Heatmaps 101: What are heatmaps and how to use them?

Data has changed our lives drastically. So much so, that there are many debates and discussions on how data has surpassed oil as a commodity. Although you can’t really compare the two, data is a valuable resource, and data is to the digital economy what oil is to the industrial economy

According to IDC (a market intelligence company), the ‘Global Datasphere’ reached 18 zettabytes(ZB) in 2018. It also predicts that the world’s data will grow to 175 ZB by 2025. That’s 175,000,000,000,000 GB of data created in the world.

Heatmaps - Chandler screaming that's too much information because too much data
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We have an abundance of data, and we don’t quite know what to do with all of it. New methods are consistently required to visualize or organize data better. One of which is Heatmaps which lets you make use of data of visitors on your websites. As a marketer, I know there is a lot of data points available in terms of what people are doing on our webpages, but what can we do with this data? A lot. 


Here’s a 101 on what are heatmaps and how to use them efficiently.

What are Heatmaps?

Heatmaps are a visual or graphical representation of data presented via colors. With heatmaps, you can categorize all the elements of any webpage as hot (effective) or cold (unpopular), scaled from red to blue.

Website heatmaps for freshmarketer

With heatmaps, you can understand how visitors interact with any page on your website on the basis of aggregated clicks, scrolls, and hovers. Armed with all this data and insights, you can make data-backed decisions on optimizing your webpages, thereby improving your conversion rates.

Marketers are constantly trying to understand customer behavior, trying to justify drop-off rates, as well as trying to improve customer experience. With heatmaps – you can do it all. Unlike data analytics that provide a macro overview of customer grievances, heatmaps help in pinpointing the exact place in the sales funnel where customers face problems. Combining traditional analytics with heatmaps can give you answers to WHY some of your metrics are how they are.

Different types of Heatmaps

There are 3 kinds of heatmaps which are used commonly: 

    1. CLICK MAPS – They show all the clicks made on your web page. It doesn’t matter whether the clicks have been made on clickable links or static elements, you can analyze them all.
    2. SCROLL MAPS – These show the percentage of people who scroll down to any point of the page. This gives an understanding of how engaging the content is, and where one should place Call-to-actions.
    3. HOVER MAPS – Also called as move maps, these show how visitors navigate through your page. The hot spots are essentially places where the users pause.

All these different kinds of heatmaps can help us do a tonne of different things that would help you boost your conversions and improve customer experience. Here’s what you can do: 

Identify website hotspots with Heatmaps

Hotspots are basically areas with a relatively high temperature (warm) on your web pages, showing areas that receive more attention vs areas with low visibility. They display areas where the visitors are more active and focused. If you place your content and CTAs around these hotspots you will reduce visitor drop-offs, and thus increase your visitor-retention.

Moreover, you can also figure out which areas/pages are giving more value to your visitors, and focus your efforts on replicating those elements and topics. According to a study by Nielsen Norman Group, we tend to browse through website content in an F-shaped pattern, i.e., we favor the left side of the page. If we follow such observations, then more relevant content or CTAs should be placed on the left side of your web page.

F-shaped heatmaps
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Find navigational breaks with Heatmaps

Heatmaps show you the danger zones on your website – which are the navigational spots from where visitors bounce off the most. These roadblocks signify the pain points of the visitors which led them to leave your page.

Bad navigation breaks the rhythm of browsing on your website, which impacts the user experience. Not only that, but this also damages your credibility as a brand. Recurring customers do not like these signs and therefore abandon your website. 

By understanding how a user interacts with your website, the route they take to reach a web page, their hover map, etc., marketers can come up with navigational designs that complement their sales funnel as well as customers’ expectations. You can also optimize your web pages and improve the flow of your website through correct element placement on your page.

Navigation on wordpress - Heatmaps
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Optimize your pages with Heatmaps

Thanks to heatmaps, you know where users abandon a page and you can restructure your pages more effectively to improve time-on-page. Pick any page of yours and take a look at the heatmaps – and you can identify elements that attract more attention than others, and incorporate more of these on other pages. In fact, basic things like element placements can reduce your bounce rate substantially. We will focus on 3 main elements here – Links, Images, and CTAs.

Freshmarketer Heatmaps - changing CTAs, optimizing links and images.

Link Placement

You have definitely placed links on your blogs and pages, but if they’re placed beyond logical folds on your web page, then how can you expect any clicks? Use scroll maps and hover maps to see if the visitors are even reaching the links, and change the link placements accordingly. 

With click maps, you can see precisely where visitors click. If you see a trend of some types of links being clicked more than others, you will know what to replicate. If you see links barely getting any clicks, remove them.

Heatmaps gif - you're the weakest link
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CTA Optimization

It is indeed all about location, location, location. The placement of the button has a huge impact on how many of your visitors will notice and click on a CTA. The Nielsen Norman Group has been studying eye-tracking, and continuously found that 80% of users’ viewing time was spent above the fold.

In fact, things like the colors of buttons can make a difference in the visitor’s decision to click or not to click. There is a whole psychology of colors that comes into play here. Generally, green and orange buttons seem to work better than others. Apart from that, the urgency of the call-to-action, the copy used, etc., can change visitors’ decisions. With heatmaps, you can see how many people click on the buttons, or hover on it, or just scroll past it, and change your CTA placement accordingly.

Heatmaps - breakdown of the psychology of colors in CTAs
Here’s how certain colors evoke different emotions (Image source)

Image Placement

Did you know that vision trumps all your other senses? Images and visuals can change the way your readers consume your content.

“Hear a piece of information, and 3 days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture, and you’ll remember 65%” – Brain Rules

Not only do images increase brand recall, but they also keep more visitors on the page, thus increase your average time on page. With scroll maps, you can use the real data to determine what is the optimal number of images and where should they be placed.

Understand your forms better with Heatmaps

We talk heaps about conversion, but how do prospects really convert? Via forms. For every gated ebook you write, free trials you provide, blog subscribers you get – you set up forms. But not many people look at the efficiency of all the forms.

With heatmaps, you can understand how users interact with your forms and Freshmarketer’s Form Analytics can help you identify the bottlenecks that discourage users to complete the form. You can see where visitors hover, where and what they click, and how they engage with the form.

Heatmaps when put together with the forms can get you deep form analytics with Freshmarketer

There are a lot of factors and data points like the ratio of form starters to completes, fields that cause corrections, refocus points, drop-off, hesitation fields, etc,  that come into play in the optimization of your forms. 

When visitors are hovering their mouse over your form labels for longer durations, this might suggest that your label text is difficult to read. You can see the relevance of the form field, change the text font to make it more readable, or remove the form field completely with the help of heatmaps.

Tip – Try to optimize your forms for as few clicks as possible. Nobody enjoys giving too much information, so ask for things that are important – name, email ID, contact number, etc. 

Create the right content with Heatmaps

When you know what your audience wants, creating content and maintaining an engaging blog page becomes effortless. Use heatmaps to find out which blog posts are regularly clicked on, and understand the topics that are a favorite among your audience. 

Publishing content that has no relation to your brand or your audience will only make your readers more and more agitated. With heatmaps, your content curation efforts can be more focused. You can see the areas where customers interact the most, and place important messages like CTAs, product info, ad banner, and more accordingly. 

Many people and articles will tell you long-form articles work better. Yes, that is true from an SEO aspect, but it also depends on your industry and audience-type. Perhaps your visitors consistently drop off after 1000 words. Analyze your heatmaps to see such trends and identify what should be the ideal length for your articles. Having an engaging blog is a great way of bringing visitors back to your website.

Improve your sales efforts and website revisits

As marketers, you need to keep experimenting and reinventing tactics to hold your customer’s attention and encourage their conversion-decision. Heatmaps provide important answers that help to maximize output from all your sales efforts. 

One such element is Pop-ups and the trick is to place it where the users’ attention is the highest. Many marketers believe that shoving the pop-ups in the users’ faces is all it takes to convert, but it might just annoy your visitors and lead them to abandon your webpage. With heatmaps, identify the areas with the highest clicks and put your pop-ups in and around those areas. 

For eCommerce or FMCG web pages, heatmaps can give you an in-depth look into how customers view your product catalog. See which product do they click the most, which ones they don’t, which ones end up in the shopping carts, etc. Based on these insights, marketers can customize the catalog layout and encourage revisits.

Heatmaps - shopping cart gif showing no cart abandonment.
Reduce cart abandonment with heatmaps (Image Source)

Provide better customer experience, and thus, satisfaction

When you have rich insights on where users are finding difficulty, you will be more empathetic to their problems. Your proactive ability to address their problems will definitely add to the enriching customer service experience.

Heatmaps increase your chances of conversion at all times. Once you use heatmaps to improve all the elements on your web page, that would automatically improve the visitor experience of your website. Not only that, it can make your customers more satisfied with their purchase decision. 

Evidently, heatmaps, if used the right way, can make or break your conversion rate. Used together with other tools like A/B testing, Funnel analysis, Split URL testing, Session Replay, etc – you can understand your audience with unreal clarity. 

Read our comprehensive guide on Heatmaps to change the way your visitors interact with your web pages, and improve your conversions substantially. Discard your assumptions and start using heatmaps – adopt hard data in real-time to create an unparalleled web experience. Understand your strengths, rectify your flaws, and keep them (your customers) coming back. 

May your websites be full of hotspots! 🙂