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CTR vs CTOR in Email Marketing

by Roman Zhyvitski 6 days ago in advice

How to Choose the Right Metric

CTR vs CTOR in Email Marketing

You will agree with us that although there are advanced marketing strategies, email marketing is still an effective marketing method.

According to the DMA National Client Email Report email marketing returns over 3800% on investment. This is far higher than other marketing channels.

A large question among marketers is about the right metrics to analyze the effectiveness of their email marketing campaigns.

The market provides two popular metrics for email marketing abbreviated as CTR or the CTOR.

In today's guide, I will explain the main differences, pros and cons of CTR & CTOR.

Are these terminologies new to you?

Well, this shouldn’t be a concern as we break their meaning down for you through an analogy. When you send out an email to your prospective clients with a link of your product, two possibilities will occur.

Some clients will open the email and click on the link, others will click on the link without opening the email and a section will not observe either of the options. The percentage that focuses on the people who click on your email link is what is known as Click Through Rate (CTR).

The percentage whose focus is on people who not only clicked on a link but open the email is what is called the Click to Open Rate (CTOR). While you might be undecided on the metric you want to chose between CTR and CTOR, this articles will offer able guidance through informing you on meanings of CTOR numbers before critically analyzing both of the metrics.

What Do CTR or CTOR Numbers Tell you?

Let us lay the foundation by Open Rates which is a precursor to CTR and CTOR.

Open rates are very straightforward. Divide the number of people who opened your email by either the total number of emails you sent out or the number of emails that were delivered.

Already you can see that the choice you make between the total number of emails sent and the number of emails that were delivered will tell you something that is slightly different.

Dividing the total number of emails sent including bounced emails paints a picture of how healthy your list generally is but if you divide by the number of delivered emails it means that you are mostly interested in the success of segmentation or subject line.

If you don't have ready contact lists, you can order your custom mailing database to save a lot of time!

Now it begins to get a bit complicated when you look at CTR. Again, this one can be calculated in different ways whereby you can make a choice to divide total clicks either by the total number of emails sent or by the total number of emails delivered.

Additionally, you also need to choose between individual CTR and Holistic CTR. Individual CTR shows how many people clicked through while holistic CTR measures how many clicks took place.

If you send an email to 100 people and 10 people click through with each one of the 10 people clicking two links (20 clicks in total), your individual CTR will be 10% because 10% of the people clicked through.

On the other hand, your Holistic CTR will be 20% because that 10% clicked two links each.

In the final analysis, both of the above numbers are useful differently. In the above example, you can safely conclude that when you send the right content to the right people, they will love it but then you should be more discerning about who would be the right person for your content.

And it is at this point that you must decide about whether to be guided by CTR or CTOR. As observed earlier, the CTR measures the total number of people who clicked through so that if you send out 100 emails which end up being opened by 20 people and only 5 clicks, that will post a CTR of 5%.

On the other hand, CTOR which takes into account only the number of people that opened the email would be 25% because a quarter of people who actually opened the email clicked through (5/20 x100).

This helps to diagnose different problems at different points along the chain. A low CTR of 5% but a higher CTOR of 25% could mean that the content of your email is okay but your effort is wasted in sending emails to people who are not interested.

Conversely, a low CTOR shows that your emails are falling flat with no further action once they get opened.

What is a Good CTR or CTOR?

What a lovely question. Across the board, CTRs average about 4% and for special interest groups, you probably want to aim a bit higher. According to Campaign Monitor, a good CTOR is in the region of 20% to 30%.

As demonstrated there above already, CTR and CTOR (including your method of calculating the same) each one tells different things.

When you compare these numbers, a story builds up of how your email campaign is performing at each level. To keep improving and growing, you are better of getting accurate and complete numbers for every step.

To this end, you must ensure that you are using an email marketing platform which collates information about CTR versus CTOR so as for you to put it forward in a manner that is precise and easy to comprehend.

How to Choose the Right Metric

Because CTOR measures the percentage of unique recipients who clicked through to your email after opening, most email marketers prefer to measure engagement against CTOR because this particular metric only accounts for people who open and read their emails.

According to HubSpot, CTOR helps in understanding and measuring how CTAs and email messages resonate and perform with audiences.

And according to Ari who is the Experiment Head of HubSpot Global Messaging Team, CTOR is the best strategy to measure the resonance of an email marketing campaign. Ari further claims that CTOR reveals more insights about email marketing and can thus help you understand how to improve your campaigns.

Let your goals guide you. This is important to make sure that you pick the right tool that will make it easy for you to monitor your progress towards your goal. The tool that measures more precise parameters such as CTORs thus is more important than other tools that are not specific.


Although this article focuses majorly on CTR and CTOR, it must be emphasized that consideration of goals for a successful email marketing campaign remain paramount.

Roman Zhyvitski
Roman Zhyvitski
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Roman Zhyvitski

Digital marketing manager, content writer, and SEO specialist with 7 years of experience, travel blogger since 2015, and entrepreneur with about 10 online projects in different niches.

See all posts by Roman Zhyvitski