Email Marketing Tips and Tricks #4: Improving Click-through Rates

This is part four in my four-part series on email marketing tips and tricks. In this final segment, let’s talk about how to improve click-through rates. Before I get to this week’s tips, we need to understand some email terminology.

Did you miss a previous part of my email marketing tips and tricks series? Go back to part one: email marketing content, part two: increasing open rates, or part three: growing your list.

What is a click-through rate?

An email click-through rate, or email click rate, usually refers to the number of successfully delivered emails that registered at least one click. This number is shown as a percentage.

What determines click-through rate?

The top items that determine whether a user will click or ignore your email message are useful and relevant content with clear calls-to-action. That might sound obvious, but I frequently see emails sent to people who have no interest in particular content or don’t have any links. Let’s break down each of these factors in detail and determine what can be done.

Start with goals. What do you want your reader to do when the email lands in their inbox? Do you want them to buy something, learn something, register…or something else?

Don’t have too many goals per email. If you’re sending an email with more than a few links, chances are you need to segment your list or break up the content into less bulky emails — say, breaking up that monthly newsletter into bi-weekly updates. People are in a hurry and if they don’t find your content relevant and fast, they’re unlikely to click and perform the action you want.

Okay, I understand the terms. Now how do I increase my click-through rate?

Here are my top 10 tips to increase email marketing click-through rates.

1. Have a Clear Call to Action

A call to action tells your target audience what you want them to do. The simplest call to action is “Buy now!” but there are many others that are good depending on your email goals.

We have to persuade customers to act. That could come in the form of a button or written copy, but the point is we need the call to be clear, enticing, and effective.

Campaign Monitor has put together a list of calls to action that score well for click-through rates for a wide variety of goals. Once you’ve selected the best phrase for your goal, the next step is making it easy to find and click.

2. Make it Easy to Click

Make sure that your email design utilizes clear visuals that make it obvious where to click. It needs to look clickable — like using buttons and distinct button text or using contrast for body text links. If your user can’t find the link easily, they just won’t click. Much of this relies on smart design choices using design composition principles like hierarchy, color, balance, proximity, etc. You can learn more about how to design for emphasis in this video.

For text links, make sure your links have breathing room around them, are underlined or bolded, are a different color than the rest of your text, and have clear wording with urgency.

In addition to the design considerations to grab the attention of your user, you need to reduce click uncertainty. Click uncertainty has to do with the user needing to think about whether something is clickable or not, and Nielsen has several great tips on how to do this.

As an example, which would you click among these two choices?

email copy contrast example

3. Try Multiple Links for the Same Goal

You might have learned as a kid that some people learn better through visual stimuli and others through reading. If you want your email subscribers to perform an action, like clicking through to a landing page, it can help to have multiple hotspots in both image and written formats.

Some users instinctively know to click images in emails, but some people don’t know that. Having multiple links to the same landing page in several formats can help, as can reducing click uncertainty (see number 2).

4. Make Your Content Valuable

Value is key to engaging and retaining your email audience. The first step is to know what your customer values, which might mean asking them with a survey or other research methods. Do they want information on your new products and services, sales, events, or something entirely different?

You are competing for your email audience’s time, so your goal needs to be to solve a problem for your reader. What can you do to make it interesting and addictive? Here are some ideas to provide more value in your email content:

  • Send a special offer
  • Ask questions
  • Keep them up-to-date
  • Give exclusive content
  • Send them tricks of the trade

5. Don’t Overwhelm Your Audience

Another key to improving click-through rates is the K.I.S.S. principle — keep it simple stupid. We want to provide just enough information to pique interest and encourage the reader to click through.

One of the common problems I see in smaller businesses is trying to cram too many different messages into one email. If you look at some of the bigger players, they often send a single topic email at a time, with brief content asking you to click to read more. People are busy, and they don’t have time to read a novel about multiple topics.

According to Litmus, the average email reading time is just 11.1 seconds. Does your message come across in this short attention span?

6. Segment Your List

Segmenting your list is a technique of dividing up your list into smaller groups. By breaking up your list into smaller groups, you can send more relevant messaging, which is key to engaged readers and higher engagement rates. According to studies, segmented campaigns yield over 14% higher open rates and nearly 65% higher click-through rates.

What are some ways you can segment your email list? Here are some ideas:

  • New subscribers
  • Interests
  • Spend
  • Location
  • Inactive subscribers
  • Abandoned purchases
  • Purchase history
  • Buyer personas
  • Gender
  • Event attendance

7. A/B Test Content

Always be testing. That might sound cliché, but it’s particularly important to test your email marketing content.

For click-through rate testing, you will need to focus on the content itself, since it is based on people who have already opened your email. Your email software has built-in features to allow you to send part of your list version A and another part version B. You may even be able to let it choose a winner from a small batch before sending it to the rest of your list.

Remember to test one item at a time to have clear results.

What can you A/B test? You can try:

  • Swap images
  • Calls to action wording
  • The offer
  • Email length
  • Personalization
  • Link formatting
  • Copy formatting

8. Send at the Right Time

There are many studies about when’s the best time to send emails to improve click-through rates. These studies provide a great starting point for choosing a day and time to send emails.

Even with the data from all of those studies, there are some other key considerations about when you’re sending emails.

    • What kind of content are you sending?
    • What are you asking people to do?
    • Is it too early, too late, or the best time to do that action?


Let’s look at a scenario as an example. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that we’re only able to send one email.

Company A wants to send a notice about an upcoming event and get readers to buy a ticket. The event falls next Saturday. What’s the best time to send this email?

If you looked only at the statistics out there, the data might suggest a Tuesday at 6 a.m. — when people are scrolling through their phones right when they wake up. This probably doesn’t make sense for Company A, because they’re hoping for someone to buy a ticket. If we consider the full set of actions required, the user might not have their payment details ready to make that purchase. So, they might not click and convert at 6 a.m. after all.

In addition, depending on the type of ticket they’re buying, we don’t know how much lead time that user needs to consider their purchase. Is this ticket purchase more of a last-minute impulse buy or is it something requiring a longer planning period? This is how Company A should choose their day of send — last-minute buys might be best sent on Friday or even the same day.

For time of day, Company A probably wants to choose a time when the reader will have the ability to make a purchase. At 8 p.m. people are likely checking their email while watching TV or before going to bed. They will probably have access to their wallet, calendar, significant other, and other information they need to complete a purchase. So, in this scenario for Company A, maybe Friday at 8 p.m. is the best time — not the normal statistic of Tuesday at 6 a.m.

The best way to determine send time is to test, test, test. Every audience and company’s send times are a little different and you’ll never optimize your send time if you don’t experiment a bit.

9. Make it Work on Mobile

According to Constant Contact, 88% of smartphone users actively check email on their phones. That means if you’re not setting up emails to work well on mobile devices, you could be missing a lot of clicks!

10. Personalize Content

Statistics show that personalized content receives higher open rates and click-through rates. Personalization means sending relevant content to the right audience or sending information that’s personal. You can try enabling dynamic content based on the reader’s actions, demographics, or preferences. You can also leverage data in your emails like the customer’s name, past purchases, inactivity, etc.

The fact is, personalized content is more relevant and valuable to most customers. Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14%, so the extra time and effort involved can really pay off.

Do you need help with your marketing? Hire me.