Why visitor heatmaps can be dangerous
They are a core tool for conversion experts, so why should they be used with caution? Well first, we need to understand what sort of heat maps exist, and which are good (and bad) to rely on.
What’s the history?
Heat maps are visual representations of data. They were developed by Cormac Kinney in the mid-90’s to try to allow traders to beat financial markets. Basically, they allow us to record what people do with their mouse or trackpad and quantify it, and then they display it in a way that is visually appealing.
But there are 3 types of heat maps now commonly used:
- Hover maps (mouse movement tracking)
- Click maps
- Scroll maps
Which should you use, and why?
And first a word of warning. Don’t judge your heat maps on your first visitor! You need to build up starts over a few hundred, or ideally few thousand page visits before acting and changing things.
Hover maps (mouse movement tracking)
This is what people often refer to when saying “heat map”. They track the movement of the mouse and claim that this represents what the visitor of the web page is looking at.
In 2010, Dr Anne Aula, Senior User Experience Researcher at Google, gave a presentation where she presented some disappointing findings about mouse tracking:
- Only 6% of people showed some vertical correlation between mouse movement and eye tracking
- 19% of people showed some horizontal correlation between mouse movement and eye tracking
- 10% hovered over a link and then continued to read around the page looking at other things.
Not good, so be careful of these heat maps. I don’t personally recommend them as they can be very misleading.
These are more specific and track what people are clicking on.
As they are pretty specific, you can get a lot of information from click maps. But then again, you can get the same information from Google Analytics.
In Google Analytics, go to Behavior → Site Content → All pages, and click on an URL. You can open up Navigation Summary for any URL – where people came from, and where they went after.
What they can be good for is seeing what people are clicking when it’s not actually clickable. If they are clicking it, make it do something!
These sort of heat maps show you how far people are scrolling down the page.
They are generally considered to be the most useful heat map as they are accurate, reporting what they are supposed to and leave little the wrong interpretation.
Generally, the longer the page, the more useful they are. Particularly good for long sales letter [web] pages.
So what? Which to use?
I firmly believe that scroll maps are important to anyone who wants to improve their conversion rates.
Because you can then insert more “prompts” in your page to encourage visitors to keep scrolling. Knowing where people are stopping on your page is good information.
On T4S.site, where you create your landing pages and online sales funnels, the heatmap has the scroll map as the heart of it.
A heatmap is constantly being generated for you, based on what visitors are specifically looking at on their screen.
But it goes one step further and tracks by every element on your page too. You can literally see – right in the page editor – which page elements are being seen more than others.
And then you can go to work.
Add prompts or call to actions in places where people are reading and “falling off” your page.
Move elements that are important to “hotter” places on your page.
So yes, your heat map is a vital tool in the your armoury when improving your conversion rates.