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Smoldering Embers of Success: What Are Heat Maps Used For?


You may have seen a heat map before and not even known what you were looking at! Heat maps are used in several fields from health and disease tracking to e-commerce behavior.

In recent years, companies have been using heat maps to gather data and perform analyses that allow them to learn about their customers.

Think that heat maps might help you improve your business?

Keep reading to find out how they work and how your business may benefit.

What are Heat Maps?

A heat map is a visual presentation of user behavior. They are most often used by internet-based companies that want to learn how users interact with their website.

As the term suggests, a heat map can show certain areas of the website that are “hot” or more popular than the other, colder areas. There are four main types of heat maps that might be useful to you – mouse-movement tracking, attention maps, scroll maps and click maps.

Each type of heat map shows different data. Let’s briefly review each kind of heat map and how they are analyzed.

Mouse-Movement Tracking

Also known as hover maps, mouse-movement tracking shows the areas of the webpage where the user’s cursor was hovering. The “hot” areas are the places where the user’s cursor hovered for a longer period of time. Hot areas are typically shown in red and less hot areas in orange, yellow, green, and blue respectively.

With this data, a company could learn what their site visitors are looking at. With that information, they may choose to change the content or layout of their site to optimize the view.

When learning how to analyze heat maps it’s important to realize that not all forms of heat maps have the same level of accuracy. Some studies have shown that hover maps are not the most reliable way to track what users are looking at and therefore interested in.

Attention Maps

Are you wondering whether site visitors are reading the entire page or just looking at the pictures? Well, with an attention map you can collect this information.

An attention map shows the most popular areas of a web page. If people gravitate towards a certain area of the page you can learn how to bring attention to other areas too.

Scroll Maps

Similar to attention maps, scroll heat maps can show how far a user scrolls down the page. Typically, the top of the page is hotter than the bottom.

Companies may rewrite or reposition content based on the findings of a scroll map.

Click Maps 

Click maps are a form of heat map to show where users actually clicked during their time on the website. This is probably one of the most useful heat maps for business.

Are users not clicking on the call to action (CTA)? Are they clicking for more information but not purchasing the product? These questions can be answered using a click map.

How to Analyze Heat Maps

Now you know more about the main types of heat maps available. But how do businesses track and analyze this data? Great question!

Heat maps can be organized to show individual user behavior or group behaviors. For example, say a company wants to find out whether users are scrolling to the bottom of the homepage where they have a CTA button to subscribe to the blog. They can run a scroll map and a click map using data from a day, week, or month’s worth of user visits.

The scroll map will show with hot and cold colors whether users are scrolling down to the bottom of the page. Then they can cross-reference this data with a click map to show whether users are clicking to subscribe to the blog.

The heat map data is usually available in number or percentage form too but the heat map offers a more complete view of the user experience.

Specific heat map software, like the one from this company, can even replay a user’s session. You can watch as the mouse moves from one item on the page to another and whether the user clicks on anything before closing their session.

Using Heat Maps for Your Business

Heat maps tell a story about your online business that other data and statistics might not show you. And the more you know about your audience, the better.

You can use heat maps to gauge interest in certain areas of your website. Then, you can test your hypothesis by changing the website and rerunning the heat map. Here are a few of the general things businesses have learned from heat maps so far.

1. Put the Most Important Content First

From scroll maps, it’s clear that users lose interest quickly. Figure out the most valuable content for your users and choose a prominent location at the top of the page.

2. People Read Left to Right

This one should be fairly obvious. Because people are used to reading text from left to right, they consume material from left to right as well. You can reorganize your page to show the most important content or categories on the left side of the page

3. Use Photos

Photos, specifically of real people, draw attention. Choose photos that draw attention but don’t detract from the rest of the site. Avoid carousel photos as they may be too stimulating and distracting for the viewer.

4. Summarize

If your site has too much text, visitors will lose interest. Choose a quick summary or an enticing first line for an article or blog on the front page instead of the whole thing.

Success Is a Heat Map Away 

You’ve learned all the basics of heat maps and how to use them. It’s time to give it a try.

Learn how you can optimize your webpage to improve sales, increase subscribers, and provide a superior customer experience.

For more tech news and business advice, take a look at the other blogs on our site!

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