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Various marketing agencies have their strong suit. There are those inbound marketing agencies specializing in all channels of digital, but most only excel in one or two buckets. While some agencies provide an innovative SEO offering, others hit it out of the park with their social media marketing strategies. Yet email marketing is one of those areas that a lot of agencies seem to struggle with the most.

In a September 2016 article by E Path Digital, the author echoes the sentiment that email marketing is one of the hardest offerings to perform at a high level. The article states that creating emails that pique buyer interest is key to a successful strategy, and most companies fail at it. What the article doesn’t touch on is WHY many agencies fail: understanding your buyers and writing compelling content that garners a healthy click through rate. In other words you may have a decent open rate BUT if you fail to make a true connection with your subscribers, they aren’t going to click your links. This also means fewer leads and missed sales opportunities will affect your growth.

This is why it is paramount to encourage more subscribers to click on your CTAs. When you are done reading this article you will have some effective email marketing tips and strategies that will help boost your CTR and win more business opportunities.

First, What is a Good Open Rate and Click Through Rate Anyway?

Ideal email marketing click through rates vary. You have your Email Open Rate, then your Click Through Rate. HubSpot says that a good email open rate should be 32.4% with a CTR of 6.5%. Fulcrum Tech sets their bar with a 21.5% open rate and a CTR of 3.3%. Most digital marketing influencers suggest a healthy open rate between 20% and 35% with a healthy CTR between 3% and 12%.

The problem in setting your standard based on these figures is that no data exists attesting to the skillset and efficiency behind the workflows these agencies are reporting on. After all, clearly an agency known for SEO will likely create a CTR that is industry standard, while a top-performing inbound agency will present something entirely different and more efficient in converting.

Below is a screenshot taken from an email marketing campaign put together by WEBITMD; it shows that 136 emails were sent, 131 delivered and an open rate of 52.7% with a CTR of 24.4%.

screenshot WEBITMD

These numbers are not a one-off fluke, nor was this a spark of luck. Even across multiple industries we see consistently higher engagement with our client’s email marketing campaigns. By the time you are done reading this article you will have knowledge of the tricks and strategies we use that help make our clients successful with their email marketing campaigns.

Don’t Be Shy, Ask for the Opt In

The first step is to make sure people actually opt in to receive your emails. In order for this to happen people must voluntarily give you their email address, whether through a single opt-in or a double opt-in. First, don’t buy email lists. These are people who have not opted in, and 1999 has sailed. In order to get a high CTR you need a high open rate, and people who are ambushed through having their information sold are not going to be keen on clicking an email from a strange sender. Create blogs, white pages and guides that reflect your buyer’s needs. Give them something to chew on that creates trust. Add a CTA that speaks to them and that offers more to their needs with an opt-in as a requirement. If you show them value, they will want to hear from you.

Make the Email Subject Line a Star

According to HubSpot, 47% of email recipients determine their decision on opening emails based on the subject line alone. This is why it is critical to use a creative, compelling subject line that speaks to people and encourages a click. Your email subject line not only affects click through rates but also conversions and, more importantly, unsubscribes (if people open an email based on the subject line and it doesn’t accurately reflect the content, they will likely unsubscribe).

Here are some ways you can create amazing subject lines:

  • Write email subject lines that triggers the fear of missing out on a great deal; use a sense of urgency.
  • Your email subject line should make people curious.
  • Keep it short so it appears on mobile devices.
  • Ask questions to bring readers in; make it about them.
  • Depending what industry your buyers are in, emojis or symbols in the subject line can help the email stand out in their inbox.

Work on Improving Your Email Content

Your email content is what will keep your subscribers reading, and it is what will funnel them on to completing a purchase or filling out a form submission. Here are some ways to generate more engagement through your email content:

  • Use images, but not just any stock photo. Select visual representations of your offerings or photos that touch on your target buyer’s pain points.
  • Make emails interactive with videos.
  • Seek feedback; short surveys and polls will not only provide you with valuable insight but will help your potential customers feel more involved.  
  • Offer a subscriber incentive by providing people with content that will help them make educated decisions.
  • Use data to get people curious and to keep reading; show them the numbers and how they can achieve the same results.

Many agencies advice email marketers to include social sharing buttons in the content. This can be a great tactic for creating exposure. However, if the social buttons lead people away from the content and into Facebook, your CTR will suffer. Make sure the social share button allow users to “like” and share without leaving the page.

Personalize and Segment Your Email List

If you blast emails to everyone on your list, stop. Your contacts are not all interested in the same thing, and even if they are interested in a particular product or service, not all have the same pain points that drive them to make a purchase. You need to send relevant information to segmented audiences designed to touch on their unique needs. The more relevant your email is to the right kind of person, the more likely your CTR will go up, and so will conversions.

Personalization will boost your CTR, and this doesn’t simply mean you use their names in the subject line and in the email body. Use relevant data that touches on the pain points of each segmented group on your email list and truly tailor your emails to specific people to humanize your marketing and give them a better experience.

Get the Timing Right

Your CTR also depends on timing. If people receive your emails at inopportune times, they may never give it full attention and click on your link, let alone open it. Here are the best times to send your emails to get the most opens:

  • 8PM to Midnight – It sounds odd, but multiple studies show that the highest open rates and responses take place between 8PM and midnight when people are off work and cleaning out their inbox.  
  • 10AM – According to MailChimp one of the most active times for email engagements comes at 10AM. This makes sense considering that most businesses open at 9AM making 10 an ideal time to check email on a short break when people usually go get their second cup of coffee before the day really kicks into high gear.
  • Mid-Week / Mid Day – MailChimp says that Wednesdays at 2PM is an ideal time to send emails. This may be the “tried and true traditional approach”, but the email marketing guru swears by it.
  • Thursdays – MailChimp and WordStream agree that Thursdays have the highest open and click through rates. And WordStream reports that Thursdays between 8AM and 9AM gives them more than a 25% open rate.

Do some investigative work on the side; discover when your email contacts are the most active on social media. This goes to show they are not actively working, and most people report that when they take a break to surf their social media accounts, checking their email is part of the routine. Record these times over the period of four weeks, and send your emails out at that time. You should see a boost in your open rate and CTR.

Avoiding the SPAM Slam

The biggest culprit to blocking your CTR goals is to be slammed as SPAM by your email contacts. Being ignored is bad, but you still have a chance to reach out with a second email. However, being deemed worthless removes you entirely from the eyes of your potential customers.

A well-thought out email campaign is the holy water to your SPAM vampire; going for a strong opt-in, using a powerful email subject line, tweaking your content, personalizing and segmenting your contacts, and nailing down the right timing will make you relevant and attractive to potential customers.

Jen Saunders
Jen Saunders
Director of SEO at

Jen Saunders is Director of SEO at WEBITMD, an award-winning Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami. Jen’s focus is on creating agile SEO and content strategies designed to deliver business growth and measurable revenue. Jen’s passion currently sits in SEO’s evolving role within inbound, and testing high-conversion content optimization concepts.