11 Data-Backed Strategies To Improve Email Click Through Rates

Boom! Your email open rates have skyrocketed. Now it’s time to dive into improving your email click through rate.

First, it’s interesting to take a look at some overall email click through rate trends.

email click through rate trends

Source: MarketingCharts.com

Epsilon shares open and click through trends since 2010. There most recent update includes 7.8 billion emails sent in the second quarter of 2014.

What’s noteworthy is that while open rates have improved, click through rates have declined.

One reason for this trend is the growing prevalence of mobile devices, and the lagging of mobile-ready email campaigns. Check out #10 in this list for an example of the importance of responsive emails.

If you’d like to reverse this trend for your own company, read on.

1. Highly Targeted Content Gives Buyometric Daily Deals Emails A 7% CTR

Tim Watson of Zettasphere shared a case study at SmartInsights showing how Buyometric achieves a 7% CTR on their daily deals emails.

The 7% CTR beats the average CTR across all industries. To achieve that with a daily deal email is even more impressive.

Here’s how they do it.

When a user first joins the Buyometric’s program they get redirected to a page where they can pick their daily deal preferences.

Buyometric deal preferences

This immediately tags users with various interests.

Surprisingly, 78% of new users complete this optional personalization step.

To encourage users to complete their preferences they specifically ask for this information in the welcome email.


They also allow users to remove specific deals directly within each email. This information is used to custom tailor offers for the future.


That shows that given the choice, people want a custom experience.

Buyometric steps up their game even more by continuing to tighten up their personalization over time.

Even users that don’t originally complete the personalization get their engagement analyzed, and deals personalized over time.

The importance of list segmentation was discussed in the article on increasing email open rates. This just brings it to another level.

Think about how you could segment your list and customize campaigns for your audience to increase engagement and conversions.

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Expert Opinion: Tim Watson of Zettasphere

What is your #1 tip for increasing email click through rates?

Give multiple click opportunities, even when going to the same landing page. Use a combination of image links, text links, buttons and vary the call to action copy in each. What appeals to one person doesn’t appeal to another.

Follow Tim on Twitter here [/alert]

2. Subject Line Personalization Increases CTR By An Avg. of 17.36%

MarketingSherpa shares a case study where personalizing the subject line increased the CTR by 17.36%.

To achieve these results the test changed only one thing. The first name was added in the subject line, while all other wording remained the same.

Over the course of seven tests, the CTR showed a consistent increase.


Version 1: PadiAct Takes Your Targeted Subscriptions to a New Level

Version 2: [First name], PadiAct Takes Your Targeted Subscriptions to a New Level

Open Rate Increase: 6.67%

Click Through Rate Increase: 25.31%

This is an interesting one because of how personalization carried benefits all the way through to the CTR.

It makes sense that it would impact open rates, but it has a longer lasting benefit than that.

If anyone can share an example of subject line personalization impacting engagement after the click let me know.

3. Including Video Increases Wistia’s CTR By 300%

Kristen Craft of Wistia shares how they increased their click through rate by 300%.

After incorporating video into their content strategy, they tested including these videos within their newsletter.

Not only did video emails increase their CTR by 300%, they also found that social sharing increased 4x compared to emails without video.

increased social sharing

Looks like it pays to hop in front of the camera!

Here’s how they got such great results.

First, they created interesting, and entertaining videos. Be sure to keep them as short as possible.

Wistia shares the engagement data for various video lengths, showing that short videos win the day.

video engagement time

Next, they created a landing page, which features each video and includes easy social sharing.

Finally, within the email itself, they include a thumbnail of the video, and a prominent call to action.

Here’s an example of how Litmus does this:

litmus newsletter

This encourages action, and gets people to visit the landing page.

Kristen also recommends taking advantage of your viewer’s attention by including a call to action after the video plays.

Think about creating videos that lead your audience down a lead or sales funnel.

Even though you are emailing this out, not everyone who watches will be on your list already, so this is a great time to get more subscribers.

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Expert Opinion: Kristen Craft of Wistia

What is your #1 tip for increasing email click through rates?

Having a fun/interesting video thumbnail image is the best way to increase click-through rates. Make sure the image contains someone’s face. (We humans are programmed to respond well to other faces!) Ideally, chose one where the person is smiling, perhaps even making a funny expression or gesture.

Follow Kristen on Twitter here [/alert]

4. Ragan Communications Doubles CTR With Video Email

MarketingSherpa shares another case study from Ragan Communications.

In their campaign Ragan decided to test out the effect of referencing videos in their email.

To do this, they included a still image of the video, and a quick overview of what it was about.

When a user clicked through, they landed on a page where they could play the video instantly.

Over the course of several tests Ragan found that open rates and unsubscribes were unaffected by the video emails.

Their click through rate did improve, doubling up their standard.

It’s a well-known fact that many people love consuming content in a video format.

By referencing a video, and teasing it with an image, users can get a better sense of what content to expect after the click.

They know it won’t be a boring page, or an overwhelming amount of text.

Here are the numbers:

Video emails

  • Average open rate: 7.7%
  • Average CTR: 0.51%

HTML emails

  • Average open rate: 7.09%
  • Average CTR: 0.29%

Text-only emails:

  • Average open rate: 7.87%
  • Average CTR: 0.25%

An additional test to consider is the effect of including the video length.

If you keep your videos short, and show that in the email, I wouldn’t be surprised if the click through rate improved.

5. Personalized Product Recommendations Increase CTR By 175%

Using the Barilliance ecommerce personalization suite EyeBuyDirect.com was able to increase CTR by 175%.

barilliance results

The product recommendations are based on a combination of browsing history, past purchases, and other engagement metrics.

This is another example of how personalizing the products and deals sent to customers can have an incredible impact on results.

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Expert Opinion: Ido Ariel, Co-Founder of Barilliance

What is your #1 tip to increase email click through rates?

In order to increase the effectiveness of cart abandonment reengagement campaigns, send the first email within an hour of abandonment.  This assures that your site is still fresh on the mind, and will improve CTR.

Follow Barilliance on Twitter here.[/alert]

6. UnHaggle Uses Images To Increase CTR By 378%

GetVero shares a case study from UnHaggle that debunks some conventional email marketing wisdom.

Many people advise against using images in emails, but UnHaggle tested them anyway and achieved an increase in CTR of 378% over a text only email.

Here’s how they did it.

Initially, they had followed a different case study from GetVero showing positive results from using a Q & A style email in a remarketing campaign.

The Q & A email was created to preemptively answer people’s fears and uncertainty.

This did have positive results for them, however they felt they could do better.

After replacing the Q & A email with one that was image heavy, their CTR popped to 32.4%.

Their new email included images of various car models and the current savings available for those cars.

For this campaign people cared more about the deal they could get on a car, and didn’t have a ton of fears to overcome.

This illustrates another example of when conventional marketing wisdom is wrong for certain industries, companies, or campaigns.


7. Less choice creates a 17% CTR Increase

In another case study about narrowing choice, Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout increased CTR by as much as 17% by having less available options.

This test had positive results across three separate industries.

For the first test, Gregory changed the emails for Sophistefunk to include only one blog article at a time. Before the change, they had been sending out one email with 5-6 articles at once.

sophistefunk newsletter

This simple update had a positive impact on both their open rate and click through rates.

The CTR jumped from 12-14% all the way to 21-31%!

ctr increase

Next, Gregory used this strategy to improve the newsletter performance for Help Scout.

Rather than sending an email showcasing three separate articles, the new emails only promoted one.

This caused a double digit click through rate increase.

As you can see, the traffic received from their email marketing shot up in a similar fashion.

referral sources

8. Whirlpool Achieves A 42% CTR Increase By Reducing CTAs

MarketingSherpa shares how Whirlpool increased CTR by 42% after improving the focus of their email campaign.

The purpose of the campaign was to direct rebate downloads.

Initially, they had four separate call to action links within the email.

Each one led to a different page on the site.

Only one of them led to the rebate page that could directly impact their business goals.

It was setup this way because they wanted to have multiple options in case people weren’t interested in the main CTA but wanted to learn about other content.

Once they removed the three CTAs their click through rate increased by 42%.

Not only did this narrow focus improve their click through, it also meant that users had only one option.

They either went into the funnel for the main business goal, or they didn’t.

What this does is pushes people to the action you want them to take.

Some people who may have clicked on one of the other three CTAs in the initial email were now going to click on the rebate CTA because it was the only choice.

Consider focusing each email campaign on one goal, and craft the email to give no other option.

This method is similar to the strategy in landing pages to remove all distractions.

Try it out!

9. Removing Featured Article From Newsletter Increased CTR By 13%

Matt Byrd shared a test done at Litmus to improve the CTR of their monthly roundup, Email Design Monthly.

Before the test, they would take the most interesting article and put it in a featured spot at the top of the email.


During the test, they still put this article at the top, but took out the featured section, and just included it in the regular list.


The version with the article feature caused 36% of clicks to the main article.

Once they removed this, all the articles received an average CTR increase of 9%.

Even more importantly, the total CTR increased by 13%.

Let’s take this test a step further.

Combining this data with the fact that less choice increased CTR for Help Scout could potentially produce even better results.

It would be interesting if Litmus tested posting these roundups on their blog, rather than linking to the articles directly within the email.

They could still list the articles, but just have one call to action leading to their roundup blog post.

Could be worth a test if you have a similar type of content for your site.

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Expert Opinion: Lauren Smith, Content Marketing Manager at Litmus

What is your #1 tip for increasing email click through rates?

In order to increase your clicks (and hopefully!) conversions, you need to send your subscribers content that they want to see and in a format that is easily accessible to them. How do you do that? Test, test, test! Test in order to find out what resonates best with your audience. You can test everything from subject lines to calls-to-action to imagery and so much more.

Testing provides endless opportunities to learn more about your audience and improve your results. If you see significant results from a test, you can use that data to make better informed decisions for future campaigns. For example, Act-On wanted to test the impact that responsive design had on their emails, so they tested a responsive vs. non-responsive design on a campaign. The responsive email saw a 130% increase in clicks! Act-On was able to clearly recognize that their audience preferred responsive design over non-responsive and, as a result, switched their templates to reflect this.

There is no end game when it comes to testing—it’s a continuous process! Testing allows you to continuously improve your emails and provide your customers with the best email experience possible.

Find Lauren on Twitter here.


10. Use responsive email templates

This slideshare from ExactTarget shows how responsive email design increased CTR by more than 20%.

Considering that 43% of emails are being opened on mobile devices, it’s understandable how creating mobile ready emails is no longer optional.

Well, it is optional if you want lower click through rates, but I already know you don’t want that.

The slideshare above shows how CareerBuilder increase their CTR by 21-24% by moving to responsive emails.

That’s a huge increase for a small change.

With the prevalence of both free and paid responsive templates, there is really no reason to not make the switch.

11. Social login users are highly engaged

Matthew Moller of Samsung added social login to simplify the account creation process, while simultaneously gathering profile information to increase engagement possibilities.

Not only did they find that many customers prefer social login, they also found that these were high value users.

When analyzing their email campaigns they noticed that social login users were 63% more likely to click through.

Additionally, they were 34% more likely to open the email in the first place.

The case study doesn’t go into the reasons why social login users are higher value.

It could be that the emails used on social networking sites are more commonly checked, and are therefore higher value emails.

Another reason could be that users who choose the social login option are generally more engaged internet users.

This conjecture makes sense when you consider that a person choosing social login is likely to be a more active social networking user. Perhaps this activity level is consistent across platforms and websites.

Whatever the reason, it is valuable to understand that social login users could be some of your highest value customers.

Giving this additional option gives you considerably more data to help with understanding your audience.

If you have any additional ideas for why social login users are more engaged, let me know in the comments!


Thanks for checking out these eleven email click through rate case studies.

Hopefully you can take some of these actionable strategies and implement them within your own email campaigns.

If you have strategies not covered here, let me know in the comments!

Additional Reading:

10 Ways To Improve Your Email Open Rates

23 Data-Backed List Building Strategies From Top Experts

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