Heat maps are data visualization tools that track your customer’s journey through your website to show how they use it.

Q&A with Steve Adams, Two Rivers Marketing senior digital strategist

Person sitting at computer looking at heat map on computer screenIf you’ve ever felt confused or unsatisfied at the end of the month when reviewing your website conversion rates, you’re not alone. Many marketers are disappointed by the low percentage of users who actually did what we wanted them to do on our web pages.

There’s a lot of guessing about what went wrong. “Maybe my photo isn’t communicating the right message.” “Is the call to action (CTA) too far down on the page?” “Did I use the wrong CTA?” Sound familiar?

Enter heat maps: a data visualization tool that tracks your customer’s journey through your website or landing page, showing you exactly how a visitor uses your site. It’s a great tool to help understand your conversion rates.

Digital marketers love data, so we often focus on key metrics like clicks, conversions, downloads, and unique pageviews to get a better understanding of user behavior. While these are still our primary focus, they don’t always give us the entire story.

For instance, a high volume of CTA link clicks from your landing page may show that your visitors want to learn more. But it doesn’t tell you which areas of the page they focused on or what content is driving them to take action.

That’s where a heat map can supplement your metrics and paint a broader picture of what’s happening. A heat map can help you make more informed decisions and improve your user’s experience, creating more conversions for your business. Heat maps are ideal for what we like to call “sexy data” – putting the raw numbers into a visual format that everybody loves to see.

Heat maps are ideal for what we like to call “sexy data” – putting the raw numbers into a visual format that everybody loves to see.

Traffic and engagement patterns presented in a rich and colorful radar map help prove what users are actually doing on your site.

Let’s walk through heat maps by answering our clients’ most common questions:

What is a heat map?

A heat map is the final report from data analysis software that applies color to page engagement with a temperature range – like weather radar displays the intensity of a storm. Red indicates hot, high-volume activity and blue is a cool, lower-volume. Heat maps can track clicks, but they also can map a user’s journey, showing how deep someone scrolls on a page and the areas where a user hovers.

If you’re doing website updates or working on higher conversion rates, heat maps can help you draw insight from actual user experience data. It’s much easier to make an argument for more prominent CTAs if you can show 50 recordings of users spending a lot of time trying to find the CTA, instead of saying you have a hunch.

Example of a heat map from HotJar
Photo credit: Hotjar

How do heat maps work?

Heat map software is designed to record a user’s journey by tracking what they do on your website or landing page. It does this by following the actions of their mouse and its clicks, and in some cases with video.

Marketers like to use website heat mapping tools to track and follow user behavior on homepages, landing pages, and blog posts so they can lead more users down their conversion funnel. Software companies, like Crazy Egg, Hotjar, and Tableau make data-based improvements to websites to help increase conversions and bottom lines. Some platforms even allow video recordings of user actions. While heatmap analysis can be time-consuming, it’s extremely valuable for understanding user behavior.

What can heat map software do?

Website heat map software allows you to create forms and integrate them into the website, pulling your data into one convenient place. It can also record user sessions through video, build a survey, or conduct on-page polls.

Depending on the software provider, it’s not uncommon to find sales funnel tracking. As you work to convert your awareness campaigns into new customers, these tools may assist in tracking where your users are fitting in your sales journey. By tracking the pages you identify as your main funnel locations and watching where visitors complete actions, your reports can show opportunities for website revisions to create a greater return on investment (ROI).

Example data report from Hotjar
Photo credit: Hotjar

Can I do heat mapping on my own, or should I partner with an agency or software expert?

With most new technologies, it’s often most effective to work with an experienced partner who can make connections between data and heat map results. This will help improve your knowledge and your users’ experience. Just remember, heat mapping is only one part of your overall marketing plan. It’s best used as supplemental data to make decisions. While heat maps give us that extra insight into how customers navigate the website, it’s good to integrate it with other digital marketing objectives to ensure you’re taking a holistic approach to your data points.

If you’re interested in heat maps or expanding your digital marketing through other emerging trends, check out our blog, “Top 6 digital marketing trends of 2019” and contact Steve at stevea@2rm.com.

About Steve Adams

From high-level brand strategy to understanding the depths of the digital world, Steve’s your go-to! Reach out to him with any of your digital marketing strategy questions or even just to inquire about how to make the best biscotti in town! He’s available at stevea@2rm.com.