Let’s start off with defining “above the fold.” In the newspaper world, above the fold is anything that is on the top half of the newspaper – it’s prime real estate for articles. You put your best and most compelling articles above the fold because they are the hook to getting people to buy your paper.

Now what does “above the fold” mean in email? In email, it’s anything that appears on a computer screen without scrolling. Which means it’s different in every email client and every device. For viewing emails on a computer, a good rule of thumb is the top 400 pixels will display in most email clients above the fold. On mobile phones, the only thing that will show up is your header. On the iPad and other readers, it will vary. Conclusion? Put the most important stuff at the top of your email.

What is the most important stuff?

I’m going to give you 4½ things you should have above the fold…

1) Call to action

What do you want people to do with your email? Read more? Make a purchase? Send you an email? Pick up the phone and call you? Let your email subscribers know and let them know early. Make sure your call to action appears above that fold.

2) Logo

Your “From” field should tell your subscribers who you are, but humans are visual creatures and they may not read your “From” field, so when they open your email make it easy for them to immediately recognize who is sending this communication. Show them – put your logo up at the top.

3) Web version

Ensure that no matter what brand of computer, mobile device or e-reader your subscribers use, they can still see the email that you spent time and energy putting together. Include a link to the web version. No matter which email service provider you use, this should be an easy thing to do.

4) Unsubscribe

Don’t make it difficult to unsubscribe from your email messages. The harder it is, the more likely they will just hit the “spam” button, and there goes your reputation. Put a link to unsubscribe above the fold and stay out of the spam folder!

…and my ½ tip:

Link to your website

The easiest way to provide a link to your website is to have your logo clickable to your site. That’s why I didn’t make this a full tip, but rather just a ½. If you did #2, just make that logo clickable and you’re done!

Always remember to test. Your CTA may work closer to the “fold” or closer to the top. Define a goal for each of your email messages and test different scenarios to a sample of your list, then send the winner of the test out to the rest of your list.

About the Author: Monica Sims is the Senior Manager of Social Media and Email Marketing at iContact, a division of Vocus and editor of the blog and newsletter. She has been working in email since 1999 and can be found on twitter at @photosims.