Skip to main content

There are tons of tools that target site optimization, but few of them can get you the data insights that heatmaps can. Let’s dive into what heatmaps are and why they stand out from the rest. 

What Are Heatmaps?

A heatmap is a way to visually represent data in which different data values are assigned different colors. A website heatmap is a guide that indicates which parts of your site are getting the most attention, typically represented with a gradient from warm to cool tones. 

Heatmaps offer real-time data when it comes to how people interact with your site, which is a valuable leading indicator insight. A heatmap can tell you what site elements draw your audience’s eye, which parts get ignored, how much they’re scrolling through a page, and more. 

Companies like Facebook, Google Analytics, and LG Electronics utilize heatmaps to understand the best ways to tweak their websites according to user interaction. Heatmaps can be used across most industries to aggregate information about how a business’s website can better meet its audience’s needs. 

How Does a Heatmap Work? 

You know that a solid content plan for your site is important, but how do you measure what’s working? That’s where heatmaps come in. 

Each heatmap is a little different, but their structure is similar, no matter the format. Color indicates differences between data point averages, so you can visually see your data’s “hot spots.” Color coding makes it easier for you to interpret information, which helps you figure out what moves to make based on what’s in front of you. 

Different software will give you a different color gradient, but typically, the most popular or “hot” elements will be darker in color, whereas the less popular elements will be “cooler.” 

Let’s take a look at an example for more clarity.

Image source

This isn’t a website heatmap, but weather radar is a heatmap most of us look at nearly every day. In this case, the orange and red spots in the middle indicate heavy rain, and as the rain gets lighter, the color changes to green and blue. 

If this were a heatmap that measured website clicks, the dark red spots would indicate areas that receive a high volume of clicks (and the blue would represent low click volume). Similarly, if this map represented cursor movement, it would indicate that the cursor for most users stays in the red and orange areas. The most important aspect of a heatmap is what its color values represent.

What Are the Different Types of Heatmaps?

Information extrapolated from heatmaps can let you know if a clickable button needs to be shifted, or if information needs to be presented in a different way. Selecting the right type of heatmap is essential for these insights, so consider what questions you’re trying to answer as you peruse the different types. 

Click or Touch Heatmaps 

Click or touch heatmaps are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about site heatmaps. Click heatmaps track which elements of your website users click the most on desktop—touch heatmaps are the same thing but for mobile users. 

Image source

Click heatmaps are particularly good for tracking first-time user experiences, which you can usually filter within your heatmap software. By seeing what people click on (and ignore) the first time they visit your page, you can intuit what’s catching their eye. This information will help you make changes to best accommodate first-time users. 


Tip: Click heatmaps are great for spotting site elements that distract your audience’s attention. Like when you build your brand’s messaging, you want your site to be as straightforward as possible.

Scroll Heatmaps 

Scroll heatmaps show how much of your page a majority of your readers scroll through. While scroll heatmaps aren’t as precise as click maps, you can use a scroll heatmap to see at what point on the page readers lose interest. 

Image source

For example, if you’re a teacher who has pivoted to online learning, you’ll likely have a lot of information contained in a single page. So, seeing where students lose interest can help inform site management decisions and future lesson plans to help them succeed. 

Tip: Scroll heatmaps are a great way to check the information distribution on your site and understand what keeps your audience engaged. 

Desktop/Mobile Comparison Heatmaps

Different website interfaces require different approaches to maximize success, and that’s where desktop/mobile comparison heatmaps come in. These heatmaps combine click/touch mapping with scroll heat mapping to compare data between different device interfaces.

Using a comparison heatmap allows you to see what aspects of your site are working across desktop and mobile devices, as well as resolve areas of tension. 

Image source

Tip: Phones are structured differently than laptop screens, so information that appears toward the top of a desktop site may sit lower on a phone interface and be ignored. Comparison heatmaps tell you which parts of your site are immediately viewed when opened in a phone browser, helping you decide which information to prioritize for mobile interfaces. 

Move Heatmaps 

Move heatmaps show the patterns at which your desktop users’ cursors move around. A study cited in the National Library of Medicine has found some correlation between cursor and eye movements. Knowing where your readers’ cursors are can give some information about what they’re looking at. 

Image source

Information gleaned from move heatmaps can be a strong indication of distracting site elements. They can also help you assess if there’s information that’s skipped over because it’s not presented in a way that’s eye-catching. 

Tip: Move heatmaps can only be used for desktop interfaces, as they rely on the presence of a cursor. If you’re hoping to measure performance on your mobile site, you may want to consider utilizing a touch heatmap or a desktop/mobile comparison heatmap. 

5 Benefits of Using Heatmaps

The most important part of heatmap utilization is how you interpret the data that you gain. With proper site testing, heatmap insights can give you a variety of benefits, including business growth. Here are just a few goals that heatmaps can help you reach: 

Optimize Site Real Estate 

If your most important information is ignored or missed, heatmaps can let you know if that’s due to its placement. Of course, the placement of information on your site is just as important as the information itself.

Optimize Content  

This goes hand in hand with optimizing your site’s real estate, as you can better visualize what types of content work best for you. Maybe your industry is best suited to video marketing, or perhaps informational articles are the way to go. A heat map can inform which move to make next. 

Gain Insight Into Your One Metric That Matters

The One Metric That Matters (OMTM), is the most important metric of your business. This metric varies between industries, but one thing that all OMTMs have in common is that you want as much data on them as possible. Heatmaps can give you an added insight that lagging indicators, like overall website traffic, won’t tell you. 

Fix Site Bugs 

A buggy site isn’t a site that makes customers happy. Heatmaps can aid IT departments in seeing—and more swiftly addressing—bugs on your site. Desktop/mobile comparison heatmaps can be particularly useful for ensuring your site’s efficiency across devices. 

Boost Conversion 

You may have an Ideal Customer Persona (ICP) in mind when you build your site, but heatmaps make it easier to see if you’re successfully reaching that clientele and can help you build a high-converting landing page. By understanding what your site visitors are clicking, or scrolling right past, you can better find out what your audience’s needs are. 

When you’re able to address these needs precisely, potential customers are more likely to become regular customers. 

Conclusion

Use heatmaps to make better business decisions. Overall, heatmaps gather valuable information from your audience about what is and isn’t working for your site. From there, you can make adjustments that are tailored precisely to your audience’s needs. 

 

Cass Rosas

Cass is a content creator at DemandPlaybook, she is passionate about creating human-centric SEO content, she also covers topics such as search engine optimization, content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing. In her spare time she likes listening to music, doing oil painting and watching SciFi movies.