Daniel Burstein

Marketing 101: What is above the fold?

March 2nd, 2018

Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Above the fold refers to the part of an email message or webpage that is visible without scrolling. It refers to a printing term for the top half of a newspaper which is, literally, above the place in the newspaper where it is folded in half.

Unlike a newspaper, however, email and webpage fold locations aren’t predictable. The fold may be affected by the user’s preview pane, monitor size, monitor resolution, device type (i.e., mobile vs. desktop) and any headers placed by email programs such as Gmail or Yahoo!

Material in the above-the-fold area is considered more valuable because the reader sees it first. According to the Wikipedia entry for Above the fold, “Most web design advice available today encourages designers to place important information at the top of the website, but also to prioritize usability and design.”



So if you’re engaged in landing page optimization and trying to get the best results from your landing pages, should you automatically place a call-to-action above the fold?

Sure, a headline will more likely get seen. But does that mean that the CTA also must be above the fold?

“The website is not a newspaper. And I have seen so many companies rush to place call-to-actions above the fold because that’s what they heard they have got to do. That can hurt your conversion, and here is why. If you walk into a car dealership tonight and the car guy introduces himself, says ‘hi,’ points out three cars and says ‘if you can make a decision in the next two minutes, I can sell you one of those cars.’ What are you going to do? I am just going to get my car and leave, find somebody that gives me time to make a decision. I am not ready yet, I don’t know enough; if you force me to choose yes or no, answer is ‘no.’ I am gone.” — Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS Institute, from Minor Changes, Major Lifts.

Sequence of thought

After landing on your website or landing page, or when reading your email, there is a certain amount of information your prospects need before deciding that the call-to-action you’re asking for is beneficial to them.

Until they’ve reached that tipping point, the cost of the action will outweigh the value of the action, and they will not be likely to take it.

The above-the-fold area (also known as “above the scroll”) is an arbitrary amount of space — far smaller on a mobile phone than a desktop computer. But is that arbitrary space enough room to tip the prospect’s mental calculus from “it isn’t worth taking this action” to “it is worth taking this action?”

Run some A/B split tests to determine what works best for your audience. And don’t just follow a set rule of thumb blindly where you think you must put everything above the fold.

Here’s is an example test conducted with a Research Partner of MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa.)

Call-to-action above the fold

Call-to-action below the fold

Placing the call-to-action below the fold resulted in a 20% increase in conversion.

Getting the wrong lessons from newspapers

Many discussions online I’ve seen about web design, landing page optimization or digital marketing refer back to newspapers when discussing “above the fold.” Even Wikipedia’s entry starts with “Above the fold is the upper half of the front page of a newspaper or tabloid where an important news story or photograph is often located.”

But as an avid reader of print newspapers, I think these digital marketers and web designers are taking the wrong lessons from newspapers. Print newspapers rarely ever complete the entire article above the fold. Yes, they usually start the article above the fold. But it doesn’t end there. Take a look at the picture in this blog post with the girl holding The Washington Post with the article, “‘The Eagle Has Landed’ – Two Men Walk on the Moon.” The article doesn’t end above the fold.

As another example, in this Sunday’s edition of The New York Times, four articles start above the fold but not one of them ends above the fold. There is a strong enough headline and imagery above the fold to get the reader to take a small micro-yes like flip the newspaper over to read “below the fold,” read a special section in the newspaper or turn the newspaper to read “after the jump” (e.g., “Continued on Page 12”).

Newspaper editors do not try to cram the entire article above the fold. They know there isn’t enough space to do justice to the full story — to truly communicate with readers everything they need to know about the story.

And the same is true for your calls-to-action, your landing pages and other marketing. You just need to provide enough value and execute your copy and design at a high enough level to get the prospective customer to take a small micro-yes and scroll down.

That will give you all the real estate you need to tell your story, to provide enough value that the prospective customer can make an informed decision about your ask. Then, and only then, do you make your call-to-action.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you’re reading this blog post, you are likely interested in conversion optimization.

So you might also like

Landing Page Optimization online certification course, from MECLABS Institute — Learn proven techniques you can immediately implement to maximize clickthrough and conversion rates

Web Usability: Long Landing Page Nets 220% More Leads Than Above The Fold Call-To-Action

Should The Call-To-Action Button Be Above Or Below The Fold?

Email Optimization: A Single Word Change Results In A 90% Lift In Sign-Ups

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

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