You’ve likely heard of the phrase “above the fold,” if you’re even slightly into internet marketing and copywriting.
According to collective wisdom, we’re supposed to top-load the content that appears “above the fold” if we want to succeed.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “fold,” it essentially means the place that a reader would have to scroll to see more content or the bottom of the visible page.
For years, this has been a battle cry in the world of SEO, and it’s one that’s rung loudly with writers, web designers, and others. But what if that call is wrong? What if “the fold” has fallen out of vogue and, today, it’s nothing more than a myth that you don’t need to worry about quite so much. Today, we’re going to dig into this, and help you understand why “above the fold” could be a dead term.
What “Above the Fold” Content Looks Like
Whether you know it or not, you’ve seen above the fold content. You can find it on virtually any small software company’s website.
It looks like this:
On the FreshBooks website, which sells small business accounting software, the viewer gets a visual, a headline, a few sentences of text, and a call-to-action button – all without having even to touch their mouse.
That’s it. You can’t scroll down.
Let me take this moment to say that there’s not anything wrong with this layout. The website is visually appealing, uncluttered, and compelling. That said, though, there is something wrong with the intense declaration that every call to action on every web page in every industry must exist above the fold.
This has been going on for a few years – this insistence that everything should be above the fold. In fact, Kissmetrics explored it in a 2012 article:
Kissmetrics question to their audience is:
“What if the premise is wrong? What if calls to action below the precise work better?”
Let’s explore why that may or may not be true, by today’s standards.
Death of the Fold: The Real Benefit of a Below-the-Fold CTA
CTAs tucked into the bottom of pages may perform as well if not better than their above-the-fold counterparts. In fact, a page with a CTA tucked into the bottom footer of the page out-converted (by 20%) a page with a prominent CTA positioned above-the-fold (Unbounce).
While it may seem contradictory that a CTA tucked down low on a page (where presumably nobody would see) it could out-perform a CTA placed in the most prominent portion of a page, it’s true. I know, it seems even more unbelievable when you consider that the majority (80%) of people read headlines, while only 20% click through to read body content. So, what’s this fascination with below-the-fold content?
The answer comes down to a few things and, surprisingly, the fold isn’t one of them.
At the end of the day, the all-powerful fold is just a technicality in the content conversion process.
Here’s why: users are happy to keep scrolling to reach your CTA, if the material they see above the fold interests them enough.
In other words, the conversion rates of above- versus below-the-fold content has less to do with the actual position of the CTA than it does the quality of the content on the page. In other words, readers will keep going if they feel motivated to do so, and this has nothing to do with the position of the CTA. Instead, it has to do with how motivational your content is and how much it drives your reader toward your CTA.
According to the aforementioned Kissmetrics article:
“Higher conversion rates have nothing to do with whether the button is above the fold, and everything to do with whether the button is below the right amount of good copy.”
How Much Copy is Enough Copy?
Now that you know why the fold is a myth let’s talk about how much copy you need to provide your readers with “good copy.” Of course, there’s no one-size-fits all rule for this, and the answer depends on your various audience segments. Assuming you’re dealing with calls-to-action on landing pages or websites, here’s how you should arrange your content to appeal to each different audience segment:
1. Leads who are ready to buy.
These people get it. They know what you’re offering, and they know why. They also know they want it. They’ve read enough of your content to feel compelled by it and convert at the highest rate if you stick your CTA at the top of the page.
2. Information-gathering prospects.
These leads are relatively familiar with your company, and they just need a bit of a nudge to hop in and convert. For best results, give them a bit of educational text and a prominent CTA. This isn’t so much about positioning your CTA above the fold as it is ensuring that the content you offer them is prominent and educational enough to convince them to dive in with your company.
3. New leads.
If you have someone who is brand-new to your landing page or product, you’re going to need to do more legwork. This will mean that your CTA coincidentally falls below the fold, although, again, this has less to do with placement than it does the amount of content you’re offering before the CTA. To hook these readers, give them a solid value proposition, well-written educational copy, and a precise definition of benefits, costs, etc. A compelling CTA at the end of all of this will help seal the deal.
Why Scrolling Isn’t so Bad After All
Today, people scroll almost intuitively.
Think about it: we scroll in everything we do. We scroll through the contacts on our phones, our text messages, our music libraries. We scroll through books and magazines on our Kindles and scroll down product pages to locate what we’re looking for online. Scrolling is second-nature, and people aren’t nearly as afraid of it as they once were.
Because of this, people aren’t automatically turned off if they need to scroll to locate your CTA. In fact, they may be more automatically turned-off if they navigate to a top-heavy landing page that’s apparently been designed to cram everything into the top six inches of a page!
Still not convinced that people don’t mind scrolling? Here are some stats to help you get your head around it:
- According to Chartbeat, 66% of people’s attention on webpages is dedicated to the content below the fold.
- 76% of people scroll on web pages, and 22% of people scroll to the bottom of a page, regardless of how long it is.
- 50% of mobile users begin scrolling through a page within 10 second of landing on it
- Apple removed their visual scrollbar from their Mac OS X software in 2011, proving that people of today are scrolling natives, and don’t need to be reminded to do it.
The Death of Above-the-Fold Content is Upon Us
While it used to make sense to position content above-the-fold, the rise of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has changed the way that people interact with web content. It’s also changed the way they think about scrolling. Today, scrolling is natural, and most people don’t bat an eyelash at the thought of doing it.
As such, it doesn’t matter where a CTA lives (as long as you’re taking your various audience segments into consideration as you lay out the page) or how long the page is. Instead of seeing a CTA crammed into the top of a page, people only want to see some valuable content they can interact with. By delivering this, you can easily grab your readers’ interest and keep it, regardless of where you put your CTA.
That said, don’t discount space above the fold. It still matters! It just doesn’t matter as much as people once thought it did. Instead of seeing all your content crammed into the top few pixels of your site, readers want to land on a site that is laid out according to their stage in the buyer’s journey. They also want to feel as if a page is dedicated to featuring valuable and informative content, rather than just focusing on stacking all of a its content into the top few inches.
Death of the Fold: Let us Know what You Think!
So, there you have it: while above-the-fold content served a purpose once, it’s less important today.
Right now, readers are looking for value and relevance rather than SEO tricks. If you create great long-form content, it will still get read. If you put your CTA at the bottom of the page, it will still get clicked.
With that in mind, ditch your concerns about staying above the fold and focus on being informational and valuable through your content, instead. Readers will thank you and your conversion rates likely won’t suffer!
What do you think of this not-so-new-trend? Let me know in the comments!