If you are a studious affiliate (or other) marketer, you run A/B (split) tests on your content and sales pages before launching them on your website or ad spaces.

If you are a really studious marketer, you even check the results of your A/B tests.

But what happens if you routinely test and re-test your content and don’t see any improvement in its conversion rate or revenue generation relative to the old stuff? What if even your A and B tests don’t perform better/worse relative to each other- in spite of being 100% different?

That’s where heatmaps can help.

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What are heatmaps?

In a nutshell, heatmaps are graphical reports of what viewers are doing with your online content. Heatmaps show you user behavioral data in a way that Google’s Webmaster Tools and Analytics platforms don’t- by compiling clicks or page scrolling or mouse movement on a given page into a concise visual layout.

Some heatmaps operate via a programmed algorithm, predicting where your users’ eyeballs are likely to go or where fingers are likely to click. The results are based on neuroscience research and past studies of online user behavior. Algorithm-based heatmaps are up to 90% accurate and do carry the risk of being wrong due to unexpected elements like colors or novel call-to-actions (CTAs).

Other heatmaps are data-driven and compile actual behavioral events generated by your viewers. Data-driven heatmaps are much more accurate than those that are algorithm-based; however, the actual data can take days to weeks to compile, extending the amount of time you must devote to content testing and improvement.

Why should you use heatmaps?

Heatmaps help you quickly figure out whether a given piece of new content will produce your desired results for you, whether those results be a click on a CTA, a given number of leads, or a scroll (i.e., read) to the bottom of your page. If you are running A/B tests of your content, heatmaps help you determine if a given version is even worth sending out to your subscribers or placing on your website.

Heatmaps also help you figure out why a particular content piece failed. If your split tests are both resulting in a 5% response rate, for example, creating heat maps of both content pieces can help you figure out why. Maybe your viewers are clicking on other page elements or being distracted by an image. Maybe the CTA is being ignored because it’s too far down the page. Whatever the case may be, heatmaps can help answer the why of failure.

Types of heatmaps

There are many different heatmaps available, with these three being the most common:

Clickmaps: These maps show you where your users are clicking and how often. Click frequency is most often represented by a color spectrum, with “warm” and “cool” areas indicating high and low numbers of clicks, respectively. Clickmaps are extremely valuable if you’re testing different CTA buttons, for example. The below clickmap is derived from Crazy Egg.


Scrollmaps: This map records which areas of a web page are the most frequently viewed. Scrollmaps typically provide these data in a color coded format with “warm” and “cool” areas defined as regions of most and least viewing, respectively. Most scrollmaps will also transition from warm to cool as the page is scrolled down; however, this isn’t a guarantee if you place eye-catching offers halfway down the page, for example, or have a design flaw located at the top of the page.


Mouse movement heatmaps: These maps provide data on where site users hover with their mice just before clicking on a product, CTA, etc. Because there is a high correlation between mouse and eye movement, these maps can help you determine what exactly is catching the attention of your site users and where they may be getting stuck. As a result, mouse movement maps are incredibly useful on product or checkout pages, where shoppers may be getting sidelined by confusing directions or technical issues.

mouse move heatmap

Where can you find heatmaps?

Overall, heatmap software platforms require significant upfront calculation and coding in order to be effective. In other words, finding free heatmap platforms is a challenge. However, don’t despair- many vendors offer generous software trial periods or free “bare bones” versions of their platforms. Here are a few such offerings:

Clickheat: This heatmap generator is opensource software, meaning it is completely free to use. Clickheat is also available as a WordPress plugin; however, the plugin hasn’t been updated in at least two years.

Crazy Egg: This site offers a basic plan that costs $9/month trial that includes up to 10,000 visitors/month, 10 pages and daily reports. The plan is free for the first 30 days.

Feng-Gui: This vendor offers reasonably priced one, three and six month plans for $25, $50 and $100, respectively. These heatmaps are algorithm-based, enabling you to predict user behavior based on neurologic studies.

Heatmap: This vendor offers free as well as paid version of its heatmap software; the free version provides real-time data for up to one five-page website that can be formatted in responsive design.

Hotjar: This software suite offers many useful and free website tools, including a free version of its heatmap software. Furthermore, the heatmap software includes click, scroll and movement maps.

Most heatmap software will need to be installed on your site by inserting a tracking code (typically created using JavaScript), although some platforms are also available as WordPress plugins.

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