Email Design Tip: The Fold & Your Call To Action

Presentation is everything, they say. And this is especially true on the Internet, when your prospective customers can’t physically handle your products or talk to you in person.

What your readers see in the email you send (its layout and design) significantly impacts how they react to it; namely, whether or not they respond in a way you’d want them to.

So, when you really want them to react in a particular way (like taking a survey or buying your new product), your call-to-action should be designed and placed carefully.

Why “The Fold” Can Help You Do This

“The fold” is the bottom of your readers’ browsers — the point they can’t see beyond unless they scroll down.

The term originated in newspaper publishing, where the plan was to put eye-catching content above the literal fold in the page so passersby would be enticed into purchasing the paper to read more.

Since the fold is such a key aspect of an email’s design, the question is whether you’ll get more response from readers if you place your call-to-action above the fold or below it.

What The Experts Have Said

Some experts think readers will better respond to emails when calls-to-action are placed above the fold. This way, those busy readers don’t have to bother to read a lot of text or scroll down the page to respond — they can do so after a mere glance.

If you choose to place your call-to-action above the fold, make sure you also provide enough information at the top of the email for readers to understand what they’re being asked to do.

Others theorize that below-the-fold placement works better. If readers are interested in your topic, they say, they’ll keep reading. And, it’s important to ask them to keep reading (a small decision on their part) before asking them to respond (a bigger decision, and easier to make once they’ve already decided they’re interested).

Trust me, having no space and information overload will most definitely make your visitors leave before three seconds are up,” says user experience designer Paddy Donnelly. Instead, he encourages marketers thusly: “Think about the ultimate journey you want them to take. Entice them in, make them actively want to scroll and read on, and on, and on.”

What We Discovered

Curious about which was a better approach (and of course, wanting the highest response possible), we at AWeber decided to run a split test.

For a month, we sent out two versions of each email. The only difference between the versions was the order of the calls-to-action. In one version, Call-To-Action A was above the fold, and Call-To-Action B was below it. In the other version, the order was reversed.

Our results showed that the calls-to-action above the fold were clicked on more often than those below the fold in 78% of the emails tested.

Within the emails, above-the-fold calls-to-action received an average of 13% more clicks than their below-the-fold counterparts.

What This Means For You

In terms of checking email, human psychology and habit can be expected to remain somewhat constant across the board.

Additionally, the data we gathered was strongly in favor of above the fold calls-to-action, which indicates that other audiences may be likely to react the same way.

But, it’s worth noting that we are a B2B software company with a specific type of audience, so our readers’ habits may be different from yours.

The answer, of course — as with every “rule” in marketing — is to test for yourself different placements of your call-to-action.

Track how many clicks you get on offers above the fold and how many below it. If you see a consistent trend, you’ll have learned what your own readers prefer, and you’ll know where to place your calls to action in the future.

Stock image from Shutterstock used under license.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column


About The Author: is Education Marketing Associate at AWeber, the leading email marketing service provider for small businesses, where she advises business owners on how to grow their business with email marketing.

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  • Dennis, ListsUK

    Interesting stats, Amanda – thank you.
    But any chance of testing again to compare the difference in response between the following:
    a/ emails with CTA above the fold only
    b/ same email, but with CTA below the fold only
    Thank you :)

  • Nick Leech

    Above the fold got 13% clicks. But which version converted the best?

    It would be worth placing the CTA below the fold if those users who clicked were >13% more qualified because they had been intrigued enough to continue reading…

  • Jason McGovern

    How do you know where the user’s browser cuts off? Were you only testing on a specific device like an iPhone? If you don’t know then how do you know it was above or below the fold?

  • Jorge

    Some time ago I opted not to make this choice. I included all the newsletter information on a web page on my site, and next just sent the people in my mailing lists the notification “The new [Brand] bulletin is live. Click here to read it.”

    In my experience, it does wonders.


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