ON!

Because you can have:

  • An amazing subject line
  • A beautiful email design
  • The most persuasive email copy

And get no clicks because nobody cares about the thing you’re offering, which could be a product, article, or video.

So here’s a reality you’ll never hear about in expensive email marketing courses - one of the best ways to get a high click-through rate is to have amazing content!

The more people like your stuff, the more they will click.

Now let’s go to the third most important factor in getting more clicks.

You must…

3. Design Your Emails for Maximum Clarity and Clickability

Make it really, really easy for people to click on your emails.

If something is clickable, you have to be really clear about it.

Text links should be bold, underlined, and in a different color from your main text. That lets people know something is a link.

Since your main text should be black or very dark grey, make your links a color – anything dark and bright works well.

I use blue:

best link color for emails

And yes, I’ve split tested different link colors and it makes no difference.

Do not underline any text unless it is clickable, since in email, links are usually underlined.

And if something looks like a button, it should be clickable. Do not have headers like this in your emails because people will get confused:

Many people ask me if images make a difference in click-through rates. 

In my testing experience, images usually don’t help and sometimes hurt - but this is something you must test yourself, as I explain below.

My best performing emails have been all text with a very simple call to action.

I’ve also tested various text-based calls to action like “Sign Up Here” and “Click Here” and “Go Here.”

They pretty much perform the same across the board.

And oh yeah - your click-through rate will often go up if you put a text-based call to action at the top of your email, like this:

email with a high click-through rate

By the way, that's one of my best performing emails even - which means you should test something similar. And of course, learn the R.I.P.E. email marketing framework.

 4. Optimize Your Emails for Mobile Devices

This is a subset of #3, but it’s so important that I’m calling it out here.

Before you hit the send button, make sure your email looks good on iPhones and other mobile devices.

Most email service providers have responsive designs (meaning they look good on all devices) out of the box, but send email tests to your phone to be sure. Here's how one of my emails looked in ActiveCampaign on desktop (left) and mobile (right):

mobile email optimization

You don’t have to go crazy.

Just make sure people don’t have to scroll down to figure out what your email is about.

And if you have images or photos in your email, make sure they can be understood on a small screen. 

There’s a big difference between a 27” iMac and a 6” iPhone.

And remember, mobile internet isn’t always fast, so don’t begin your email with large images that take time to download - people will be confused by a big blank space on top.

5. Split Test Everything - Including What You Read in This Article!

email split testing

I can’t emphasize this enough: you have to test things for yourself because every email list is different.

I told you before that images don’t really work for me. 

But there are definitely applications (especially ecommerce) where images could have a huge positive impact on performance. 

Imagine selling sunglasses online without photos:

images in emails

By the way, if you’re on my email list, once in a while you’ll see something that contradicts what you read in my articles.

That’s because I’m always testing things to stay on top of what’s working for my list, and to keep my readers educated.

Here are other things you can split-test to see the impact on your click-through rate:

  • Subject lines: your subject line will impact how people judge your emai content
  • Time of day: people may be more likely to click emails in the morning than the evening – or the opposite may be true
  • Personalization: you may wish to include people’s names or other personal factors in your messages

6. Send Frequent Awesome Emails

how often to send emails?

The #1 email marketing mistake you can make is not sending enough emails.

Because people need to know you’re alive to open and click your email!.

Frequent emails force your audience into 2 camps:

  • Lovers that can’t get enough
  • Haters that want out

Your lovers that want more more more will click your emails often, pushing up your click-through rate.

Your haters will unsubscribe, which is fine.

Sending frequent emails also has an underrated persuasion element.

If you’re able to send interesting emails all the time, people will assume you know what you’re talking about.

7. Segment Your Email List

email list segmentation

Email list segmentation is when you use data to break your email list into smaller groups.

You can segment your list based on purchase history, demographics, engagement, and tons of other factors.

Do you think your click-through rate would do well if you send to a segment based on these factors:

  • Bought one of your products in the past year
  • Clicked one of your emails in the last week

Of course it would do well.

Generally speaking, the more you segment your list, the better the click-through rate, because you’re targeting specific groups of people with things just for them.

But, email segmentation can cost you money so please read this first.

8. Clean Your Email List to Boost Email Deliverability

email list cleaning

If an email can’t be delivered, it can’t be clicked.

So clean your list regularly to keep it healthy.

If you have lots of unengaged contacts, dead email addresses, and spam traps on your list, your deliverability will go in the toilet.

That means you need a regular list-cleaning process to keep your list squeaky clean, and your deliverability high.

9. Pay Attention to the Calendar and News Flow

The calendar and what’s in the news can give you tons of ideas for attention-grabbing email content.

If you write about fantasy sports, you can expect higher click rates around the Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, etc.

You can also write emails based on what’s in the news.

Like if you wrote emails about social media, you could create emails around things like how to use ChatGPT to generate Tweet ideas, or around the latest celebrity controversy.

Okay, now you have 9 solid ways to increase your click-through rate.

Now let’s talk about the juicy stuff.

Why a High Click-Through Rate May Not Make You More Money

All things being equal, you want more people clicking on your emails, not less.

But you have to remember that getting clicks is not the same thing as making money.

Emails that make people click a lot may not draw lots of buyers.

This is because:

Your Conversion Rate Is 10 Times More Important Than Your Click Rate

Again, I can’t say this enough: email clicks are good

But if you want to make more money, you should optimize for conversions, not clicks.

What would you rather have?

  • 500 clicks and $1,000 in sales; or
  • 100 clicks and $5,000 in sales

So when you’re testing email concepts, look at what makes money – not what generates clicks,

When to Optimize for Click-Through Rate

You want to maximize your click-through rate when you are distributing general content.

For example, if you want to people to read your new article or watch your video, you want to max out your click-through rate.

Also, if you are sending people into the top of a funnel, you want as many people as possible in there. 

For example, if your funnel begins with clicking to a webinar or ebook, get as many people as possible to that starting point.

So that wraps us up. You have 9 ways to boost your click-through rate, and you know when maximizing clicks matters.


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}