CTOR: The Middle Child of Email Metrics

Middle child syndrome is the belief that middle children are excluded, ignored, or even outright neglected because of their order of birth between their siblings. If this analogy was to be carried out in the world of email marketing, it would be the metric of CTOR.

CTOR is defined as a click-to-open rate that compares the number of unique clicks to unique opens. The formula is

(unique clicks/unique opens) x 100

Open rates and click rates are the metrics that are often talked about. While CTOR is not a well-publicized metric, it totally should deserve more attention. To understand why this metric deserves attention, it’s important to grasp the relationship of the underlying metrics.

What do open rate and click rate mean? Open rates indicate the rate of unique opens by the total recipient, and click rates indicate the total number of clicks vs the total number of emails delivered.

Philosophically the open rate is an indicator of interest. It’s important to follow up that statement with a qualifier, what is the interest all about? Is it just the subject line? When you do dig deeper it’s evident that:

  • Open rate is all about attention and awareness
  • Subject line effectiveness
  • Topicality and user interest match

Similarly, Click rates are good indicators of:

  • Engagement and interactivity of the subscriber
  • Actionability of content

At the outset, these metrics look good, but what they fail to gauge is: 

  • Probability of somebody acting on the topic
  • Interest in the actual content of the email
  • Intent to act on the content
  • Effectiveness of the content, as subscribers who open the email, can click the content multiple times, thereby inflating the click rates
  • Overall campaign effectiveness 

The metric that can guarantee campaign success is usually the middle child we’ve been talking about: CTOR. 

Why is CTOR super important? The other metrics are a measure of performance to some extent, but they don’t necessarily cover the whole effectiveness of the campaign. A simple illustration of this: While open rates are good indicators of interest in the topic and composition of good subject lines, they don’t actually matter unless the user clicks the CTA (call to action) embedded in the email.

Similarly, click rates indicate the actionability of the content, but don’t necessarily indicate the overall effectiveness of the email. Intent to buy is not easy to discern in situations rendering these metrics very single-dimensional.

Marketing overall is a complex multi-dimensional problem and having a siloed view of interest, whether it’s a subject line or content effectiveness denoted by open rates or clicks showing CTA effectiveness doesn’t give the marketer the whole picture, which is critical to effective marketing.

CTOR is that metric that answers the multi-dimensional question in a pretty effective way. It covers the effectiveness, distribution, actionability of the content and overall effectiveness. Once a marketer focuses on CTOR, the other equally important metrics of open rates and click rates can support fuller comprehension of the effectiveness of the campaign.

As you can see from our blog banner, there are some really important middle children who went on to achieve some great things in life. It’s important to pay attention to the often-ignored middle child metric: CTOR. 

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