Every marketer and online entrepreneur knows that data is what truly powers decisions. Sure you could go with your gut and maybe you’ll be right, but having solid evidence before making a decision can help you make the right choice and to take that choice confidently.

With that in mind a lot of people will slavishly review their analytics stats, which is great (well maybe not the slavishly part!), but analytics only tells you so much.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something that you could use to track your visitors actions on your site, so that you can actually see what they’ve been doing?

Well there is, they’re called heat maps!

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What are Heat Maps?

Heat maps track data such as mouse movement, clicks, scrolls and taps. This data is accumulated and presented in a visual form where redder (hotter) colors are used to denote busy areas and bluer (cooler) colors to show areas which get less interaction.

This can be combined with various filters such as device type to give you a detailed view of what’s working on a page and what isn’t.

Heat Map ITT

Who needs Heat Maps?

If you’re just getting started with your site, you wouldn’t normally need a heat map. If your site gets a reasonable amount of traffic and you’re looking to improve the ROI and conversions of a page then heat maps are for you!

The main reason for this is data: heat maps, like any other form of analytics, work best when they have a lot of information to use.

How can Heat Maps benefit you & your business?

The prime reason for using a heat map to study your audience’s behavior is to make improvements to your site that can generate more leads, optins or sales.

The different options available to you with heat maps can lead to some surprising discoveries on your site.

Click/Tap Tracking

Click tracking (or tap tracking for mobile users) records exactly where users are clicking on pages. This will obviously focus on links, but can also highlight links that lead to other sections of the same page, FAQ tabs, etc.

The more clicks a location gets, the “hotter” it will appear.

Obviously if you’ve set up a CTA or two on a page and leads are slow, this sort of tracking can see which of your CTA’s is performing better.

Scroll Tracking

Content, regardless of whether it’s a blog post or a sales page, can often be quite long. Analytics can tell you how long a user stayed on a page for, but it can’t tell you how much of the page they consumed.

By using scroll heat maps you can discover exactly how far users are scrolling on your content.

If, for example, they are scrolling but not reaching your CTA further down, you know that you need to move that CTA further up or to improve the post to increase the likelihood of the user scrolling further.

This is a great way to also see if there’s a pain point in the article that is stopping people – a too sudden sales pitch for example.

Mouse Movement

Perhaps the weakest type of heat map, movement based heat maps (sometimes called hover heat maps) track the visitor’s mouse movement across the screen.

In theory this might show areas where they have gone to click or hovered for more information, but the average user has a tendency to move their mouse a lot, disrupting any useful data you might glean from this sort of heat map.

Attention Heat Maps

Similar to scroll heat maps, attention heat maps focus on the visible screen area. The idea behind this sort of heat map is to track how long a visitor stays in one location on the page – in other words it helps to show what sections of the page have grabbed the user’s attention.

Down the rabbit hole

As with any other form of analytics, it’s easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of over analyzing the data or worse, analyzing it wrongly.

As heat maps only show a partial story, it’s wise to pair the information with other analytics. These analytics can be traffic based such as Google Analytics, but they can also be eCommerce based.

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For example if you’re concerned about user sign ups you might notice that people click on the form and then stop. What the heat map isn’t showing is that the forms are being tabbed through via the keyboard. Combine the data with actual form submissions and you may get a closer idea of what’s happening.

In other words, don’t take the heat map data at face value! Instead use that data and other sources to get a more rounded view of what’s occurring.

Heat Map Solutions

Luckily for us there are lots of different companies out there offering heat map solutions. Some offer it as a standalone service others combine it with analytics and other statistic tools.

Saas Solutions

WordPress Plugins

While some of the above services may also include a WP plugin, here are some specific plugins:

The Bottom Line

For anyone that wants to take their analytics and decision making to the next level, heat maps are a worthy addition to the toolbox.

Paired with analytic data and a clear sense of your pages objective, heat maps can provide a new level of data and understanding that can increase conversions, engagement and more.

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Join the Discussion

  • Eartha

    I’ve found heat maps to be especially helpful for landing pages when you’re trying to figure out the best place for your call to action. I have used Crazy Egg in the past for a website I used to run. It is a great service. I wasn’t aware of the various heatmap plugins for WordPress. I will be checking them out. Thanks for posting them!

  • isaac

    This heat map is definitely what I need. I’ve got a steady stream of visitors to my blog but it seems not many if then are voicing through my Amazon’s links. At the very least, I would like to know whether there are put off by my reviews or something else….

    By the way, which of these heat maps solutions is free to use? I’m kinda boot strapping right now and want to reduce my expenses as much as possible =)

  • Derek Marshall
    Derek Marshall

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for creating and sharing this rather informative article with us. it’s appreciated thanks.

    Heat maps is something I have been considering for a while but not quite understood the benefits of using them (until now).

    Out of interest for WordPress which heat map plug would you rate as the top one or best one to use?

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