Help! My click through rate is going down!

A number of questions came up this week on the topic of open and click-through rates.

If you’re new, open rate refers to the percentage of people who open an email you send.

Click-through rate refers to the percentage of people who click on a link in that email.

First, and you need to be aware of this, both of these numbers are completely unreliable in any kind of absolute way. If your newsletter says your open rate is 50%, that’s not actually even kind of true. It cannot be accurately measured, no matter what song and dance routine your autoresponder software goes through to convince you otherwise.

The only reason we care about open rate and click-through rate is in a relative way. Are your open rates generally going down, going up, or staying the same?

Is your click-through rate is usually 4% but today it was 2%? Well, it looks like you missed the mark on today’s email.

Is it usually 4% but today it was 12%? More like this one, sweetie!

With me so far? Percentage rates = relative. Cool? Cool.

Now that’s all well and good, but it leads to a very natural problem.

If Monday’s click-through rate was 4% and Tuesday’s was 3% and Wednesday’s was 2% – that looks bad, right? Houston, we have a problem?

Well, yes and no.

Usually, yes. It’s bad. If you send an email with a link to Monday’s blog post and 4% of your people click, and then you send an email linking to Tuesday’s blog post and 3% of your people click, and then Wednesday gets 2% – well, yeah. It’s looking like people kind of hate your blog. Sorry, dude.


That’s not when it usually happens.

The most common time for a sliding drop in open rate or click-through rate is during an active promotion.

Let’s say you’re having a sale.

On Monday, you send a big ol’ hoopla email with a killer subject line saying NOM NOM NOM SALE or some such thing. I, having never heard of this sale, say, “Sale? I like sales. Maybe I should open this email.”

Once inside, I see your delightful copywriting antics and say, “Maybe I’ll click.”

I click, I look around, I decide I’ll think about it later. (That’s foreshadowing, by the way.)

So that counts as an open and a click.

On Tuesday, you send a medium hoopla email with a medium killer subject line. I, being distracted, absent-mindedly open it anyway, forgetting that I already know what’s inside. Once I open it, I remember that I already know what’s inside, and I do not click.

My brother, on the other hand, wasn’t in his inbox on Monday, and this is the first HE has heard of it. He opens and he clicks, just like I did on Monday.

As the week goes on, more and more people have already opened and clicked, meaning they’re NOT going to open again, or they’re not going to click again.

By Thursday, only a few people are opening and clicking anything – generally those who are thinking very hard about buying, or those who have been on vacation all week.

Nearing the end of your promotional period, your open rate and your click-through rate drop like a rock.

“OK, Naomi. Hang on just a second here. You always say everybody buys at the end. How can they buy if they don’t click?”

Well, aren’t YOU clever for asking such an insightful question?

After all of this Monday Tuesday business happens, we come to the end of the sale and you send an email saying, “Today is the last day.”

What happens?

Everyone who is even marginally interested opens AND clicks. It’s get-it-or-regret-it time, baby. Open rate and click-through rate shoot back up. Yay!

So your open and click-through rates start moderately high, they go down, they go down more, they go down to the point where you’re well and truly terrified, and then they spike.

So if your open and click-through rates are dropping in the middle of a promotion, that is TOTALLY normal and there’s nothing you should do about it. Who clicks on the same link four days in a row? Nobody, that’s who.

So don’t worry about it. Just be damn clear that the last day is the last day, and your open and click-through rates will go right back up again.

Cool? Cool.