Fold & Scrolling Internet Marketing MythBusters
Internet marketing industry is full of shysters. This is not really a discussion starter – it’s a fact. Due to a lack of any entry barriers, like education or licencing, literally anybody with internet access and a basic knowledge can announce himself as an independent internet marketing consultant and quite lucratively sell utterly ludicrous nonsense or ‘common guidance’ copy-pasted from mashable. The amount of unemployed “social media experts” who can’t even tag links is the perfect example of this situation.
This issue logically annoys any professional evidential marketer like me, not least because it undervalues our services by a mile (but that’s the topic for the different blog post). During this series I want to talk about the quite popular myths that, in my own very personal opinion (that’s how I make sure Tim is not going to complain about the company’s image) are all created by those “experts” I mentioned earlier. This problem became enormous in my favourite CRO area because proving online marketing idiots wrong is quite a complicated task when the rules of the game are so vague.
Scrolling, scroll attention and the mysterious fold is something I want to start this series with because the amount of vague advice popping up in my Twitter feed is growing proportionally day after day. The majority of the statements below are based on the most reliable scrolling research available online made by guys from Clicktale. The interesting point that the research was done in 2006/2007 but even now hasn’t found its deserved popularity.
Myth 1 – The fold
The fold, like many internet marketing terms, was nicked from graphic design/newspaper publishing. It logically means the place where the newspaper is usually folded, dividing the entire page content into 2 main categories: above- and below-the-fold. Transferring the same principle into online marketing, every single element users can observe without scrolling is considered above-the-fold, and everything else below-the-fold. So what’s the myth I’m planning to bust? Here you go:
THE FOLD DOES NOT EXIST!
Unlike a newspaper we can’t fix the location of the fold because the screen resolution, screen size, browser size and even window size can vary so much that estimating any average would be a default mistake. And, luckily for me, Clicktale have some numbers to back me up:
For those who have difficulties with reading graphs, this one represents the variety of the fold location in ‘pixels from the top of the screen’. Where is the fold? It’s everywhere – from just over 200 px to over 1000 px. But there is more to this graph. Spot the three clear spikes at 430, 600 and 860. Do you recognise these sizes? Neither did I but, again, luckily for us the analysts doing this research noticed that it’s actually our most popular resolution used today: 800×600, 1024×768 and 1280×1024 minus 170 pixels (the most common browser size). So whenever some genius recommends you stick all your important elements above the fold, just show him this graph and politely ask him to leave the room.
Myth 2 – Users don’t scroll
This one I hear almost on a daily basis and surprisingly enough even from well-respected marketers. I agree that some time in 90s this issue could be close to true but currently this statement is just another unevidential conclusion. Below is another amazing graph clearly shattering this myth into billions of little pieces:
The 100% mark is clearly dominating the graph, giving us quite a solid insight that almost a quarter of your visitors will scroll the entire page. Also, we can tell (cumulatively) that the majority of visitors will view at least 75% of your page. Given that 75% of your page usually includes all of your actual content, as footers / white space usually take space at the bottom, this is an important finding.
Myth 3 – Content on long pages is less likely to be seen than on short ones
This is more of a decades-long discussion than a myth, but I still occasionally spot “recommendations” advising to avoid long pages because they are less likely get scrolled. BULLS**T!
The proportion of users viewing most of the page (90%) does not change no matter what size the page! This would be verified by millions of affiliates making their living with long, sales-letter-style landing pages.
And to finish…
So what now? Don’t bother with content prioritisation at all? Of course not. The purpose of this post, and the subsequent series, is to try to explain that not everything in CRO is so simple and straight forward. And following any generic advice will definitely only take you to the far, far away land called ‘wasted marketing budget’.
When the page length, fold and the scrolling reach is not directly affecting your user experience, then the actual visitor attention (amount of time spent on the each section/element) is the quantifiable metric you can use for content prioritisation. Another massive thank you to the Clicktale team for this data.
As you can see on this graph, visitor attention is spiking at around the 500 pixel mark (normally below company logos, spacing etc), and then decreases exponentially as visitors scroll down the page. So it is important to try to capture this attention at this stage and motivate your user to scroll below (please note that capture attention never means put every single element and CTA above the 500 pixel line. In many cases even one good headline will do the job).
It’s interesting to see that we can observe quite a solid peak at the bottom of the page as well, clearly highlighting that users will normally fixate their attention before making the decision to proceed or exit. So think about the CTAs at the bottom of your page and (surprise surprise) footer links. And finally, note that the page length doesn’t affect attention, strengthening our myth bust earlier in this post.
This type of deeper investigation is exactly what differentiates professionals from shysters. Good marketers track and measure this visitor attention for your website, shysters recommend to avoid placing any element below some arbitrary line using a nonsense tool to measure the fold.
Stay in tune for another part of the series.