March 14, 2016

I often tell clients to make sure that their website has the most important information “above the fold.” This is an old newspaper term. In the Dark Ages of print, the most important stories were always above where the newspaper was folded, so when you looked at a newspaper you saw the most compelling stories “above the fold.” The same is true for websites. When someone goes to your site, what do they see in the browser window before scrolling down? It is shocking to see how many times this space is squandered by just showing a pretty picture with no serious engagement efforts. No product or service benefits, no fresh news, no call to action, not even relevant contact information (phone, hours of operation, etc.). If you would like an evaluation of your website and what you should place above the fold, contact me.

Being above the fold is even more critical if you buy online display ads because viewability: the opportunity for ads to be viewed. The Media Ratings Council (MRC) states that desktop ads are viewable “if 50% of their pixels are in view for a minimum of one second.”

In 2014, Google released a report stating that 56.1% of all ads on the internet are not seen, as they appear outside of the “viewable” area of a browser window. Of course, placing ads or content above the fold does not guarantee viewability.

Recently MEDIATIVE, a Canadian marketing firm, conducted an online survey and an in-lab eye-tracking study to evaluate viewability. While their study was designed to sell their service (so it is a bit suspect), there are some good takeaways from their study:

Ads above the fold were viewed 87% longer: Above the fold big box ads were viewed 2.7x faster than those below the fold and captured 9.7x more clicks than the below the fold big box ads.

Multiple ad exposure is good: Ads that are shown several times increase in engagement the more times the ads are shown. The average number of clicks increased by 162% between one exposure and two, and by 39% between two exposures and three.

Most viewable ad sizes are vertical units (skyscrapers): These ads stay on screen longer as users move around a page. Survey respondents paid more attention to ads across the top of a page than ads. However, participants did not spend much time looking at these leaderboard ads. This aligns with findings from a report by Google which states that the most viewable ads on a page are those that are positioned just above the fold, not at the top of the page. The same report stated that the Skyscrapers in general were viewed for 82% longer than leaderboards. Skyscraper ads to the side of the page were viewed almost 5 times longer than the leaderboard ads, despite not receiving the quantity of clicks that the big box ad or leaderboard ads received. There is value in a view, not just a click, says the Google report.

Ads relevant to a current search are better: They are 80% more likely to be noticed, than ads related to a past search. This really questions the value of re-targeting ads.

People notice ads when they are searching, not buying: In all search scenarios, people tended to notice the display ads more when they were researching as opposed to being ready to buy, with 132% more people fixating on ads during a research task, but 86% more clicks occurred on display ads during the tasks with a purchase intent.

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