Which links get the most clicks in email newsletters? (part 1)

By Zach and Elizabeth

Since we run an ad network for email, we care a lot about where clicks are happening in email newsletters.  We recently ran a study with publishers in our own network, analyzing which links people click on.

Details of the study

We analyzed clicks across 66k+ email campaigns and nearly 300M sent emails.  If there were 10 links in a given email campaign, we looked at whether the first link was clicked, the second link was click, and so on and categorized our findings and graphed them.  As it would turn out, email campaigns that had < 5 links had click-behavior that was very different from campaigns with 5+ links.  In this post, we’ll discuss the results of newsletters with < 5 links.

Place your call to action in the first or second link

You could’ve probably guessed that the first link of an email gets a lot of clicks, and you’d be right.  It turns out, having your call to action as the second link in your email newsletter is just as good if not better.  (Note: These links are not the “Click here to view this in a browser” or “Unsubscribe” links.  These links are the first links that you, as the email publisher, insert.) One caveat is that a lot of publishers tend to link a header image at the top of their newsletters to their respective websites, and those would be considered the first links.  This may explain why the second link gets a slightly better click-through-rate in the graph below.

Of all clicks across all email campaigns, the first link was clicked about 35% of the time.  So, for example, if there were 100 total clicks across all email campaigns, 35 of those would be on a first link in an email campaign.

What is interesting is that the dropoff after the second link is quite steep.  In fact, link #3 on average gets  ~1/3 as many clicks as link #2!  You might be thinking, “Well, is it because most email campaigns only have two links in them?”

As it turns out, there weren’t a whole lot of 1-link or 2-link campaigns relative to the total population of campaigns we analyzed.  This was the click breakdown:

  • On 1-link campaigns
    • Clicks on link #1: 131,914
    • Clicks on link #2: 0 (because there was only 1 link to click on)
  • On 2-link campaigns
    • Clicks on link #1: 72,003
    • Clicks on link #2: 163,419
  • Total on 1 and 2 link campaigns:
    • Clicks on link #1 = 131,914 + 72,003 = 203,917
    • Clicks on link #2 = 0 + 163,419 = 163,419
  • Total on ALL campaigns:
    • Clicks on link #1 = 1,569,827
    • Clicks on link #2 = 2,053,468

So, the effect of clicks in these 2 types of email campaigns was ~13% on link #1 and ~8% on link #2.  So, even if you removed all clicks from 1 or 2 link campaigns, the breakdown of clicks would still massively favor clicks on links in position 1 or 2 over subsequent link positions.

Correlation is not causation, but you might see improved results by moving your call to action into the first or second link in your email newsletter (where you have fewer than 5 links).

Plurality of email campaigns have no links

From the Campaign Histogram graph, we also see that the plurality of campaigns actually have 0 links.  It really surprised us that so many email campaigns have no call to action, and we were wondering why publishers are sending these emails?  (It is possible that some of these publishers have an offline-call to action or an email-the-publisher call to action.)

If you liked this post, sign up for our email newsletter (at the top of this post) which will email you when we publish part II.  We’ll show our findings on where people click in email campaigns with 5+ links.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>