What’s Hot & Cold
In order to effectively optimize a page or website, you need data. While Search Console and Web Analytics are fabulous sources of intel, I’ve found that granular information is often necessary. For example, what page elements draw a visitor’s attention? Is there a difference in how content is consumed via mobile versus tablet? Using heat maps to analyze actual usage behaviors can help drive optimization decisions. Otherwise, you’re guessing what works.
Some Heat Mapping Software Options
As you can imagine, there are many choices of heat mapping software available. Choosing the right one depends upon your website platform and what it supports. For small businesses, I usually recommend HotJar. First, it’s affordable; the Plus plan costs $30 a month. Second, it’s suitable for small websites that get less than 10,000 pageviews a day. And, it’s easy to set up an unlimited number of heat maps. Lastly, the plan includes 2,000 visitor recordings (more on that later). CrazyEgg is another popular choice. At $9/month, you get 10 heat maps (called snapshots). If you have a tiny site, this may be sufficient. However, I’ve found that most clients need more than 10 snapshots especially if they are running multiple AdWord landing pages and are actively making optimization changes to content. That said, CrazyEgg has one unique feature: the confetti tool. Confetti helps you visualize what users are doing on your pages which is a bit more illustrative.
For enterprise websites, HotJar accommodates 2+ million pageviews a day. ClickTale is another option. For very large and complex sites, I suggest talking directly to multiple providers to get pricing, feature comparisons, and additional training/support.
Getting Started: Collecting User Data
Setting up heat map tracking on a website is relatively easy.
- First, you’ll need to add a code snippet to your website. Once you have an account, this code will be provided to you. Talk to your Webmaster about adding the code. Most providers have excellent instructions if you’re DIY.
- Look at your website data — Google Analytics and Search Console — to find your most popular and important pages. Note the URLs.
- In your heat mapping account, create individual separate heat maps by url. If you’re A/B testing landing pages, be sure to include both versions.
- Review the account at least weekly to make sure the heat maps are set up properly and visitor recordings are occurring.
Visitor Recordings Are Different Than Heat Maps
Heat maps collect scrolling and clicking behaviors. The more activity in an area, the “hotter” it is. A heat map view is an overview of what’s happening on the page, like:
- the percentage of visitors who scroll to the bottom of the page
- the most popular places clicked on a page
- where the average fold appears for visitors
- toggling between views by desktop, tablet, and smartphone users
Visitor recordings, on the other hand, record individual website sessions. A recording documents one session so you can see the entry page, the length of time on a page, where they click on the page, and where they jump to next. In HotJar, you can increase viewing speed, skip pauses, and autoplay from one recording to the next. At first, it may feel like a jumble. Be patient. You’ll find that after watching a representative sample of recordings, you’ll get the hang of it.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post on how to analyze heat maps, visitor recordings, and analytics data to make optimization changes to specific pages.
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