email marketing

What is Click to Open Rate (CTOR) and How Do You Improve It?

From better copywriting to list segmentation and personalization, here are a dozen tactics you can use to boost your CTOR.

Jessica Malnik Jessica Malnik on May 19, 2021 • 12 minute read

Many email marketers spend all of their time trying to get people to open their emails. However, that’s only half the battle. The more important thing is how people take your desired action. 

That’s where measuring click-to-open rate (CTOR) can be valuable. This metric allows yFou to understand how many people that open your email actually click on a link. 

In this post, we’re taking a much closer look at what CTOR is, how to measure it, and ways you can improve it. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Is Click-to-Open Rate and Why Is It Important?

Click-to-open rate is an underrated metric for measuring email relevance. This is because it tracks the number of people who open the email and also click on at least one link. 

What is the Difference between CTOR, CTR, and Open Rate?

Open rate is a metric that shows the number of people who open your email.

Click-through-rate (CTR) is the number of people who click on a link.

And CTOR is the number of unique opens who also click on at least one link in your email. 

While all of these metrics are helpful, 35.8% of the marketers said that CTOR was the most important email marketing metric they track. 

which of the following metrics you consider most important to track?

How to Calculate Your Click-to-Open Rate?

Calculating CTOR is fairly simple.

Here is the formula:

(Number of clicks / unique opens) x 100 = Your CTOR 

And what is a good CTOR?

According to our recent survey, the average CTOR can vary depending on your industry and email frequency. However, we found that most had a CTOR between 11% – 30%. This is right in line with an industry report that CampaignMonitor released. They found that the average click-to-open rate was between 20-30%. 

what is your average CTOR?

Our metrics check out with the industry standards according to CampaignMonitor.

Editor’s Note: If you use HubSpot, this Email Marketing Performance dashboard can give you a high-level overview of your email performance, including CTOR. 

HubSpot email marketing performance dashboard

12 Ways to Improve Your CTOR

From better copywriting to list segmentation and personalization, here are a dozen tactics you can use to boost your CTOR.

  1. Bring your subscribers on a journey
  2. Avoid using anchor links
  3. Align your subject line, email copy, and CTA
  4. Write click-worthy subject lines
  5. Keep your subject line short
  6. Make your email easy-to-skim
  7. Segment your list
  8. Personalize your subject line
  9. Use high-quality visuals
  10. Make sure your CTA stands out
  11. Focus on only one thing per email
  12. Add alt texts to your images

1. Bring your subscribers on a journey 

If you want to make your emails more engaging (and therefore more likely for people to click on your links, you need to find a way to bring your subscribers into your story. 

“Bring your audience on a journey of building a connection with you and establishing trust,” says David Cusick of House Method. “Using an email sequence helps with this. As you build relationships with your subscribers and establish your authority, they’re more likely to click and open your links.”

2. Avoid using anchor links 

This is a tactic that is easy to overlook. While anchor links save space, a new subscriber might be skeptical of clicking on them. 

“One of the most effective ways we’ve found for improving CTOR is using naked/bare links (i.e., https://www.example.com) instead of anchor text links where it makes sense,” says Collin Tate of Kind Find. “New subscribers who’ve never heard of your company prior to signing up are often cautious about clicking anchor text links and buttons in your emails until they become more familiar with your content and your brand.

And if the spam filter or Promotions tab in Gmail catches your email, this makes people even warier of clicking your links. Seeing a naked link tells subscribers exactly where they’re going when they click, versus anchor text which could send them anywhere. It acts as a trust signal.

When we made this change in our newsletter, we saw an 11bps increase in our CTOR. One thing to note is that if you publish your newsletter to a blog, be sure to change your naked/bare links to anchor text for Googlebot. Anchor text provides bots with context that search engines are looking for when indexing and ranking.” 

3. Align your subject line, email copy, and CTA 

According to our respondents, including a good CTA in your email is one of the best ways to improve your CTOR, next to making your copy more engaging and optimizing the subject line.

Best ways to improve your CTOR

It can be tempting to include all these things in your email, and you definitely should. However, if not done right, this is also a great way to confuse your subscribers, as the more tangents you go on, the more likely they won’t do anything at all. 

“The most effective way to improve your click to open rate is to align the subject, content and CTA,” says Brendan Hufford of ActiveCampaign. “Often, the subject is built to get opened, the content to get read, then the CTA to get clicked. But, the same reason a person opens the email HAS to be the same reason they’d want to click something in the email. They can’t be analyzed in isolation. Often a great CTA is killed by a randomly ideated clickbait subject line.” 

Akash Makwana of PhotocopierCompare adds, “Ensure that messaging follows a clear theme, if your subject line mentions one topic and your email body another, it can cause some confusion. Customers who click to open an email rely on the subject line, so keeping it consistent works best. Lead onto a strong CTA.” 

4. Write click-worthy subject lines

This seems obvious, but it is easy to overlook how important your subject line and preview text are. 

“For improving the click-to-open (CTOR) rate, your subject line should be perfect,” says Mia Green of findthisbest. “The subject line is the most crucial factor for CTOR. Most people mark the email as spam before opening it just because of the subject line. Your subject line should be in such a way that it makes people curious, and they open the email to learn more. Ask relevant questions and include symbols, emojis, and, most importantly, keep it short, as people easily open it on their smartphone.” 

However, it is important to entice your subscribers without resorting to clickbait subject lines. 

Jacob Landis-Eigsti adds, “Avoiding clickbait subject lines decreased our open rate but made our CTR and CTOR nearly double. Instead of click bait subject lines, we center everything in the email around the link click. We focus on telling emotional and engaging stories which all lead to the click. Then right before the link we feature the strongest reason they must open it, and we feature the link one last time at the end of the email.” 

5. Keep your subject line short 

On the topic of subject lines, you should also keep them as concise as possible. 

Kristina Witmer of Witmer Group explains, “Use all lower-case letters in the subject line and keep it as brief as possible. It’s much easier to glance at this way. You want to allow the recipient of your email to immediately glance at the subject line and get the gist of the contents without having to read or think.”

Related: Email Subject Line Examples: 42 Marketers Share Their Very Best

6. Make your email easy-to-skim 

Most busy people check their emails on their phone and in-between meetings. This means you only have a very limited window of time to get their attention. That’s where smart email formatting can work to your advantage. 

“Make your emails scannable and easy for people to read and understand by just skimming through,” says Tori Bell of Clever Touch Marketing. “Keep your paragraphs short, use bullets and lists, use bold keywords, and use headlines. Hyperlinks also keep your emails scannable and help improve your CTOR.” 

Frank Hausman of Home Air Advisor adds, “The structure of the email is the deal-breaker. All of us receive tons of marketing emails weekly. We don’t treat them as pure information anymore. We know we received them because the company wants to sell us something. If the person agreed to spend some time browsing your email, it would be a matter of seconds, don’t expect them to read the whole thing. Make their life easier by structuring the content of the email. There should be a few hooks to catch the reader’s attention and eventually click to learn more. Make those hooks visible at once.” 

7. Segment your list 

If you have low CTORs, segmenting your list is usually a quick win.

“The proper segmentation is vital,” says Chad Sakonchick of BetterLegal. “People are bombarded with emails, the same way as with TV ads back in the days when people used to watch TV. The ads have evolved with algorithms targeting the right people with relevant ads. With your email marketing, you need to follow the same path. The difference is that you need to do the planning yourself and segment your audience based on multiple parameters. The relevant content will improve the open rate and the CTOR and reduce the churn.”

Jamie Glenn of Income.ca says,”List segmentation is one of those techniques that few businesses use because it needs some configuration. But that is a blunder! You will see significant returns on your investment if you are prepared to take the time to build several list segments and customize your email marketing accordingly. Segmenting is all about tailoring your message to your subscribers’ preferences. When I first start working with a company, it usually has one email list, a few nearly similar subscription types, and maybe a single opt-in opportunity. This configuration provides them with ZERO knowledge of their subscribers.”

For example, Anatolii Ulitovskyi of SEO Tools TV says, “My company neglected this approach for a long time because of other priorities. We were so excited to get over 10,000 subscribers on our email list. Then we saw that our emails got around 1-2% of open rate and low CTR. What’s the point of increasing subscribers if they don’t care. We tested various headlines and emails but the case was there. Then we analyzed the way they subscribe. Some of them come from blog posts, others from landing pages with webinars, the rest from registration on our tools. We divided them into three groups and started to send personalized emails to cover their interests. Webinars get 30-50% of the open rate, the rest are 15-20% with high CTR. That’s why segmentation and personalization are so important in email marketing.”

8. Personalize your subject line 

In addition to segmenting the list, personalizing your subject line is something you might want to experiment with. 

“A personalized subject line is a great way to start,” says Douglas Liantonio of Gravy. ” But if personalization isn’t available, have a short but intriguing subject line. Give your client the impression that you are astutely mindful of their time and will only provide value by making your email short and to the point.” 

Related; Email Personalization: Tips, Tools, & The 6 Fundamentals For Success

9. Use high-quality visuals 

If you are using images or gifs in your emails, make sure the images are high-quality and look good on both computers and smartphones. 

“Visuals are an important part of your email, whenever you can create and design unique images, charts, and other visuals and avoid cheap stock images,” says Tom Zsomborgi of Kinsta. “Visuals should be optimized to make sure they load fast on the small screen. Add 2-3mstrong call to actions and social proof to the footer of your email (client quotes, number of subscribers, social following count).”

10. Make sure your CTA stands out 

As we alluded to above, most people are reading their emails on their phone. So, you want to make sure your CTA is obvious. 

“A unique and compelling CTA works wonders in improving the click-to-open rate,” says Max Harland of Dentaly. “Your CTA should be catchy with a snackable copy that immediately catches attention. This works because it tempts the viewers to check what’s in store for them. Create a CTA that aligns with your brand and creates a genuine interest in the viewers. Ditch the cliched CTAs like ‘download’ or ‘register’. Instead, make it more descriptive by creating something like ‘ download your free ebook’ or ‘register for free lifetime access.”

Editor’s Note: Want a quick way to see how much traffic your emails are sending to your site? Use this Google Analytics Email Traffic Overview Dashboard. 

Google Analytics email performance dashboard

11. Focus on only one thing per email 

Another way to get your CTOR better is to include one main topic and CTA in each email.

“Of course, you need a subject line that doesn’t blend in with the rest and has a good hook,” says Darren Litt of Hiya Health. “Aside from that, you need to have one core purpose for the email. Why should the reader take time out of their day to give your email attention?

It’s up to you to make this email worth their time by delivering a solid value. You managed to cut through the noise with a good subject line, now follow through with an offer they care about. Be clear and concise about your value proposition, don’t waste their time with a bunch of paragraphs. Incorporate your call-to-action with next steps toward getting the benefit you’ve promised.”

12. Add alt texts to your images 

Besides being the right thing to do for accessibility, adding alt text on your images and gifs is useful for anyone with an Internet connection.

“Although your emails should make sense without images, it’s essential that the images you use add context to your story,” says Miklos Zoltan of PrivacyAffairs. “Since most email clients disable photos by default, you can add appropriate alt texts to them. Even if your picture isn’t visible, this text appears. Most email marketing services make it simple to enter your images in this area.

You can also use icons to create connections, which are easier to press on a mobile device than buttons or text-based CTA.” 


While it is easy to get into the weeds with email optimization, it can be helpful to remember the 80:20 version. This is all about having an enticing subject line, strong CTA, and segmenting your list. 

About the author
Jessica Malnik
Jessica Malnik Jessica Malnik is a content strategist and copywriter for SaaS and productized service businesses. Her writing has appeared on The Next Web, Social Media Examiner, SEMRush, CMX, Help Scout, Convince & Convert, and many other sites.
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