How to improve the click-through-rate in your email newsletter

By Zach and Elizabeth

This is part II of a 3 part series on stats and best practices for improving your open rates, subscribe/unsubscribe rates, and click-through-rates in your email newsletters.

Click-through-rate on content positively correlates with open rate

According to Statwing (which is an awesome stats tool!), there is a very high statistical significance of higher open rates being a predictor of higher click-through-rates on your newsletter content.

Open rate vs Click-through-rate

This is extremely intriguing.  In other words, if List A has 1000 people and a 30% open rate and List B has 2000 people and a 15% open rate, the net number of people opening an email is the same.  But, in terms of engagement, as measured by click-throughs, List A is definitely the better list.  Yet, the newsletter sponsorship and ad industry traditionally favors larger lists — they pay a premium for larger lists, regardless of the number of people actually engaging with the content!  More on this later.

But, we found it difficult to predict with accuracy a newsletter’s click-through-rate given their open rate.  (Our linear regression had an R^2 = 0.6)  MailChimp, however, did a good study that shows you can predict with some certainty a newsletter’s click-through-rate if you know the word count and number of images in the newsletter.  Basically, use fewer words and prominent links to create a strong level of “clickiness”.

Click-through-rate on text ads does not correlate with open rate in “regular” newsletters

If you are running ads in your newsletter, your advertisers, sponsors, or ad networks (such as LaunchBit) will likely care about clicks and conversions.  (If you are looking for advertisers/sponsors for your newsletter, you should join It turns out that although click-through-rate on content correlates with a high open rate, the click-through-rate on text ads does not correlate with open rate.

Open rate vs click-through-rate on ads

But, higher open rates in newsletter digests are strongly associated with higher click-through-rates on text ads

There is one exception — if you are running a newsletter digest, your click-through-rate on text ads *does* correlate with your open rate.

Open rate vs Click-through-rate on ads in digests

Ok, what does this mean?  Our hunch is that newsletters have so many different layouts and styles — where you place an ad matters a lot in terms of its click-through-rate.  Two newsletters that do a 20% open rate could end up placing an ad in different locations in their respective email newsletters.  And, the click-through-rate on those ads would be different.

But assuming there were a standard style — such as a digest format that has really taken off in the last year that looks like Hacker Newsletter, Javascript Weekly, and Word of the Day.  Since the ads are more or less in the same place on all these templates, we can say confidently that with this type of newsletter layout, click-through-rates on ads are correlated with open rate, similar to content links.  It also turns out that this style of newsletter on average has a significantly higher click-through-rate on ads than a non-digest email newsletter.

Digest ad CTR vs Non-digest ad CTR

How do you improve your click-through-rate?

In short:

  • Most importantly — improve your open rate
  • Experiment with different layouts, including a digest style


  1. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it,
    you will be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will come
    back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage you to ultimately continue your great job, have a nice weekend!

  2. Aruna says:

    I need to know how to improve our click through rate, on an average our open rates are good but the CTR’s are not that good. Also please let me know what do you mean by digest style.

  3. Mayank Singhal says:

    Thanks..great post!

    Would you have Click to open rates (CTOR) instead of click through rates (CTR)?
    Also, do you agree with Statwing finding that there is a possiblity of 25% Click rate with 50% open rates?

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