Even Marketing Experts Can Be Wrong (A behind-the-scenes example)


I’m sure you’ve heard it before, from marketing practitioners and marketing experts alike: Always place your call-to-action above the fold.

Well, even the experts can be wrong. For example, Anne Holland, Publisher of WhichTestWon, Subscription Site Insider, Paywall Times, and Medical Marijuana Business Daily, recently called out a landing page treatment for having a button below the fold.

“Unfortunately most people who arrive on that page will never see it, because it’s well below the fold,” Anne said. “If respondents have to scroll way down to get to the response button, you’ve lost a good portion of your potential orders.”

As luck would have it, the team at MECLABS just happened to be running a test with the treatment that Anne was critiquing. So, I can give you a behind-the-scenes look at that test …


Treatment #1

Treatment #2

 Click on any treatment to enlarge



What does your marketing intuition tell you? I’m sure many of you might agree with Anne. That below-the-fold treatment is a huge mistake!

Well, here’s the kicker. There was no significant difference between any of the treatments. The Boston Globe audience is highly motivated, and putting a button above or below the fold didn’t matter as much as the newspaper’s respected journalism.


What You Need to Understand

Anne Holland is an incredibly experienced and talented marketer. Heck, she founded our sister publication, MarketingSherpa. So, if her marketing intuition can be wrong, you better believe yours can as well. Here’s what you can learn from this test:

  • Don’t take anybody’s advice on blind faith — even your friendly reporters here at MarketingExperiments. Sometimes we might get passionate about our optimization advice, but we are only offering test suggestions. There are so many variables from one site to the next, one audience to the next. You must test to find what works best for your audience.
  • You can mitigate risk with testing. Have a crazy idea like, say, putting a button below the fold? Well, split your traffic and try it out. You mitigate the risk of a rollout to your entire pool of potential prospects while possibly hitting on a new piece of business intelligence.
  • By testing, you can continue to build your customer theory, and learn more about your customers. You may learn, for example, that your potential customers see so much value in your product that they don’t care where you put that button.
  • Stay humble. Really, there are no experts. We’re all learning as we go, so stay open minded to actually learn something.

“There are no expert marketers; there are only experienced marketers and expert testers,” said Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS.


Related Resources:

5 Common Call-to-action Errors

Nonprofit Marketing: How a long, ugly page generated 274% more revenue

Landing Page Design: Eye path vs. Thought sequence

Website Testing: IBM’s navigation elements test leads to 128% increase in clickthroughs

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  1. Michael Lykke Aagaard says

    Hi Daniel – Awesome article with an even more awesome and important point!

    Now matter how much experience you have, it’s pretty arrogant to think that you can always rely on your gut to find the best solution. That’s probably the number one lesson I’ve learned from 4 years of split testing.

    I’ve conducted quite a few split tests where I’ve experimented with CTA placement. I’ve published some of my findings. Here’s a link to a case study where moving the CTA to the bottom of a long lading page generated a 304% lift in conversions: http://goo.gl/hBQtr

    – Michael

  2. Ravn Øster says

    Hello Daniel – A very great message, and a very precise and clear argumentation.

    I believe you need to do multivariate testing to achieve the best possible conversion rate. I simply don’t trust my or any one others gut. I believe in data. What do you think about my methods and way of thinking?

    Though I do agree that if you don’t have the possibility of making such a analysis, then trusting your gut is the best possible scenario.


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