There’s some serious controversy in the conversion optimization community over this issue: Should you put your CTA above the fold or below it?
There are three possible answers:
- Put it above the fold, stupid.
- Put it below the fold, idiot.
- Let’s step back and talk about this.
As you can probably assume, I’m going with No. 3. That’s why there’s an article here, instead of some smoke-blowing, gun-slinging, opinionated, offensive harangue.
By the time you’re done reading this article — 15 minutes, max — you will know exactly how, when, and where to put your CTA above the fold, and when to put it below the fold. You stand to gain big time.
In one case study that I’ll review, the subject improved their conversions by 220% by making the right choice. (For them, it was below the fold.) You might be able to do the same.
I’m not interested in fighting for one side over the other, because it’s a nuanced issue. This is more than just an above vs. below issue. We also have to think about these factors:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the CTA?
- What is the purpose?
- What level of commitment are you asking for in the CTA?
- What is the user doing with the CTA?
- What is the user getting from the CTA?
- What other content exists on the page?
- How much content exists on the page?
First, let’s make sure we understand the issue.
If you’re going to make the right decision on above or below, we need to have a clear understanding of what we’re talking about. Follow me carefully through these four bullet points, and then make sure you understand the conclusion:
- What kind of pages are we talking about? We are talking about landing pages.
- What kind of CTAs are we talking about? We are talking primarily about capture forms. For sake of clarity, “capture forms” are places where a user inputs a name, email address and any other information.
- What CTA placement are we talking about? We are talking about two possibilities: 1) Above the fold — where the user can see it without scrolling. 2) Below the fold — where the user has to scroll to see it.
- What kind of content are we talking about? We are talking about either lots of content (longform) or just a little bit of content (short). Typically, a longform landing page has the CTA below the fold, sometimes at the very bottom. Typically, a short landing page has the CTA above the fold.
Conclusion: The real issue, as I’ve said four times now, is more than CTA above the fold or below. The real issue is 1) how much content is on the page and, therefore, 2) where the CTA should be placed.
This leads us to three choices, now with slightly more context. To state the issue clearly, we need to decide which of the three landing pages approaches is most effective for a given landing page:
- A longform page with the CTA below the fold.
- A short page with the CTA above the fold.
- A hybrid page with a mixture of the two approaches.
The argument for longform landing pages.
Longform proponents agree with this argument:
Hypothesis: If we increase the value proposition throughout the copy on the homepage and decrease friction with a longform page layout, then users will be more likely to convert.
How does that work out? Daniel Burstein’s lab performed the following investigation. To increase the number of leads captured for their mental health rehab client, they tested a short(ish) landing page against a long one.
Let’s compare the two:
You’ll notice that the CTA for the short page is above the fold, while the CTA on the longform page is way down at the bottom. Let’s keep in mind that this a radical change that totally alters the color scheme, value proposition, navigational elements, layout, images, amount of information requested, and other factors.
Here are the results:
The treatment blew the control out of the water.
In this case, the long landing page won.
The argument for short landing pages
The argument for short landing pages lies in their brevity, little more.
As the argument goes, short content makes it easy for the user to convert. It takes them less time to read the content, understand the value, and respond to the CTA.
The argument leans on the reduction of a different form of friction. The idea is that if it takes less time and effort (reducing time friction), the conversion process will be easier. The user will convert more readily.
In some cases, this is true. Removing barriers like time and effort does make it easier for the user to convert, as long as other issues are in place. We’ll talk about those issues.
The argument for a hybrid approach.
Based on my research and testing, the most valid approach is one that combines longform content with strategically placed CTAs.
Let me bullet that out for clarity:
- Longform content
- Strategically placed CTA(s).
Longform has some obvious inherent advantages. For starters, it has more indexable and SEO-friendly content. But beyond that, there are reasons that many products or services may warrant a longer landing page.
Here are some of them:
The product is new and requires introduction.
If you are introducing a new product, you need to talk about it. What is this? What does it do? Why did you make it? Why are you selling it? How will it change my life?
The novelty of a product is not by itself a selling point unless people understand it. If you want them to understand it, you’ll have to explain it and introduce it.
The brand is unknown, and requires increased awareness.
Similar to new products, new companies or brands need some longform love.
The new kid on the block needs to introduce himself. You don’t just say “hi” and then buy. You listen to who they are, why they’re here, and why you should buy from them instead of the established competitors.
If you’re a new company, you may consider introducing yourself before making a short and curt request for conversion.
The product is large or complex and requires explanation.
Explanation elicits trust. In the Tucson rehab study above, the client later reported this:
“The fact that a below-the-fold form worked better than an above-the-fold form was a secondary learning for us. The primary learning was that the biggest question customers had about our health care centers was around trust. ‘I’m handing my healthcare to you; can I trust you with my life?’”
A rehab facility is a place where people go to get a new life. They’re not buying an iPhone case or signing up for an online service. They’re getting life changing therapy. Thus, when they go to a landing page they want more than just a value proposition and five benefits. They want an explanation.
The product is expensive or important, and warrants reassurance.
Similar to the statement above, important products need more content. Many of the large companies that I’ve worked with seem content with a shortform page, even though they are selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
The bigger the budget expenditure, the more thought needs to be given to it. That means that the purchaser is looking for information and assurance that his or her decision is the right one.
The buyer is skeptical, and needs to be persuaded.
Skeptical buyers can be persuaded. It just takes some time. “Time,” in landing page parlance, is spent reading content. The more content you have, the more time they will spend digesting and absorbing that content. When that happens, you’ve gained a powerful and persuasive upper hand.
The CTA is significant, and requires a level of buy-in.
Some capture-form CTAs are pretty innocuous: “Share your email address.” Usually, the product is equally innocuous: “We’ll send you a free productivity cheat sheet.”
Other capture form CTAs are more serious: “Give us your name, organization, position, mailing address, and what your deepest longing is, and no one will get hurt.” Predictably, the product is more significant — senior care facility, cancer treatment, and new real estate investment.
Obviously, it’s the serious and significant CTAs that require longer content. You need to explain to the user why you need to know their name, DOB, position, SSN, physical address and deepest longing.
The more you ask for, the more the user expects in return. Explain yourself.
Explaining yourself may require a lot of extra content.
What about the CTA?
A landing page becomes effective only because of the effectiveness of its CTA. Where should you put the CTA now that you’ve created all this content?
Follow the thought pattern of your user.
I mentioned above that the CTA needs to be placed “strategically.” This is what I mean — place the CTA in such a way that it comes at the most likely point for a conversion in the user’s thought process.
A successful landing page is psychologically intuitive. You know exactly how a customer is thinking, and therefore when they may be most ready to convert. That’s where you put your CTA.
Place it after you’ve included everything that is relevant to a decision.
What does the user need to know before he or she can make a decision? The CTA should come only after this information is provided.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that the decision will be to buy or not buy. A decision to convert is not the same as a decision to buy.
Place it close to trust factors.
The CTA and trust factors have a symbiotic relationship. The closer their proximity, the increased likelihood of a conversion. As you’re aware, trust factors— features or qualities of your site that inspire trust in the mind of the customer — reduce friction. Make sure that the CTA and the page's trust factors are cozy.
Place it after images and videos.
Your landing page must have media of some form. Pictures are the most obvious. Put the CTA after pictures, to allow for a more memorable and powerful impact upon the user.
Videos have a remarkable impact upon conversion rates. One client of Treepodia reported, “we’ve seen an increase in CVR of up to 88% for items featuring video.” There are plenty of ways to use video to boost conversion rates, but the most obvious thing to do is to place the CTA after the video.
Place it after different types of argumentation.
Different people will convert in different ways, based on their personal psychological makeup and stage in the buy cycle. There are two main categories of data that will influence the different types of people.
- Emotional arguments. Emotional arguments tug at the heart. Here, you’re more interested in flowers, unicorns and harp music than with data, graphs, and statistics. Place a CTA after your strongest emotional appeal.
- Data-driven. Other people reject the unicorns playing harps in favor of line graphs, pie charts and numbers with the percentage sign after them. Unleash your most compelling metrics, and then pop in the CTA.
But can you use more than once CTA in a landing page? Absolutely, yes.
That’s why I’m advocating a hybrid approach. If you use more than one CTA in the right way, you stand to gain higher conversion rates.
Examples of Landing Pages
Let me show you some landing pages, and point out some factors in each that I think you should either reject or embrace.
Scripted uses a longform landing page. They have several CTAs, each possibly effective depending on the audience. Their landing page starts out with content that appeals to any of their target audience, and then becomes more specific. Following the thought flow of each audience, the strategically placed CTAs allow a jumping-off point for the user to convert.
Dell’s storage solutions landing page is big — really big. Therein lies its power.
The CTAs are sprinkled throughout the landing page. Images, value propositions, data, bullet points and other elements help to reinforce a clickthrough at each point in the page.
This page has around 15 CTAs. That’s not too much, based on the type of page, the length of the content and the nature of the product and its corresponding CTA.
WriterAccess has a long landing page, and places their CTA at the bottom. In this case, they use two different CTAs. They are targeting two different types of users — customers (those who need writing services) and writers (those who want to earn money by writing).
Their challenge in creating a landing page is being able to effectively target both groups of users in a single page. The result is an easy-to-view page with nice flow and a compelling CTA at the end.
Obviously, there is no right answer in the short-vs.-long debate, but there are ways to think outside the box and defy orthodoxy. Landing pages have a simple goal — conversions.
The way to get there requires creativity, innovation and testing.