9 Ways to Take Your Click-Through Rate to the Next Level


Updated 8/4/23

Before we dive into all things click-through rates, let’s go back in time. Remember when Apple made monumental changes to its privacy settings back in September 2021? These changes have since upended one of the most important email marketing metrics: open rate. They have rendered useless any audience segmentation or targeting based on the last open date.

Here’s how that happened. For anyone using the Apple Mail app — regardless of whether they have Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or a different email provider — Apple now pre-loads email content, including open tracking pixels for everyone who opted in to an email list. This means that even if a person doesn’t click to look at a particular email on purpose, their Apple device still registers that they’ve indeed looked at it.

While this sounds like a terrible and downright scary thing to email marketers far and wide, there have been positive benefits to this change. Namely, it can actually help your email marketing program to become more engaged. Instead of focusing on email opens as a baseline engagement, we now recommend you focus on email click-through rate — a far more engaging metric. This turns the people on your list into active participants and brings them one step closer to donating or taking action for your organization.

How can you take notice of your baseline click-through rate (CTR) and do A/B testing to help increase it? Read on for nine email tests you can deploy to work towards increasing CTR. To be sure, these are only suggestions and we recommend you test each one before committing to making them permanent parts of your email campaigns and other marketing activities. You don’t want to double down on a strategy for the wrong audience. Don’t hesitate to get experimental — see what works best for you and your team!

But first, what are CTRs?

Click-through rates are a key metric used in email marketing campaigns by nonprofit organizations to gauge the effectiveness of their outreach efforts. Your click-through rate measures the percentage of recipients who open an email and click on a link within it. For nonprofit email marketers, the click-through rate is a crucial metric because it indicates the level of engagement and interest generated among your target audience.

A good CTR has a low bounce rate and shows that a high percentage of people found the email content and subject line compelling enough to take further action on a campaign. It also shows that the email resonated with your audience’s interests and motivations, prompting them to click on whichever email links have been provided. Nonprofits rely on these clicks to direct recipients to specific landing pages or donation forms, where they can further engage with the organization’s cause or make a contribution.

1. Add more links to the email

This is an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how many nonprofits are hesitant to include “too many” links in their emails. Testing can help you find that happy medium. We also recommend choosing only one link to direct your email list to — and not diffusing clicks to multiple pages if you can help it. This is especially important for email links to donation asks.

2. Use different link formats

This one might not be as apparent as the first one, but including links in various formats and mediums can elicit curiosity which in turn can lead to more clicks. Sometimes your links will appear in a sentence, sometimes they will appear in summarized bullets or maybe a beautiful bright button. Choose your own adventure, and see what works for your nonprofit.

3. Alternate your call to action language

We’ve all received one too many emails that contain the same exact call to action (CTA) language. Sometimes an email CTA gets stale, and for that reason, freshening up with some new CTA language can help keep your supporters curiously clicking.

Spice it up by asking supporters to help a specific campaign or go the opposite direction and create language around thanking them with a clickthrough on a CTA button that hyperlinks to campaign results. They’re so used to asks, they could be genuinely impressed with language along the lines of, “Hey, thank you — this is what your help did for us.” An expression of gratitude in that vein could lead to long-term retention and engagement.

4. Alternate your button formatting

Subtle changes in action button and CTA button formatting can go a long way. Maybe at the top of the email you have one button, and at the bottom of the email you have two buttons. Each button can lead to the same page but perhaps different parts of that page. For example, one button can be “Learn More” and the other button could be “Help Now”. Where “Learn more” would lead to the part of the page that tells supporters about the campaign, “Help Now” would lead directly to the part on the donation page that has payment options. The more potential pathways, the better chances of increasing your click-through rate.

5. Keep an eye on the click-to-open rate

Monitoring the click-to-open rate (CTOR) is another valuable practice for nonprofit email marketers. Unlike click-through rate, CTOR measures the ratio of unique clicks to unique opens, providing insights into the effectiveness of the email’s content in driving engagement. By analyzing the CTOR, nonprofits can identify areas for improvement in the actual email content and design, ensuring that it effectively communicates the organization’s mission, impact, and call-to-action. Nonprofit email marketers can use this data to refine their email marketing strategies and create more compelling content that encourages recipients to click on the email links and further engage with their cause.

6. Use animated buttons

While this should be used sparingly, these buttons certainly would catch the attention of your email list. Try adding animation to a thermometer that shows incremental fundraising growth towards the goal of your current campaign, and how far off the campaign is from that goal. This could simultaneously show social proof and could project a sense of urgency for supporters on your email list to donate now.

7. Make your subject lines pop

To improve click-through rates, nonprofit email marketers should pay attention to crafting engaging subject lines. A compelling subject line captures the reader’s attention and entices them to open the email, increasing the likelihood of them clicking on the email link. Nonprofits can experiment with different subject line strategies, such as personalization, urgency, or highlighting the impact of their cause, to determine what resonates most with their target audience and drives higher click-through rates.

8. Use fewer words, more visuals

Less is more. Test what your supporters engage with the most — perhaps it’s short copy, imagery, GIFs, etc. Then, when you find out what they prefer to engage with, give them what they want. Once you find a formula that works, try other forms of content to keep things fresh.

You can introduce these click-orientated messages throughout email schedules to balance giving emails. Here are some examples:

  • One click quiz
  • Share a video
  • Save the date
  • “Click here” to see pictures
  • Top 10 List (wherein the most wanted items are hidden)
  • Downloadable freebies
  • Surveys
  • Vote or poll

9. Increase font size

Capture attention with a bold header and an ask. However, like animations, use this design tactic sparingly or supporters could get visually burned out. This type of design emphasizes the importance of your message, and it allows readers to quickly identify the purpose of your communication.

Ready to boost your click-through rate with effective email tests?

Find out more about how Engaging Networks can help you refine your fundraising and advocacy emails with powerful testing strategies. Connect with a team member today, or request a demo to learn all about how we help organizations around the world engage with their email lists.

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