Study: How does link placement affect the CTR of newsletters?

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Study: How does link placement affect the CTR of newsletters? Avoid causing an information overflow by making the content as clear and concise as possible and paying attention to link placement.
View image The newsletters were divided into four parts in the study. Especially the upper left area turned out to be the most effective.

A constant flood of information is very typical for the digital age of today. The non-stop flow of messages can make it hard to focus and this creates a lot of challenges for marketing. Can analytics provide data on where the readers' attention is being focused on for example in email marketing? Where should a CTA or other link be placed and how does the placement affect the click-through-ratio of the newsletter?

These are the questions that assistant professor Ashish Kumar from Aalto University and marketing professor Jari Salo from Oulu Business School set out to answer in their study "Effects of link placements in email newsletters on their click-through rate". The study was published in the Journal of Marketing Communications in the spring 2016. It was conducted using the extensive analytics tools of Liana Technologies' newsletter tool LianaMailer.

The study examined whether the placement of links in newsletters matters and if it does, what the optimal placement for a link is to achieve the best CTR. The subject was approached from a neurological point of view and it aims to find out where the reader's attention is being focused on and how the reader processes the information. The placement of visual elements in marketing has already been studied quite a lot, but rarely regarding digital marketing and especially email marketing. 

The newsletters were divided into four parts: upper right, lower right, upper left and lower left. The click rates of each section and how they affect the click-through-rate of the entire newsletter were analyzed with heatmap analytics.

Image: With heatmaps you can find out which links get clicked on the most.

The study was conducted with the help of 12 companies from 4 different countries. Only newsletters where every section had a link were used and data was gathered from 110 newsletters.The results of the effectiveness of different parameters were obtained using a mathematical function, which took into account the different characteristics and statistics of the letter: the unsubscribtion rate, the opening percentage, the header length, the length of the text, the number of images, the number of links, the length of the letter in pixels and clicks on each of the four segments.


The results of the study clearly indicate, that links on the left side of the newsletter affect the CTR of the letter in a positive way. The best results were obtained with links that were placed in the upper left area. The worst link placement was in the upper right segment. The ranks from most to least significant placements create a U shape. This indicates that a clear CTA and important links should usually be added to the upper left side of the newsletter. The correlation is so clear, that the results of the study can safely be used for making email marketing more efficient. 

Other factors

It is clear that link placement alone isn't the only way to a good CTR. Statistically letters with a high unsubscribtion rate and low open rate also have a low click-through-rate. The study also listed these as important factors:

Title length

The study doesn't reveal an optimal length for the title, but it clearly states that a title that is too long seems to have a negative effect on the CTR. The effectiveness of titles can be easily measured with A/B testing. This testing method automatically chooses a test group out of the recipients and tests different variations of the title on them. After the more efficient version has been found the letter will be automatically sent to the rest of the recipients with the optimized title. 

The amount of text

An important subject studied by Salo and Kumar is the overabundance of information and how it affects the reader's ability to focus. Unnecessary filler text should be gotten rid of and the content should be offered in a clear and concise manner. Only the teasers, i.e. a short and dense description of what the link contains, should be added to the newsletter. A short and succint letter is easier to read and doesn't feel overbearing to the recipient.

The amount of pictures

The study didn't find any correlation between the amount of pictures and the letter's CTR. While pictures are good for attracting attention, they can also create an information overload. This way the effect of the amount of pictures is somewhat neutral. 

If you want to read more about obtaining a better CTR read our previous article. If you feel you need a professional partner to help you with your email marketing, contact us and let's discuss your needs further. 

Source: Effects of link placements in email newsletters on their click-through rate, Ashish Kumar & Jari Salo (Journal of Marketing Communications, March 2016)

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