The Email Savant Series: CTOR and Why It Matters

Mark Vogel

Written by Mark Vogel

August 15, 2018

What is CTOR?

CTOR means “Click-to-Open Rate,” and it’s become an increasingly important metric for email marketers.

Why is CTOR Important?

If you want your subscribers to take a specific call-to-action – place an order, download a whitepaper, read your blog, watch your video, register for an event, and so on – CTOR tells you how effective that call-to-action was within the message.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you have a nice clean database of lots of opt-in subscribers, and you have a killer subject line that prompts them to open your message in record numbers. If all those folks opened your message but weren’t moved to take the MOST IMPORTANT action of all – click through – then it was all a wasted effort.

CTOR gives you a key indicator of the effectiveness of your message’s content. It’s calculated by dividing the number of unique clicks by the number of unique opens.

What is an average CTOR?

Studies vary, but overall it is about 12%. When I look at my clients, I see an average in the mid-teens to mid-twenties for B2B, while some B2C campaigns to a highly-targeted list show more than 50% CTOR. Emails that are auto-generated and instantly sent when someone signs up to download a whitepaper can be nearly 100%.

Remember, it is important to create your own set of benchmarks for all email marketing measurables, rather than relying too heavily on industry averages.

How to Improve CTOR

CTOR Improvement Checklist

Check out our ten tips to improve your CTOR:

1. Optimize for Mobile

Half of your subscribers are probably opening your messages on a mobile device, so if your message design doesn’t automatically respond based on the recipient’s device, your clicks will suffer. Be sure to frequently test your messages on multiple platforms, in both portrait and landscape mode.

2. Create a Scannable Layout

People don’t “read” emails. They “scan” them. Break up your content into easy-to-digest chunks. Edit your copy into shorter, more powerful and more overt statements. The upper left is usually the best location for your primary call-to-action, but be sure to test other designs.

3. One Call-to-Action

If possible, give just ONE call-to-action. Many aggressive marketers or business owners want to fill an email with all possible opportunities for a sale, believing that more choices can increase engagement. Often, the opposite is true – recipients can be overwhelmed with too many options and simply make no choice at all.

4. Prioritize Your Content

If you must have more than one call-to-action, then make your most desired call-to-action your first and most overt. Keep your mission-critical content “above the fold.” That’s an old newspaper term for placing the most important articles in the top half of a folded newspaper. Keep that important call-to-action as far up in the message layout as possible. If they must scroll to see your link, they are more likely to miss it.

5. Use Images

Even if your product isn’t visual – such as a physical product like clothing or food – you should find a way to create a killer image to encourage engagement. Link the image to the call-to-action URL. The image could be an infographic or a photo of a satisfied client with their testimonial.

6. Use Buttons

Create graphical buttons for your call-to-action rather than simple linked text. Make the buttons large enough – 50 pixels tall or more – and surround the button with some white space. That makes it easy on a mobile device to click with your thumb while the other hand is holding your coffee.

7. Use Action Words

This is especially true for the call-to-action buttons – use words the clearly define what you want the recipient to do. Here are some examples:

Appeal to your recipients’ “FOMO” – Fear of Missing Out – and create a sense of urgency or exclusivity with terms such as Limited Time Offer, One Day Left to Save, and so on.

8. Benefits – Not Features

This is one of the most common concepts in marketing – sell the benefits of your product or service, rather than the features or options.

9. Make the Message Relevant

Personalized emails can greatly increase engagement. Use the recipient’s name, company, hometown, or other personal information in the content. Refer to something that is relevant to them, such as “Since you attended the XYZ Trade Show last week, we thought you might enjoy this whitepaper …” Segment your list and send messages that reflect the recipient’s needs. If they recently bought Product X, don’t send an email for Product X and expect them to click through.

10. Test, Test, Test!

Discover the subtle changes that can help boost CTOR. Run A/B split tests on variables such as layout, fonts (style, size, color), white space, button design (size, color, shape, placement, call-to-action words, etc.), background color, images, personalization, amount of text, and more. Test frequency – you may not be sending enough emails and your recipients are waiting to be convinced. Try re-sending the email to those who didn’t click and watch for diminishing returns on each re-send.

One of the benefits of email marketing lies in its measurability. There are many ways to quantify the success of your campaigns and CTOR is one that you should watch carefully.

Mark Vogel is president of Vogel Marketing Solutions LLC and serves as a lead email consultant for Nxtbook Media. He has more than 35 years of experience in the marketing world and has been actively engaged in email campaigns for more than 20 years. His email marketing clients include Fortune 500 companies, e-commerce retailers, non-profits, local businesses, and more. He can be reached at

Related Posts


40+ Awards

Consistently ranked in the top 10 best places to work in PA, and ranked nationally in the Top 101 Best and Brightest Companies.



Nxtbook Media has supported more than 100K projects... and counting.


7.5 Years

Our top clients have been with us for an average of 7.5 years.

Back to Top