Heatmaps 101

Heatmaps 101

Heatmaps are one of the most valuable tools a marketer can use to improve web pages because they provide valuable insights about customers. They allow you to visualize user behavior on your page so you know what’s working well and what needs to be fixed. For example, heatmaps can tell you what page elements customers are engaging with or what friction points they’re wrestling with.

Capturing a picture of this data allows you to identify what adjustments you need to make to optimize your page. By quickly spotting problem areas, you can prioritize the changes that will have the most impact on the user experience—and increase conversions. 

First, it’s important to understand what heatmaps are so you can properly leverage them. 

What is a heatmap?

A heatmap is a warm-to-cool visual representation of data that shows how visitors interact with a web page.

Fullstory heat map

Heatmap data tells the story of a visitor’s experience. These visual representations present a comprehensive story of customers’ interactions with your page. For example:

  • How much of the page did they read?
  • Which elements are they engaging with the most?
  • Are they clicking on elements that are relevant to their needs?  

Heatmaps can help marketers identify points of friction on the page, such as:

  • Are customers struggling with an unclickable element?
  • Are they abandoning a form halfway through completion?

Seeing problem areas makes it easier to identify and prioritize changes that will noticeably improve the experience. 

Why should I use heatmaps?

Heatmaps are one of the most insightful tools marketers can leverage because they monitor visitor behavior. Analyzing heatmaps enables you to quickly understand your page’s user experience and optimize on the spot. They take the guesswork out of CRO by relying on user data. 

Let’s zoom out a bit. 

Post-click landing pages are where conversions happen. Naturally, you want visitors to reliably take action or convert. If you want to improve your overall page performance, you need to improve the elements of your page through a process called optimization. But how do you know which changes will move the needle?

That’s where heatmaps come in. They show you user data that illustrates what’s working and what isn’t. 

There are two types of user data that marketers can collect:

  • Quantitative data can be measured. This includes metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate, and traffic channels.
  • Qualitative data is descriptive. This data helps you understand the full story of visitor interaction. 

When it comes to analyzing post-click pages, metrics can only tell you so much. In order to understand your customers, you need to see how they interact with your landing page through qualitative data.

Using the data provided by heatmaps helps you make UX decisions that improve visitor experiences. They help you identify points of friction that deter customers from taking the next step. 

Once you collect this user data, you can run A/B tests and make changes to maximize optimization and ultimately increase your return on ad spend (ROAS).

Marketers can access heatmaps in a variety of ways. HotJar, FullStory, and Feng-GUI are examples of conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools that provide heatmaps and visual feedback that enable you to see how people are really interacting with your pages. Some landing page builders, such as Instapage, have heatmap functionalities built into the platform.  

What tool is right for you? Let’s look at some of the different options for heatmaps so you can decide what is best for your brand.

Types of heatmaps

Not all heatmaps are the same. Different types provide different insights. For instance, some measure which elements customers found engaging, while others focus on the last areas they clicked before bouncing. We’ll take a look at four types: Click maps, scroll maps, hover maps, and eye-tracking maps. 

Click maps

Click-tracking heatmaps, or click maps, are the most common type of heatmap. They record data that tracks where visitors click on your page. This helps you see if customers are clicking where you want them to.

Hotjar click map

Red areas indicate where visitors clicked the most, including areas that are unclickable. As the number of concentrated clicks decreases, the color moves toward orange, then yellow, then green, and finally blue. 

Click maps help you verify that visitors are clicking in the correct places. For example, let’s say that you notice visitors are attempting to click an unclickable banner. You can experiment with making the banner smaller or changing the placement to see if this resolves the issue. Or, maybe, make the banner clickable since it’s catching customers’ attention.

Another benefit of click maps is to make sure the highest concentration of visitors are clicking your CTA buttons. Ideally, the CTA should be the only clickable element on your page, a practice that adheres to the 1:1 conversion ratio rule, meaning that there is only one clickable element for every conversion goal.

Scroll maps

Scroll maps record visitors’ scrolling behavior, allowing you to see the exact points that visitors scrolled to and then dropped off. This type of heatmap is particularly helpful in determining your ideal page length. After all, you want to ensure customers don’t leave early due to information overload or lack of engagement. 

Scroll map

The color gradient turns from warm to cool, demonstrating where visitors scroll the most (red) to where they drop off (blue). Seeing exactly where visitors are abandoning your pages enables you to know what areas you need to make more engaging. 

Start by creating a hypothesis that might explain why users are scrolling to that jumping-off point. Maybe the section has too much text or the copy is confusing. Whatever you think the issue might be, create a hypothesis. Then, run A/B tests to prove or disprove the hypothesis. 

Hover maps

Hover maps, also called mouse-tracking heatmaps, display visitors’ mouse movements on your landing page, including hovering, clicking, and scrolling behaviors.

VWO hover map

Hover maps help you identify important user patterns. For example, if users are tending to hover over a particular spot  that could indicate that visitors like spending time there. But be careful about assuming a correlation between hovering behaviors and engagement. A user could have left their mouse hovering and left the room. Lots of hovering time can also indicate that users are frustrated and trying to click on something that’s not functioning correctly. 

Eye-tracking maps

Eye-tracking heatmaps, or eye-tracking maps, monitor people’s eye movements while viewing your page. These studies can be conducted in professional settings like labs or by setting up webcams for consenting participants.

VWO eye tracking

Eye tracking maps allow you to see common gaze paths and understand patterns of user “fixations.” A fixation is recorded every time a user’s eye rests on a spot for more than 50 milliseconds. Based on this information, you can place important elements such as CTAs or promo information in visitors’ natural eye paths to increase the likelihood that they engage. 

There are two types of eye-tracking maps: Fixation volume and fixation duration. It’s important to understand the difference so you interpret the data correctly.

Fixation volume heatmaps show which part of the page is attracting the highest number of eye fixations. This provides important insights into the main elements capturing your visitors’ attention. For example, if you see that a CTA isn’t getting noticed enough but an informational banner is receiving many more eye fixations, you can experiment by making your CTA button more prominent or toning down the colors of the informational banner. 

Fixation duration shows how long visitors look at specific elements on a page to determine which elements visitors find to be the most engaging. For example, let’s say a hero image above the fold is receiving very little attention. You should swap it out for one that will do a better job at grabbing customers’ attention. 

Eye tracking maps don’t only help you see how long eyes are looking at pages but also the patterns of their movements. Two particular patterns reveal important insights: F-patterns and  Z-patterns. 

An F-pattern design is the typical path our eyes follow when we read content online. Studies show that web users tend to scan across the top of a page (looking for important headlines), then down the left side (looking for numerals or bullet points), and then across (to read bolded text or subheadlines).

A Z-pattern design, on the other hand, follows the route of eyes reading a book, for example. That is, from left to right and top to bottom.

Understanding these patterns can help you organize the content of your landing pages for maximum effect. For example, if your page is heavy on text, design the flow of content that aligns with F-pattern eye paths. If a page is light on content, plan for visitors following a Z-pattern.

When you monitor these patterns, you’ll be able to see where users are getting stuck and adjust the content flow accordingly. For instance, you might declutter a page by removing elements or adjust the position of images to allow users to navigate with greater ease.  

Use heatmaps to boost conversion rate optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of continuously improving web pages with the goal of increasing conversions. It involves A/B testing, adjusting page elements, running usability tests, and of course, analyzing heatmaps. 

Heatmaps are crucial tools for driving significant CRO results informed by reliable user data. Running random A/B tests based on guesses is not only inefficient, it’s unlikely to drive conversions. It’s imperative that you make informed decisions through real user data. 

Leveraging heatmaps allows you to pinpoint the page elements you need to test, starting with those that have the greatest impact on customer experience.

  • The best way to use heatmaps is to first collect insights from heatmap data
  • Next, formulate a hypothesis using a basic formula
  • Finally, make adjustments to your pages and see if they increase conversion

The more you understand what’s working and what it isn’t, the more you’ll improve on iterations, scale your efforts, and achieve CRO success. 

Get a free landing page analysis

Struggling to interpret your heatmap analyses and improve landing page performance? We offer a free conversion health analysis, including a live landing page review, an ad campaign audit, page performance and speed insights, and a competitive benchmarking report. Request your free landing page analysis here

Michelle Chang
by Michelle Chang

Michelle Chang is a content writer at Postclick. She is passionate about storytelling, effective messaging, and strengthening alignment between sales and marketing. When she’s not drafting blog posts, she is likely re-watching a Scorsese movie or planning her next meal.

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