Email Benchmarking Series: Clicks: A Deep Dive! | DMA

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Email Benchmarking Series: Clicks: A Deep Dive!


This article is written by Kostas Karagkounis who is part of the Email Council and its Research Hub.

Following the release of the 2022 DMA Email Benchmarking Report, the DMA Email Council's research hub has prepared a series of articles explaining in more detail some of the most important aspects of the report. This article will be followed by articles by Russell Dawson (Deliverability Update) and Saravanan Subburam.

In this one, I will focus on clicks.

Why are clicks such an excellent measure of engagement?

In email marketing, click-throughs are often considered the “holy grail” of engagement success - and for good reason, nicely summarised by Validity’s Wayne Parslow:

“Open rates are an increasingly flawed metric, and a 10% click-to-open ratio also means nine out of ten carry on to do...nothing! An open is worth around 50p while a click-through is close to £5. Improving this conversion rate has huge revenue benefits and finding a way to measure “opened-with-intent” creates a metric with far greater value.”

Historically, marketers have used open rates as their primary success metric. While opens remain popular today, the DMA's most recent Email Marketer Tracker shows that 49% of marketers use click-to-open rates as a measure of email success. In the same report, the second and third key marketer’s metrics are also clicks - as part of the click-through & click-to-open rate.

As Emarsys Deliverability Operations Lead, I regularly handle client inquiries related to open rates, while click-rate performance is often overlooked. I expect clicks to become increasingly important with the development of e-commerce channels and more sophisticated approaches to data. For reference, here are the latest DMA Email Benchmarking Report 2022 2021 average figures (a “special” pandemic year):

  • Open rate: 19.7%
  • Click rate: 2.8%
  • Click-to-open rate: 13.2%

That is the highest click rate we’ve ever reported! And retail is leading the way with 3.5% average click rate. This is expected, retail generally adapts faster to new technologies (such as AMP), is better in optimizing for clicks, and generally uses more advanced tactics. You can find much more on this in the report!


2021 was a special year for email, and not only because of the pandemic. As reported by Emarsys and Validity, open rates are now heavily skewed following the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP); and engagement can no longer be traced back to individuals (Read more here: Apple's Mail Privacy Protection: What Does it Mean for Marketers?). This means senders can’t rely on open rates for measuring engagement, driving greater focus on clicks instead.

By absolute numbers, clicks are much less than opens. This means less data points for segmentation and split testing, meaning lower levels of statistical confidence. Clicks should be used wisely in conjunction with other available data points to get a more accurate view of subscriber engagement (e.g. purchases, website visits, social media ads, etc.).

A click (or tap for mobile devices) is a powerful metric as it requires an action from the user, showing real engagement with your content and providing deeper insights. Your first task should is to generate more clicks as this:

  • will give you more engagement data points
  • is more accurate engagement metric than open rate
  • will increase your CTO rate.

But how can we influence the longed-for numerator: Clicks?

How to optimize your clicks

Industry trends around privacy mean consumers are more likely to opt out of tracking if they can, making the lives marketers more difficult. Keep in mind what “good” looks like and aim for that as a benchmark. In general, global unique click-through rates fall somewhere in the 2% range (2.2% for B2C vs 2.9% for B2B) and vary by sector.

As always, there are best practices to get those clicks, and plenty of design and planning to achieve the best outcome. Let’s go into more detail:


  • Check that any linked resources in your emails are “live”; they must redirect to a valid page. Pre-send testing is crucial and should always be included as a process step!
  • Try to align your link domains with your sending/business domain to avoid phishing flags:
    • Good example: &
    • Bad example: &
  • Setup your link domain to use https access, as you enhance its security and avoid any potential spoofing.
  • Track and monitor the clicks
    • Which sections of your emails get most hits?
    • Which contacts are most engaged?
    • Which products can be linked to your customers to drive relevant follow-up?
  • For links used under images, use an “alt text” which should be readable. This provides a description when images are blocked, assists visually impaired subscribers with a description of the image, and helps with antispam filters.
  • Avoid public link shortners (eg. tinyURL), as this can be alarming to antispam filters.
  • Separate and evaluate healthy clicks. For example, unhealthy clicks include:
    • Bot clicks; identify and exclude them by filtering out the clicks occurring almost simultaneously, or by including a hidden link
    • Unsubscribe clicks; be sure you are honoring them!
    • ‘View in browser’ clicks
  • Include more clickable functionality within the email. New technology like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) provides tools like image carousels meaning more click-through opportunities, making recipients more likely to convert when they do click through.
  • Clicks are generated when emails land in the inbox. Its highly unlikely recipients will click emails in the spam folder. Keeping your IP addresses and sender reputation clean, and using a Certification program like Validity’s means more chances to land in the inbox and generate clicks


  • Good clicks start with good audience selection. Ensure you are targeting the right recipients to maximise relevance and engagement. Leverage their own zero-party data to ensure you are communicating with them on the topics they are most interested in. Provide easy to use preference centres so they can tailor those interests.
  • Make sure the primary call to action button is located “above the fold” – less than half of email recipients scroll to view content that is not initially visible. Use render testing software to ensure this happens for all major devices and clients. Always ensure there is a clickable link in the pre-header text (that first line of text in the email, which often complements the subject line) – it’s the first thing recipients see.
  • Ensure the “promise” created by the subject lines is visible and easily accessible once the email is opened – readers are far more likely to click-though when this happens. They don’t want to spend time searching for the content that initially caught their attention.
  • Be aware not all subscribers click through even for interesting emails (only around 25% according to the DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker report). Instead, they may view your social media channels or read product reviews. Make sure this functionality is also prominent (and clickable), not buried in the email footer


  • Make your links obviously “clickable”
    • Use colours for a clear contrast
    • Use descriptive calls to action (“click here to…”), instead of a “dry” link
    • Use clicks to allow customers to send reviews or share content
    • Offer signups (e.g., for a special offer)
    • Use engaging text (e.g., instead of a “Discover more”, use “Our new Winter 2022 collection is now online!”)
    • Why not use a text version of the newsletter with the links?
  • Use buttons and images. Most recipients expect to be able to click through from an image, so ensure this is possible. Keep in mind that anything subscribers might expect to be hyperlinked is clickable:
    • Use blocked templates reflecting your brand’s aesthetics
    • Use links to promote other social media options
  • Check beforehand which devices your customers mostly use and align your template accordingly
  • Ensure click-throughs are easy to use. Around one-fifth of the planet’s population has some form of sight-related disability according to WHO stats. Use large buttons (ideally full-screen width for mobile devices) and plenty of white space to avoid inadvertently activating other functionality. Use large fonts (14 points or above) and ensure there is good colour contrast between the buttons and their backgrounds. You win twice by implementing accessibility best practices that are also click optimization best practices!

Also make sure you fully understand how subscribers engage with your emails – what do they look at first, and in what order do they scan the email elements? Make use of predictive eye-tracking software to ensure subscriber attention is focused on the Click-to-Action (CTA) you want them to respond to, and not directed by unintended distractions.

For more info around email best practices that ultimately drive increased click-throughs you should check the latest DMA Email Accessibility Guide.

To optimise aesthetic or behavioral elements, perform A/B tests to understand what your audience reacts best to. Perform these tests regularly, so you are aligned with your recipients’ preferences.


Generating clicks is a powerful tool for your marketing program. Focusing on this and you will:

  • Have a direct point of entry to your most engaged audience
  • Enjoy better deliverability
  • Gain more insights to shape marketing strategy and promotions
  • Improved conversion rates

Bottom line - more clicks mean better performance and more revenue. Why not start right now?

See more from the Email Council here.

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