Your Calls to Action Should Go Below The Post

By Daniel Scocco

There are many WordPress plugins around that will insert a call to action on the top of your posts. Some people even do this manually. Lately I was visiting some blogs that use this strategy, and I realized that perhaps it is not that effective, and sometimes they might even hurt the user experience.

Before proceeding let me clarify what I am talking about. The What Would Seth Godin Do plugin is a good example. Once you upload and activate it, whenever a new visitor comes to your website, he will be presented with a message on top of your page that will say something on the lines of:

Welcome! to My Blog!, it seems that you are new to this site. If you want to get regular updates you can signup to get email alerts or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Sociable is another similar plugin. It will basically identify if the visitor is coming from a specific social networking site, and it will present a tailored message to him. So if someone comes to your page from Stumble Upon, it will show him a message like this one:

Hello fellow StumbleUpon, if you like this page, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up! You can also see my StumbleUpon profile here.

You get the idea.

So why do I think the strategy of using those plugins and calls to action on top of your pages and posts is not efficient, and perhaps even a bad idea? Because their positioning is completely wrong. They should be placed at the bottom of your posts and not on top of them!

Let me illustrate my argument with a real example.

Suppose I am browsing on Digg when I suddenly come across a story that grabs my attention: 11 Ways to Send Emails in the Future. (Notice I am using Techie-Buzz as example only because Keith uses both plugins I mentioned there. The blog itself is very good and has excellent content).

The title of the story sounds interesting and I decide to click and see what it is all about. Once I click there, however, I will be presented with the following page:

As you can see, right below the title there is an AdSense unit (1). I am not against having ads, but you need to consider that this large rectangle is already taking space and making it harder for me to find the actual content I was looking for.

Then after the AdSense unit you have the message from the What Would Seth Godin Go plugin (2). It is inviting me to subscribe to the blog or to check out the about page. Hmmm… I just arrived here from Digg, and all I want is to check the content I was looking for. I am not sure if I want to subscribe to the blog yet.

I move on, and then I find yet another message that distracts me from the content itself (3). This one is coming from the Sociable plugin, and it is encouraging me to Digg the story. But hey! I haven’t even had the opportunity to read it yet, how could I digg it without knowing what the story is about?

As you can see, those calls to action are ineffective and even counter-productive if positioned on top of the posts. Sure it is a good idea to encourage visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed and to vote for your stories on social bookmarking sites, but you must make sure that this call to action will appear to the user when he has the right mindset on, and that is after he is done reading your content.

As a rule of thumb, I try to put as few content as possible between my headlines and my posts (in fact I don’t even put the author name or date there). This is to ensure that there will be no distractions from the moment I grab the attention of the visitor with a headline until the moment he actually starts reading the content.

If you put too many things between those two stages, you might lose a fraction of the visitors right there.

Those are my opinions obviously, and I would love to hear what you guys think about the issue.



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43 Responses to “Your Calls to Action Should Go Below The Post”

  • Gary

    In the example you use, if the ads were removed and just the RSS call was above the post, it wouldn’t be so bad. Putting all three things there was just a bit too much however.

    I’ve seen many sites which put giant Adsense boxes near the top of the page, above the content. I usually just move on and don’t even bother to read.

    When there is little or no content above the fold, its sort of screams “I’m just in this for the money”.

  • Ben

    I totally agree. I hate having to scroll halfway down the page just toi read some content I am already interested in.

  • Dan @ PowerDosh.com

    A valid point. It’s very common to see the huge Adsense blocks at the top of posts. If the adsense saturation is too high, I usually don’t bother subscribing.

    An interesting point about removing the date/author details below the headline. I personally would want to know who the author was BEFORE I read the article.

  • Patrick K. O’Brien

    I agree with your assessment, and now I’d love to see a followup post with suggestions for plugins that will let me provide this information at the foot of a post, rather than at the head of the post. Go ahead, make my life easier. 🙂

  • Mat Packer

    I agree 100% with you here. Nothing much frustrates me more than having ads, then subscriptions, then socials, all one after the other. In screams of desperation to me.

    Normally when I find a new blog / website it’s check out the design (not that critical but needs to be kind of attractive), then check the content, if the content is good then I check out the subscription, then if an advert attracts my attention I will click it.

    If its too hard to read your content I move on, simple as that.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Dan, interesting point.

    I would agree on that for a multi-author blog that I visit regularly.

    On all other cases, however, I find it is not that important. You will find a “Michael” or “John Davis” or “Fred Smith” as author, and if you don’t know them, it is only the content itself that will matter.

    My opinion at least.

  • Adele

    Lately I have viewed a number of blogs that have a ton of ads at the top of the page and sometime a chunk of adds positioned in the middle of the article post. I go to blogs for information. Now, as soon as I see those ad filled pages I leave. I can’t take those blogs seriously as they appear to be all about something else. On the other hand, if the content is good and I see a link either within the content or as a non-intrusive ad along with it, I may well look at both.

    Thanks for a great article.

  • Suzanne @ vAssistant Services

    I totally agree with you, and I’d bet it’s more than a mere fraction of visitors lost.

    AdSense has it’s place, but for me, it’s NOT in my face like that! I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve clicked away from without bothering to even scroll down for the content just because their AdSense placement is so in my face.

    I’m all for making it easy to subscribe to a feed, too, but like you say – l want a chance to read it before I make that decision.

    Another frustration is how difficult it is to leave a comment on some blogs – particularly Blogger blogs. Don’t even get me started!

  • Cory

    It just makes sense to put the call to action at the bottom of the post. I’m a bit confused why some sites place social links just below the post header.

    How do I know if the post is worthy of submitting to social sites?

    Well, some could argue that you could just scroll back up to the top of the post once your finished reading to submit it to socials, but that’s not convenient. To me, the goal is making it as easy and painless as possible for your visitors to make the desired action – whatever it is for a particular post.

  • Ryan McLean

    Now I totally agree with your opinion. Plus the “what would seth goddin do” plugin annoys me on other sites and I bet it annoys my readers also….
    But how can you move it below the content?

  • Angel Cuala

    This is a good reminder. Ever since I started, I do not place adsense on top of my posts.

    I remember one time, I put a paypal logo on top but a reader suggested me to transfer it so I immediately followed his advise.

    Now, I only put a simple sentence on top of my blospot blog posts to invite them to check out my WP blog.

    But for my WP blog, I make sure that it is clean although there is adsense on every end of the post.

    Sometimes, we are not aware that we are driving our readers away.

    Thanks!

  • Kathy @ Virtual Impax

    Great insight!!! I guess the question is which is more important to the blog author – an adsense click or a new subscriber. For some, getting that adsense click is the act that makes the “cha-ching” sound. For others, they’d rather start a long term relationship.

    Again, this is great food for thought for most blog owners about the goals they have set for their blog.

  • Ruchir Chawdhry

    I’ve also realized this. Putting a call-to-action at the top is like putting a buy-now button at the very top of a salesletter.

    I used to display such things at the top but I removed them a while ago. I don’t really get it why people put all this stuff at the top. Why will someone Digg your post if he hasn’t even seen your content? When you’re putting all these widgets at the end of the post, then it gives the reader a logical step to follow after he’s read the content and if he likes it…

  • Ben Moreno

    Can’t deny that what you say is true about those plugins being at the top.

    I run the same ad banner over on my personal blog as well. I wonder if it is having a negative affect.

    Someone please look at it and let me know. Thanks.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Ben, it depends on your goal. Grow the site or make as much money as possible now?

  • suresh

    I agree and i do the same at my blog.

    One exception with being blogspot blog is for point one that some content and then adsence.

    I had a subscribe request,icons and share this button at the end of the post and had the same feeling that less the distraction we give to the user more the possibility that they we will come back again.

  • Simple Sapien

    This makes total sense. I get so frustrated when there is loads of clutter on a page that pushes the true content down. The content should be the primary focus.

    Some the post title gets pushed down below the fold… that kills me.
    Great post!

    – Jack Rugile
    Simple Sapien

  • Keith Dsouza

    Well first of all I would like to say that this is a great post and definitely makes sense as the actual content is more hard to read for the user. I went in and made the change to show these alerts at the bottom of the post rather than the top of the posts.

    It is really great you took up the time to write the post, since many users may not even be aware of these things and this is a definite eye opener.

    As far as the ad unit is concerned I do not display ads for till a post is 2 days old, but will add in some more conditioning where the ads are not displayed to social networking users.

    Once again Daniel thanks for the eye-opener, I can see where users are leaving off from the site and can increase the page views and time spent on site by doing away with these things.

  • Maria Reyes-McDavis

    I absolutely agree with you on this one, a blog or other social media based tool should not have in your face calls to action – it’s a definite turn-off for your visitors.

    I’ve actually tested it and saw more action taken when they were not on top of the page 🙂

  • Melvin

    Thats a nice thing there. Although adsense fat square isn’t really the best thing to do at the top of the content of it..

  • Avani-Mehta

    Agree with you. I probably would not have bothered reading the article if I had to scroll down so much.

  • Krissy

    Thanks for the information. This makes a lot of sense.

  • Amy Warden

    If I get to an article and all I see is a block of ads, I move on. End of story. I guess I haven’t looked around enough to notice the plugins, but that would drive me crazy too.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I agree! It is a mess when blogs are set up like that…you have to truly question the qualify of the blog. Great post!

  • Yuen

    Is Sociable plugin that you said from http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sociable ?

  • Ryan

    Thats right. Its always a pain to scroll down so much to read the same.

  • Debi Hoag

    There are a couple of blogs that I read (Dave Taylor’s tech blog comes to mind) that include the large AdSense rectangle at the top. I typically subscribe to those via RSS and only go to the actual site if there’s something in the feed that compels me. Usually, I can get enough information in an excerpt to determine whether the article will be worth the aggravation of viewing the ad first.

  • Wei Liang

    Layout of a blog is important which includes the single post layout.
    Should spend a reasonable amount of time to analyse on your layout and ponder if it is optimal to place social bookmarking buttons on top or below.

    These are minor details that bloggers should look into to improve on.

  • Mikael Rieck

    To be honest I’ve learned to go past all of these things. I have no problem with huge Adsense ads as I’ll just scroll past them. It think that after a few years online you know where to look and actually become ad-blind.

    Regards,
    Mikael

  • Allan

    Interesting post. I post super long blog posts so I wonder how that affects my performance.

  • Stephanie

    That’s way too much at the top of the post… especially the big AdSense block. Great if you only want to make money, but if you want to think about the long term earnings, it’s better to move things down to increase the odds that people will come back to your site.

    Subscriptions can be trickier. My own inclination would be to have a general link for that above the fold, probably elsewhere in the template rather than the top of the post, and one at the bottom of the post. If you’re catching people’s attention well enough from the start that they want to subscribe, they may still see the upper one, and if they read the whole post they’ll probably see the lower one.

    And of course do that before the AdSense. You might lose the click on the first visit, but people only need to subscribe once. If they keep coming back you’ll have more chances at selling to them.

    Which reminds me that I really need to add subscription options to the bottom of my own posts. Haven’t done that yet.

  • BloggerNewbie

    I’ve often thought the same thing! I can’t subscribe or “stumble” if I haven’t read it yet! My “subscribe” plugin shows up on the first page under the excerpt as well, not sure how to edit it, I will probably look for a different plugin. Thanks for the tips.

  • Erica-Copywriters Needed/ No Experience Required- Make $200/hr

    yeah. If you put the call for action later in the posts, people will feel that they can trust you and that you gave them content. For example, “I gave you content, now please look at my offer in exchange.” People wouldn’t mind clicking on call for actions then because it sounds more sincere.

  • Rod

    I’ve never heard anyone express this quite as clearly, but it makes perfect sense. I’ve always found the bottom of a post converts quite well in terms of AdSense, and presumably subscriptions, social bookmarking etc, which is where I have my calls to action. I haven’t really tested this by moving them around though, which I suppose would validate the theory…

  • Credit Helper

    I personally get pretty frustrated when I do find a good post that I want to subscribe/stumble etc. and then I have to scroll all the way back to the top just so that I can.

    Usually by that time I just move on.

    Odd how it doesn’t bother me when I first arrive at the site but I’m too lazy to scroll back up when I already took the time to scroll down.

  • tsquez

    Just have to say awesome post. I wonder how many people will read it and make adjustments to their own sites. Thanks for the post. Good job!

  • arya – moderatofm.com

    All the better having blog without commercial point with poor content

  • firmanwy

    I think adsense or ads is ok but not to dominate the page.

  • gendut

    wow….I think very great strategy……. I will try to use it…..and evaluate the result…thanks

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for the advice. There are many plug-ins to use. I do prefer a website that is streamlined and not “flashy.” Perhaps that’s the artist in me; I prefer clean lines.

  • ayman

    good work

  • medyum

    I remember one time, I put a paypal logo on top but a reader suggested me to transfer it so I immediately followed his advise.
    Now, I only put a simple sentence on top of my blospot blog posts to invite them to check out my WP blog.But for my WP blog, I make sure that it is clean although there is adsense on every end of the post.

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