Data is fantastic however in its tabular form, sometimes it can let us down and not provide the best way to analyze the data in front of us. This holds especially true when trying to visualize how people are interacting with your website. Luckily we can take that information and present it on a heat map which can give us quick and easy insights in to how our sites are being used and more importantly...how we can improve them.
For The Uninitiated...what Are Heat Maps?
Just like the name, a heat map shows you hot and cold spots on your website where people are clicking. So if your logo receives the majority of clicks on the page then it will glow red, if your sign up form button only gets a few clicks then it will be blue.
This visual "overlay" of your website allows you quickly to see where people are clicking and what they're doing.
There are a number of tools out there for you to see heat maps of your site, by far one of the biggest and most well-known is CrazyEgg. A number of other tools are out there and Google Analytics does offer some "similar" functionality in their Site Overlay report.
What Should I Look For?
So, assuming you now have your heat map software installed and collecting data, what exactly should you be looking for and how can this data help?
For the basic analysis, you want to take a broad overview on where people are clicking, specifically on which call to actions you have on your page (or lack of). Depending on the type of page, whether it be lead generation, ecommerce or information, we'll want our visitors to complete a certain action, if the clicks are low then there is an issue.
We also want to look at areas we didn't expect to see high clicks; if a certain link or a secondary call to action is getting a lot of clicks (in other words attention) then that's something we need to look into it.
Beyond that, we can also look into the checkout process and which areas are or aren't being clicked. We can look at sign up pages and landing pages to see how they are performing.
Heat maps can also be used to analyze re-designed websites to test if call to actions are performing as expected.
Making The Most Of The Data
As with anything, we should never use data in isolation, although heat maps give us a nice way to visualize where people are clicking on a website, they don't tell us why or give us other insights into what is going on with the page (time on page, keyword that drove the visit, number of previous visits, and so on). So they add to the overall picture of a visitor and their intent rather than explaining completely.
By combining the data we collect, we can get a more accurate picture of what is happening and use this to refine via split testing or during re-designs. We can also use other tools such as Google Analytics, Qualaroo and KissMetrics to provide even more information that can be combined with our heat map data.
It's also worth remembering that just like any other data, sample size is important to get a truly fair and representative picture.
So remember, collect the data, use it in conjunction with other data and as part of your split testing strategy to improve clickthroughs on your key call to actions!
Ed Baxter is the SEO manager for Ignition Search – a PPC Management & Internet Marketing agency based in Sheffield. In his spare time he’s an avid mountain biker and loves all things to do with the web.