When an email campaign is getting great open rates but a low email CTR (Click-through-rate), this tells us that something inside the email is not connecting with the audience. If you are absolutely sure the subject line was compelling enough, what inside the email may have driven the user away from taking the next action?

There are many factors to consider, but if you are frustrated and feeling stuck on what to do, maybe one of these ideas on how to improve your email CTR can help!

1. Audit Images when there is a Low Email CTR

Make sure your email CTA messaging is not only in images:

  • When an email is loaded, the user does not automatically see the images you embed in the email. The user must allow images to download in order to see any images.
  • Some employers and email client security filters block images from being rendered to the user at all.
  • Some users just decide not to download images when looking at emails.

If the emails messaging is reliant on the imagery to drive behavior, having the CTA hidden is obviously a huge problem…make sure to have a CTA included in the email text-body in some way, or A/B test a version of your email.

Run an A/B test of Text-based email vs Visual-based email:

  • One easy test to run is an A/B test with two versions of your email. The idea here is to send a very plain looking email with text and links naturally placed within the email content. The idea here is to test which Email Content Styling will drive your audience to engage with the content best.
    • Test this version against an email
      • Version A – your normal email with images and buttons
      • Version B – Same layout, Text based CTA’s only…duplicated copy, without any images or buttons.

The results of this test could prove the images in your email are unnecessary and counterproductive or it may confirm the image usage is not an issue (if the A/B test versions both perform similar)…either way, you will have new information to help optimize your strategy moving forward.

If you are thinking “sounds great, but i Don’t know how to execute this type of test,” then take a look at our A/B Testing Guides where we provide step-by-step guides for the most popular email platforms.

Highlight areas of the email copy that are especially interesting to increase odds of a click-through:

  • If there are paragraphs within your email, draw attention to a specific detail (like I just did there) in the middle of the paragraph to grab the attention of readers who scroll through quickly. If our typical buttons aren’t performing the way we want, this simple strategy can help improve CTR in your emails quickly without re-thinking the content too much.

3. Revisit the Email Subject Line

Confirm the email subject line aligns with the CTA message if there is low email CTR

  • It can be tempting to over-focus on getting high open rates, but achieving the highest open rate does not automatically increase chances of success. When opens are happening and the CTR is poor, something is amiss. Does the subject line in question accurately describe what the user will find in the email?

Aim for Quality – Make the Subject Line boring (but informative)

  • As mentioned above, high open rates are not always good news. High opens with low CTR in some ways is a failure. If your first impression with your users is not quality content, it can promote unsubscribes early in the content journey.
  • Being “boring” just means, no fluff…stay away from anything that is over-used cliche.


Email Marketing is a digital marketing channel with great ROI. Many businesses find email to be the most valuable marketing channel. That is why improving a low email CTR could bring a serious boost to your digital marketing efforts. An increasing CTR can lead to faster lead velocity and overall more engagement with your content.

The key is to be flexible in your approach and be willing to try new things out when the performance is not what you are hoping for, for a quick review, here are three things to try when your email click through rate needs improvement:

  1. Make sure the images are not the only CTA included
  2. Add more links to the email text
  3. Test using an informative, boring subject line

What are your thoughts? Have you had success with improving CTR using these ideas or any others?