The power of the click

Clicks are one of the most valuable email marketing metrics — they are often also the most underutilized. Read this article to learn how to get more out of your click metrics.


The two most known email marketing metrics are open rates and click-through rates.  For years entire automated email programs have been built based on who opened or didn’t open. Open rates were used to determine who was still an active subscriber and who should receive lapsed emails or win-back campaigns. Click-through rate (CTR) determined overall engagement with the email, while click to open rate (CTOR) allowed us to see if the subject line that enticed a subscriber had the expected effect.  With MPP, both open rates and CTOR rates need to be less important, not because they aren’t valuable metrics but because open measures are no longer reliable. I would say that open rates were never a great metric, but that is a topic for another time. 

Clicks have always been the more reliable metric, and while click rates aren’t generally used as a KPI, nor does the email with the highest CTR always translate to the highest revenue, as mentioned in Jeanne Jennings’s article here. Even with that said, clicks are still one of the most valuable email marketing metrics and are often the most underutilized.

What Click Rate Tells Us

Let’s, for a second, go back to the basics of the click-through rate definition and what it means when a subscriber clicks. When a subscriber clicks on your email, you learn that they are interested in your brand, that your CTA (call to action) was engaging, and more information on what that subscriber is interested in, whether that be a retail item, service item, or a relationship with you. 

When looking at click-through rate, marketers often look at the overall campaign.  Some of the questions we ask ourselves are:

  • How does my click-through rate compare to industry benchmarks?
  • Was my click-through rate higher or lower than my last email campaign?
  • Was there a decline or increase in click-through rates during my onboarding series? 
  • What part of my email creative is generating the most clicks?

These are all great questions and should be answered when analyzing campaign metrics, but they are all about the overall click rate for a campaign. None of these use click data strategically. Does it matter if your click rate is 3.7% or 10.5% or 20% if you aren’t using the data as part of your strategy?  No!

Clicks are a powerful metric that should be part of your email strategy

How you utilize click data primarily depends on the type of business. Those in the eCommerce space might benefit from using click data to infer product interest based on what someone clicks on consistently. For example, if someone is constantly clicking on products for women, but your email features products for both men and women, you can likely infer that your subscriber is only interested in purchasing for a female and you can tailor content appropriately. If you are selling classes or services in the B2B space, you need to look at click data differently.

What does a click strategy look like?

A B2B business hired my agency to manage their email program about a year ago and tasked us with improving email engagement. They had two concerns:

  1. email consistency
  2. improving open rates

They believed open rate was their key engagement metric. 

Email consistency was easy since we just needed to create a content calendar and stick with it, but improving engagement was challenging.

Their open rates were strong (this was before MPP launched) but click-through rates were low (not terrible, but just low and not really being looked at). And while we could always make open rates stronger, this was not the engagement metric we believed to be best for them.

For this B2B brand, the goal of email marketing was for the subscriber to engage with the sales rep, not necessarily purchase the specific product featured in the email. 

Building the strategy, one click at a time

Upon starting work with this B2B brand, we immediately updated the creative to include more CTAs that better aligned with the business objective around generating a conversation. Immediately the CTR increased, but again that wasn’t the objective we were after, even though increasing the CTR was a good thing.

By analyzing the click data, we determined which links people clicked on within the email and used that data to generate a more straightforward CTA that better aligned with the business objective. From there, we determined that a click follow-up strategy would be essential. Even in the B2B space, following up individually with each person who clicked was going to be time consuming; also, it might not lead to an increase in revenue. So, we needed to dig deeper. We defined three types of clickers and developed a strategy based on these segments and the primary business objective:

Segment #1Segment #2Segment #3
Those who clicked on every email that was sent over the month Those that clicked on the featured content in the emailThose who clicked on the   scheduling link or “contact us” link but didn’t follow the process   through

For segments #1 & #2, we developed automated follow-up emails inviting them to schedule a call. The email was short and to the point.  For segment #3, we determined that a one-to-one follow-up from the sales rep (either by phone or an email directly from the rep) would meet business objectives faster, and this was a smaller, more manageable group. One thing to note is that they had been doing similar follow up for segment #3, but it was based on opens. They weren’t seeing much success from that due to too many false opens and it not being an absolute. Click is always the better metric as it is an absolute metric. Shifting to clicks allowed them to follow up with subscribers who had expressed deeper interest.

Early Success

While we are still in the early stages of this click-based strategy, the client sees results, and more subscribers from segments #1 & #2 are scheduling calls through the automated emails. While this strategy still takes time, we have been able to use email marketing and the metrics behind it to create a very personalized experience. By using click data vs. open data they are able to better connect with those who are ready to have a conversation and purchase. This also means a smaller group for segment #3 which makes the process more manageable for the sales reps.


There are so many data points in email that can be used for following up and automated customer journeys. Which data point you use depends on the type of business, the data you have, and the clear business objective you are trying to achieve. Often brands have so much data that they don’t even know where to start, but simplifying things and using data that exists (such as click data) in your email marketing platform will help you streamline the customer journey process.

Photo by KirstenMarie on Unsplash

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