A Guide to Google Heatmaps

You have likely spent countless hours creating your brand’s marketing strategy, including heavy investment into top-tier web design for a beautifully presented and responsive website, but do you know how visitors to your site actually use it and view your published content? Making informed decisions is a cornerstone of modern digital marketing. One of the best but most often overlooked tools to help with this are Google heatmaps.

A heatmap will display your website content in a way that allows you to see which parts of each page capture visitors’ attention the most. Google Analytics heatmaps are conversion optimization tools that allow you to see what works and what needs more work on your website.

Understanding How Heatmaps Work

Think of an infrared display, or “heat vision,” as you have likely seen in movies and TV shows: a specialized display shows heat in varying colors. The coolest areas are darker hues of purples and blues, and warmer areas blend to greens and yellows. The hottest areas appear orange and red. Google heatmaps work very similarly, showing you where people spend the most time on your website using the same principles as a thermal imaging display.

Heatmaps exist in various forms, but they all serve similar functions as visual representations of data:

  • Hover heatmaps track mouse movements on a page. This allows you to easily see how users move their computer mice across your webpages, informing how they consume the content published to your website. Hover heatmaps use the same basic principles as eye-tracking technology, but the accuracy of mouse movement tracking is questionable since little research exists to support a strong correlation between cursor position and user gaze.
  • Click heatmaps track user clicks, showing you which links and buttons are most often clicked. This informs you as to how users prefer to interact with your site and which elements of your webpages draw their attention the most. These heatmaps are quite reliable as they essentially display aggregate data; areas that receive the fewest clicks appear coolest while areas with more clicks appear warmer.
  • Attention heatmaps display which portions of your webpages receive the most visual attention with respect to horizontal and vertical scrolling. These heatmaps are especially valuable for pillar-style content pages and longform content pages, informing the site owner as to which portions of the content cause the average user to stop and read. Generally, the very top of the page appears the warmest because that is what every user will see when first clicking to the page, and warmer areas throughout the rest of the page show where users are stopping their scrolling to read.
  • Eye-tracking maps actually track users’ eye movements, but these tools usually require some type of end user agreement or similar consent from users to collect and analyze their eye-tracking data. For example, if a smartphone user agrees to allow their device to collect eye-tracking data, marketers can then use the collected data to determine where the user’s eyes spend the most time on the page.

Different heatmaps offer different advantages, and it is impractical to simply invest in robust heatmaps of every kind for your web content. Instead, why not use a readily available heatmapping tool built into one of the staple components of your marketing toolkit?

Heatmaps on Google Analytics

The new heatmap feature on Google Analytics allows you to enhance your Page Analytics with heatmaps. Google Analytics is already an incredibly potent tool for any digital marketing professional, so why not take your analytical toolkit to the next level by exploring heatmaps and discovering a new conversion optimization asset for your marketing arsenal?

While some third party heatmap tools may offer a more diverse range of features than the Google Analytics heatmap, you are very likely already using Google Analytics, so the presentation and functionality will feel familiar and comfortable, and the capabilities are more robust than you might expect:

  • Easily see which portions of your webpages are most overlooked or scrolled past; this can help inform your content structure going forward.
  • Identify clickable icons visitors may be overlooking because they do not appear “clickable.”
  • Track your peak traffic times to see when users are visiting your site the most. This helps you organically promote your content by posting it during peak traffic.
  • Gain valuable insights that inform your pay-per-click campaign using Google AdWords.
  • Identify the best places for calls to action, signup links, and data entry fields.

Google Analytics heatmaps are ideal for measuring the success of your website’s home page, various landing pages, and the blog posts you publish to convince readers to convert to your brand. Ideally, you should leverage the insights you gain to increase engagement and keep users interacting with your website as often as possible and for as long as possible during each session. Retain your heatmap data so you can draw insights from future testing. Over time, you’ll see your heatmaps evolve as users start spending more time interacting with your website and the content you publish to it.