Above the Fold: Myth vs Reality

You’ve probably heard about how important it is to keep things “above the fold.” It seems simple, but a lot of people are missing the point. Let’s look at what really matters about “above the fold” and what’s just mythology.

Above the fold is an old newspaper term. It refers to the top half of the front page of the paper. That’s what sells the paper because it’s the part you can see without paying.

Note the lack of scroll bar or touchscreen on these old newspaper dispensers.

photo by Wayne Wilkinson www.flickr.com/photos/waynewilkinson/

The term has been adapted, in the digital age, to mean the part of a webpage that can be seen without scrolling. Notice the difference: in newspapers, “above the fold” was all you could see before paying. On a website it’s just the first bit of stuff you can see before paying. You’ve got a whole page to scroll through and work with.

Heck, there are probably even some other pages you could peruse for free.

So, don’t cram everything above the fold. You’ve got infinite amounts of paper and ink to work with. Use what space you need to make your point. After you’ve made your case with good, well-reasoned copy it’s time to seal the deal.

There’s a trend these days to put a big signup form or checkout button up above the fold on the home page. It’s like showing up for a first date with no pants on.

If you want to take your pants off around someone, you should take the time to convince them that it’s a good idea first.

Just like you should take the time to let your visitors learn how great of an idea it is to give you money.

Now, I mention this “fold” concept atop my own website. It is an important idea, but it must be understood properly.

The above the fold area of a website is like a headline. It’s your chance to grab the reader’s attention, to tell them they’re in the right place to solve their problem, to make them feel like reading what you have to say is a good use of their precious time.

Remember that when you’re planning out what to put at the top of a page. Use the space to flirt. Make a good first impression by dressing sharply and speaking well. By that I mean you should include:

  • A compelling headline that connects with the conversation inside your prospect’s head and generates curiosity
  • A picture that includes a human, preferably a human that is pleasant to look at
  • Evidence that you’re trustworthy like credentials, testimonials, nice typography, polished design, proper spelling, and maybe a toll free phone number.

People know how to scroll down. There’s no need to make the sale in the top 600 pixels of your site. You just need to build enough interest and trust that they’ll want to scroll down for a second date.

One Under-Used, Over-Powered Google Analytics Feature

The Google Analytics Menu with In-Page Analysis

You'll find In-Page Analysis under the Content section.

There’s one very powerful feature in Google Analytics that I find very few people discover on their own. So, I want to be sure you know how to use it. I’m talking about the tool called In-Page Analysis. Not long ago it was called Site Overlay, but it’s been revamped and carries a “Beta” tag with the new name. (Beta meaning still in a testing stage.)

When you click the In-Page Analysis link you’ll be taken to a page that shows your website within Google Analytics. You’ll have a column on the left with lots of handy stats for the page you’re looking at. Even better, you’ll see a little bubble by every link on your site showing what percentage of clicks were on that link.

The In-Page Analysis interface

When you first start this feature up you’ll see your site’s homepage. Look at the link stats. Since every website is different and has different objectives it’s hard to give universal advice about what your numbers should ideally look like. Think about what path you want visitors to take through your site and see if the numbers match your ideal. If not, make a note of the issue.

After you look at the homepage, click one of your links and have a look at the next page. Consider where you’d like visitors to go after that page and see if your click statistics match up. While you explore, pay attention to the Entrance and Exit percentages in the left column as well. A high exit percentage on your Contact page is normal. On your homepage, it’s a problem.

You can explore your whole site this way, and I suggest you do. It never fails to amaze me how quickly I can find actionable information this way.

I expect Google will be improving the In-Page Analysis feature a lot as time goes on. Perhaps eventually they’ll even give us click heat maps showing exactly where clicks happen, down to the pixel. Of course, by then you’ll be a pro with this feature because you started using it religiously after reading this, right?

Note: If you have the kind of website that you log into as an administrator, you may need to log out before this feature will work correctly.

Conversion Tracking You Can Do Yourself, Cheap

This is a follow-up to Is your business converting as well as it could?.

To figure out your conversion rate you need two numbers.  You need to know how many total times you had the opportunity to make a conversion – e.g. website visitors, phone calls, or walk-in customers.  I’ll refer to this number as impressions for the sake of clarity.  You also need to know the number of successful conversions.

Note: Be sure to measure these over the same time period!

Then there’s a little math.  Don’t worry, I’m a professional.  Whip out your calculator and key in:

Conversions [divided by] Impressions [equals]
That will give you your conversion rate.  Bump the decimal place to the right two spaces and you’ll have it as a percentage.

Example: Your website got 328 visits and you made 16 sales.  16 divided by 328 equals 0.04878.  Bump the decimal over and you have a 4.878% conversion rate.

Okay, that’s the math.  What about getting those numbers?  Obviously, if you have an ecommerce site it’s pretty easy to figure out the number of visitors and the number of sales.  It’s a little trickier if customers visit your website, then call in an order or visit the store.

The answer here is training.  Train your staff to ask callers how they found you.  Train your clerks to ask while they ring someone up.  You can keep a clipboard by the register and the phone where your staff can mark down the answers.  Heck, you could even use a fancy spreadsheet.

Spend some time figuring out how to phrase your question.  Be specific.  You probably don’t want to ask your regulars “How did you hear about us?”  You’ll do better with “How did you find us today?”

If you’re tracking phone conversions be sure to tally how many total calls there were in addition to the number of sales made on the phone and how people found your number.

Another option is to get an 800 number that forwards to your main line.  Then put that number on your website instead of your regular number.  Now you can track the number of calls that came from your website.  Of course, that’s another monthly expense.

Now, on the web there are a lot of ways to track conversions.  For instance, you can define goals and funnels in Google Analytics or use Google Conversion Tracking. There are great click-tracking systems you can install like Crazy Egg or ClickTale. That’s a separate article though.

This post first appeared in my e-mail newsletter.

Is your business converting as well as it could?

What do I mean by converting?  I mean converting browsers into buyers.

A conversion is when someone looking at your offerings decides to take the action you want them to take, i.e. making a purchase or providing you with their contact information.  On a website, the conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who make a purchase or give you their e-mail address.

I'm  just browsing. -> Conversion -> I'll take it!

When you know what your conversion rate is and what the average value of a conversion is, you can calculate return on investment, ROI, very accurately.  When you know your ROI you can make the most informed and profitable decisions about the allocation of your marketing budget.  The higher your conversion rate the greater your ROI.

Next month I’ll get into measuring conversion rates, and I’ll have a special offer for newsletter subscribers who want some help getting a system in place to provide these metrics.  Now, I want to tell you about how to increase that conversion rate.

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