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Why The Fold Is A Lie & How To Get Awesome Conversions Anywhere
By Marc Schenker
“The fold” has been heavily debated for years. It refers to the portion of a web page that's shown when first entering a site without scrolling down. It’s important because research has shown that the majority of clicks made by readers happen above the fold, leading to a best practice to "never put your call to action below the fold." Except there's a growing amount of research showing this best practice is misguided, making many people question: Where is the best placement for a call to action button?
The call to action in relation to the fold
There’s always worry about putting calls to action below the fold because we’ve been programmed to believe that the only reality for successful online conversion happens above the fold.
- Marketer and web designer Ben Hunt completed an A/B test where he found the promotions placed above the fold got six times as many clicks than the promotions below
- Joanna Wiebe experimented with above-the-fold CTA placement for an online store and found that conversions skyrocketed by 96.6 percent and 104.5 percent for two distinct calls to action
- Marketing Experiments ran an A/B test where the CTA placed at the bottom of a long-scrolling page did 220 percent better than the call to action above the fold
- Neil Patel conducted and A/B test on NeilPatel.com and determined that the call to action right below the fold outperformed the one above it; the above-the-fold CTA actually sunk conversions by 17 percent in comparison
It’s about how you present the content
Since both above- and below-the-fold placement have proven effective under different circumstances, we just can’t conclude that one is better than the other. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken. Instead, it’s about whether the content can influence how site visitors interact with (i.e., click on) your CTA. What does user behavior show? According to Google product director Luke Wroblewski, more engagement actually happens right at or below the fold - a finding that challenges the conventional wisdom that content must be placed above the fold to be seen. However, in another study, user experience experts from Nielsen Norman Group found that there’s a sizeable drop-off in attention paid to elements below the fold. Sizeable as in... the 100 pixels just above the fold were viewed 102 percent more than the 100 pixels just below the fold.
Common elements of high-converting landing pages
Does this mean above-the-fold content performs better than below-the-fold content? While the analysis proves that content above the fold is viewed more than content below the fold, it also reveals that users do in fact scroll. But they do so with a purpose. In other words, it’s not so much the fold that impacts conversion, but the persuasion used to encourage users to scroll. As long as the content is both persuasive and engaging, visitors will find (and likely click) your CTA. The placement in relation to the fold matters much less. Kissmetrics came to the same conclusion in a similar examination:
Let’s take a look at a couple of the CTAs from the studies mentioned earlier which saw superior conversion rates both above and below the fold. Here's Joanna Wiebe’s A/B testing for TG Store:
Reminder: She found that conversions increased when calls to action were above the fold rather than below. But there’s more going on here than the placement of a couple calls to action. We see numerous persuasion elements at play, including:
- A large image featuring the product in action—mega images have been found to play a big role in boosting conversions
- Additional images featuring the product, placed near the call to action buttons—sharp images can increase conversion rates
- Social proof (see: brand logos)—social proof boosts conversions
- Trust signals, such as testimonials and awards—trust signals correlate to better conversions
- A free return guarantee that promises no-hassle returns—guarantees that promise shoppers’ money back help increase conversions
Joanna’s above-the-fold results weren’t solely because of the location of the CTAs, but the persuasion elements leading up to them, as well. Because the content was engaging and persuasive (even in the limited amount of space above the fold), conversions were very good. Now let’s check out the other side of things. On the MarketingExperiments blog, Daniel Burstein covers a case study that A/B tested a CTA above and below the fold. The test found that moving the CTA below the fold increased conversions by 220 percent. Here’s the before...
And the after….
What makes the “after” so successful is the convincing elements they’ve added before the sign-up form at the bottom. With more room to convince people, you too can add in great stuff, like:These are all elements included in the after that weren’t possible in the before. So why did these two studies show opposing results? It’s about the quality and presentation of content. That’s what these examples have in common: persuasive, engaging, and quality content leading up to the main call to action.
- More white space around central messaging — white space helps to increase conversions
- Video, which has been repeatedly shown to raise conversion rates
- A list of benefits — people want to know how they will benefit from the offer
- Storytelling — storytelling is a marketing mainstay that’s been proven to increase engagement and ROI
- Long-form copy, which has been shown to convert at higher rates
How to create content that motivates visitors to take action
Motivation is based on engagement and persuasion, so it’s vital that your site incorporates these elements. Here are 10 simple ways to improve it: 1) Add high-quality images featuring your product This accomplishes two goals: It solves a practical problem, allowing visitors to clearly see and examine what you’re selling, and as a result, sales rise because people get a better idea of what they’re buying. 2) Incorporate trust signals like testimonials from credible organizations Some people are still skeptical about purchasing products and services on the web, so do what you can to put their minds at ease. If you have glowing customer testimonials or product reviews, splash them on your site. If you have awards from well-known brands and organizations, feature them prominently. 3) Use social proof in the form of logos and badges from popular companies The more social proof you have, the more you’ll succeed at getting visitors to convert. That’s because logos, badges and icons from famous brands on your site function as endorsements. People are likelier to buy if a well-known name publicly supports your brand. 4) Add a hero image, if it makes sense for the page layout Large, nice-looking images are great for capturing people’s attention upon entrance to your site. This is why so many websites use them. If you can immediately grab visitors’ attention, you’ll also be able to keep them around and engaged longer. 5) Feature generous amounts of whitespace to focus the user’s eye A crucial aspect of online marketing is ensuring that the most important stuff stands out and gets read. Use a proper amount of whitespace, so site visitors can see and understand the essentials. 6) List the benefits of your product or service An effective way to sell anything is to emphasize the benefits. What value do people get from using your product or service? Explain this to them. Spell out what it is you do for your customers. This is what makes people convert. Listing the benefits in a quick and easy-to-scan, bullet-point list is often very effective. 7) Offer return guarantees and other perks Everybody likes a win-win. Ever get stuck with a purchase that didn’t work out? Not fun. Offer free returns for your shoppers as a gesture of goodwill. Not many ecommerce sites do this, so it’ll automatically make you stand out from your competition in a positive and delightful way. 8) Incorporate videos for interactivity Video is a lot easier to take in than reading text. Plus, it is huge for engagement and including it on a landing page can increase conversion by 80 percent, according to Unbounce. The web is moving more and more toward video content, so it’s definitely something you want to get into. 9) Tell a story for maximum engagement From the beginning of time, humans have told stories. It’s why storytelling is so ingrained in our human condition, and it’s why telling stories around your products and your brand will benefit you. Get the guide to brand storytelling for more on the what, why’s, and how-tos of telling brand stories. 10) Lengthen your page This gives you more space to incorporate the above elements and prevent the page from becoming too busy or squished. If you have a particularly complex product or service, you will need the room anyway. Kissmetrics offers a pretty great post on how to structure a long-form landing page.
Image from QuickSprout
Image from NN Group
So what's the deal? What gets the best conversion rates? Here's my take: It’s how you present the content that influences conversions. Placement is just a matter of AB testing. Indeed, if the content is powerful and persuasive, conversions will go up.
Image from Copyblogger
Image from Marketing Experiments
Image from MarketingExperiments
As more experiments and AB tests are conducted, so-called conventional wisdom like the above-the-fold mentality will slowly but surely dissipate. In its place rises a more complex reality which proves that the obsession over the fold was nothing more than incomplete knowledge from the early days of CRO. As long as the content is engaging and persuasive, conversions will always go up - the placement of your CTA will only be a matter of testing.
"The issue isn’t whether the call to action is visible when your prospect first arrives. The issue is whether your call to action is visible at the point where your prospect has become convinced to take action."
Marc Schenker Marc Schenker is a writer and expert in business and marketing topics like e-commerce, B2B, digital marketing and design. He is a regular contributor to various, highly ranked publications such as Shopify and Web Designer Depot. To find out what really makes him tick, head on over to his website and don’t forget to make his day by liking his Facebook page.
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