Click-through rate. It’s a sort of contentious point among content marketers, some considering it a useless metric and others believing it to be a number that can provide you with a lot of useful information to create better content.
There is a case to be made that CTR isn’t the best metric to look at to improve your content when there are so many other metrics that can give you a clearer picture of how your content is performing; however, if you discard CTR right off the bat, then you’re throwing out a tool that inherently carries insight that you can really use.
Here, we’re going to show both sides of this argument while focusing on the value of CTR, what it actually means, and how to shift your perspective concerning CTR. There are quite a few ways that you can use the information to help you understand what’s happening with your own content campaign, besides just taking it at face value, which is only one aspect of its function.
Click-Through Rate: What is It?
Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric that, very simply, tells you how many people are clicking on a link of any kind that you are trying to get them to click on. That is the short and skinny of it, but more technically, CTR is a percentage, average, ratio, or total number of clicks on a link that you have advertised to a specific or general group of people with the objective of getting them to click on that link.
For our application of marketing emails, you are trying to get the people to whom you send the emails to click on the link within it that sends them to your site, or to any other destination that leads them to make a purchase in some way, shape, or form.
CTR Has Intrinsic Usefulness
We’ll get into how the CTR can help you design or redesign the content you’re placing in the emails later, but an important point to understand about CTR is that it carries that kind of value in the first place.
This is where the people with no faith in CTR get off the train because they don’t see it having any inherent ability to tell you what you should do to change the content you’re making, and they would have you use, mainly, the CR (conversion rate) to decide what changes you should make. More on this shortly.
CTR is a basic metric and was one of the first ones online marketers used, as SEO was starting to become important to businesses, or anyone else, for gaining exposure with web-searchers and increasing sales. Although it is basic, it’s also foundational. Knowing how many people are clicking on what you’re showing them can be very revealing.
CTR Helps You to See How Your Content is Performing
While the CR is what businesses normally want to look at, since it tells them how many people are truly making a purchase, the CTR can be just as useful. If people are clicking on the content you put inside your marketing emails, even if they don’t convert, then you know that you’re doing something right.
Getting strangers who are searching the web or opening a marketing email is a difficult feat in itself. People are constantly being inundated with all kinds of material when they’re online for any reason, and they also get a lot of emails from companies who want them to click and buy something. It’s important to remember that.
So, when you send out a marketing email to someone, you’re essentially cold-calling them, which is not something that’s easy to have success with. Of course, online marketing is a lot easier than making a real cold call to someone, but you still have to know what you’re doing to make it work.
Knowing How to Interpret the Data is Half the Battle
There are various metrics that give you valuable information, and you just have to know how to interpret that data. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but it’s kind of like a programmer looking at a page full of lines of code. As a layperson, you look at those lines of code and see a bunch of gibberish, while the programmer can read and interpret it, understanding exactly what it all means.
That isn’t a perfect example because computer code is like a whole other language and much more complex than the metrics we’re talking about, but you get the idea. For example, if you have a high CTR but a low CR, then it could mean that you’re inadvertently targeting the wrong people.
They may be clicking through to your site and then realizing, once they get there, that your product is not something they’re interested in. So, you can see already from that example that you can gain important insight into your content’s performance just by looking at the basic click rate.
It Tells You What You Need to Adjust
Creating well-targeted content takes some time. There is definitely more to it than sending an email to a potential customer with a nice image and some simple copy telling someone to buy your product. In fact, if you’re new to content marketing, then you’re probably not going to see favorable results right away.
Aside from the fact that it’s usually a long-game, you have to get good at it. There are a lot of different strategies you can use, as far as how you approach people, and you have to figure out, as you go, what kinds of copy and imagery your target audience responds to most positively.
The “Click” is Foundational
The “click” is a central aspect of content marketing of any kind. What we’re always trying to do when we create and promote content is to get people to click on it because that’s the first step to bringing people in to attempt to persuade them to become customers.
CTR can tell you a lot about how well you’re doing and what needs to change. When are the days and times when people are clicking on the email content you’re sending? Which pieces of content are more people clicking on? How quickly after they open the email are they clicking on it?
These kinds of metrics can give you quite a bit of usable information. When you find out that no one is opening your marketing emails or clicking on anything inside them on Sundays, for example, then you know to change the days when you send them out because when one of your emails sits in their inbox for a couple of days, there’s also less of a chance that they’ll even open it in the first place.
CTR Can Also Give You Advanced Information
It’s also helpful to do some A/B testing with your email content. When you conduct that testing, the CTR will definitely come into play because when you send out 2 emails at the same exact time to 2 different groups of people who are all within your market, but with 2 separate pieces of content, the CTR will be your first indicator of what performs the best.
In fact, the testing and design phase of your email marketing campaign is a time when you’ll probably be looking at CTR quite a bit, as it can be a jumping-off point from which you can pursue one style or design over another.
The speed of response is good to look at, as well. If someone opens your email and clicks on the content immediately within a few seconds, that could be positive or negative, and the same is true for the opposite.
When someone clicks immediately, that most likely means that you’ve targeted that person very well, and they were instantly interested; however, if they took a while to click, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing because they might have been carefully paying attention to what you sent them or even took the time to leave it and come back to the email later.
As you can tell, a key element of using these metrics to improve your content, especially CTR, is knowing how to interpret the data. CTR doesn’t give you the whole picture, but it can teach you about how the recipient is thinking and what other metrics you should be looking at.
What If the Goal is Not Conversions?
Some of your marketing emails may have a different purpose, in which case it isn’t even necessary to look at the CR. One example could be those emails that are thanking a customer for making a recent purchase, or the emails that welcome someone to your company after they sign up with you.
In those cases, you probably just mainly want to see if they clicked through to your site, to see if it had a positive effect on the recipient. It can be a good opportunity to encourage people to make another purchase, but the aim of those kinds of emails usually just to see if they’re even reading them.
Once you know the CTR of one of those types of emails that simply attempt to show goodwill towards your customers, or to put feelers out to potential customers, you can then decide if it’s even worth it to send them.
Quite honestly, it’s probably worth it to send them, anyway, because it’s just a good policy to take time to show your customers that you care about them and that you don’t consider them just another number. People are always going to respond positively to that, and exceptional customer service and support is more important to consumers than it ever has been.
CTR is Part of a Balanced Diet of Metrics
CTR is definitely meaningful and always worth looking at. Don’t neglect other metrics like conversion rate, the number of unique visitors, and others, but it’s also not smart to completely discard CTR just because it doesn’t tell you how many people actually make a purchase. Watch your clicks.
What people click on, when they click on it, and how many of them click on it are an essential part of customer behavior. It was one of the first metrics any online marketer or analyst looked at for a reason because it is the most basic aspect of how people interact with the material that they are finding online.
If for no other reason, you should be looking at CTR because you need the full picture when you analyze the performance of your content and how you should go about improving it. CTR is a crucial part of that picture, as it shows you the entry point of customers moving towards your company site.
It Helps You to Understand Your Customers
The CTR reveals to you how people prefer to connect with your business and what attracts them to your product or service in the first place. When you only look at the CR, which is no doubt very helpful information, it doesn’t always tell you how you need to design or change your content because even though someone bought from you once, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to buy from you again using that same navigation path.
It’s extremely useful to know what all those people are clicking on because that CTR for different types of content show you where you can find other roads through which the people who make up your market will find you and move through to your site.
Figuring out how to create great content for your marketing emails is a process and will take time and experience to become proficient. Take your time, use all the information and metrics at your disposal, but don’t forget about CTR in the process.
Check out all of the articles in the ‘Email Marketing’ series:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.