How to Use Website Heatmaps to Optimize Analytics?

This article outlines the role of website heatmaps in product analytics. You will learn what heatmaps can measure to add value to your business position. Website optimization tools use two main types of heatmaps, the ‘click’ and ‘scroll’ maps. We will cover what unique insights each of them can provide. Finally, we will also understand the limitations and dangers of using heatmaps as a standalone tool.
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A heatmap (or heat map) is a graphical representation that depicts information as a visual summary in the form of clusters/groups of data instead of numerical values. These clusters of data have variances in gradients of color and sizes depending on the intensity and impact of the level of engagement. The higher the engagement, the more an area will be represented with a color higher up the gradient. In most heatmaps, red will stand for the most intense rendition and blue the least.
Graphical representations like heatmaps are excellent ways to interpret website data by doing away with numbers and complex statistics. For decades now, heatmaps have been used by medical professionals, researchers, scientists, financiers, and engineers. However, implementing them in website analysis has opened up fresh opportunities for all businesses.
Many such visual representations already play a big role in the product analytics industry, and heatmaps have become popular only in the last few years. And, for a good reason.

What are Website Heatmaps?

Heatmaps make data interpretation a cakewalk as information can be captured at a glance by simply looking at a sheet, a web page, or a chart. And, in the case of product analytics, it will be a web page.
Website analytics differs greatly from other areas or industries of application, as it involves tracking live data from users through a digital screen. Therefore, you will need to track the mouse movements and actions from the user’s screen to understand how they interact with your website.
Heatmaps act as quick, data-driven resources that enable teams to make informed decisions over a website. And, because they are generally easy to use, even users who are new to product analytics tools will be able to grasp what is really happening in the background when customers interact with their web products or services.
There are a few types of heatmaps used in website optimization tools, of which ‘click’ and ‘scroll’ are the most prominent ones. These help in website analysis by identifying what type of content contributes to capturing a visitor’s interest in your product. But what exactly do heatmaps help you measure?

What Can Heatmaps Measure?

When tracking how users progress through a webpage, you can understand user interests through user behavior and style of engagement. This means that users belonging to different cohorts may have specific patterns of action and/or ways of interacting with a screen, which will give you more insights when targeting the various groups.
For example, there may be certain content or design elements that shepherd the users to the right call-to-action (CTA) or help them remain engaged with the content. Or, there can be roadblocks that prevent users from further engaging with your product page.
Typically, heatmaps are great tools that help in website analytics for:

User behavior analysis

Businesses normally have no insight into what happens behind the scenes when looking at user behavior statistics. Product metrics such as the ‘percentage of new users’ and ‘duration of views’ are helpful in product management.
However, knowing how users moved through your website can give you further insight into what helped in the process of engaging user attention and focus.

Churn measurement

Churn in session analytics is a measure of how many users decided to leave your site and how quickly. If there is a high churn rate, it is time to reassess what might be going wrong. Heatmaps are excellent in tracing the ‘footsteps’ of a user as they navigate your website to find out where exactly they stopped exploring your product.

Website revamps

Time and again, businesses need to reexamine the way they have been doing things in the past to keep up with user needs. Resources such as heatmaps can assist development during a website revamp. In fact, a low turnaround is enough reason to take a look at what is happening during each user session to make crucial changes in the way you present your information.

A/B tests

Do you have two or more different ideas for webpage content and design? A/B tests allow you to compare these versions by testing them out. The alternatives may differ in content placement, the CTA, or any other aspects, big or small. Tests are carried out by making one version available to one group of users and the others to different sets of users.
For example, if you have two competing ideas, you may display each version to 50% of your user base. You can clearly figure out which one performed the best by using heatmaps.
Now that we know what heatmaps can do for your team’s strategies, let’s look at the two types of heatmaps in more detail. We will learn what each heatmap can measure and how to use them for website analysis.

Click Maps

Click Image

Click maps highlight the points of maximum and minimum user interaction on a page.

As the name suggests, these heatmaps track mouse clicks to trace where users tend to click on a webpage in order to understand their engagement with the site.
They are valuable in assessing your product page performance as users show interest in any piece of information or service availability by clicking on-page elements.
In addition to the above-mentioned objectives, you can use a click map to:

1) Trace non-clickable items

Sometimes, users get confused with non-clickable items placed on a webpage, such as a logo or button-like content put in prominent places. Items like these can cause distraction and possibly disappointment in users who try to access features or content that they would have preferred your website had. They probably lead users away from the main content on your page.
You can either eliminate these items or place them in such a way that they do not attract as much attention. You can even add a functionality that was previously missing to increase user satisfaction.

2) Check CTA effectiveness

Are users able to identify CTAs on screen? If your call-to-action buttons are placed incorrectly or too far out from the area of user focus, they might not bring the results you had hoped for. Combining behavioral drills and A/B tests on CTAs is a great method to identify issues with CTAs.
You can also miss out on some of the actions if your CTAs are not conveying the right message or prompting users to take the next step, something you can easily discover by tracking funnel conversions. They may also be distracted by too many elements on a page.

3) Eliminate unnecessary elements and white spaces

If users are not clicking on important elements or leave your webpage too soon, it can mean that there is too much content –or too little. Design flaws can also occur when you end up crowding your webpage with too many unnecessary elements. You can also take a careful look at wasted space by including content that drives users to check out more of your product.

4) Fix broken links

Broken web links are common occurrences that go unnoticed until a user or customer raises a complaint. Hence it is imperative that high-interest areas depicted in heatmaps are routinely checked to ensure there is never a disruption of the customer journey while users visit your website.

Scroll Maps

Scroll heatmaps can measure how users travel through the website by tracking screen scrolling from users. Usually, users move from the top to bottom folds of web pages to find more content. A fold in a website is the demarcation between each section of visible content on a webpage as users scroll through it.
Scroll Image 1

A 100% of users engaged with Countly's 'Let's Get Started' page beyond the first fold.

Scroll Image 2

Not all users decided to scroll through and beyond the second fold. Therefore this section is represented in progressively darker blue hues.

Users will scroll through a page if they are truly engaged with the content and want to find out more. Viewing this in a heatmap gives you plenty of opportunities to find out about users’ interests, and about how well they are able to explore your given product information.
Let’s look at the main ways that scroll maps can help in web analysis.

1) Content reach and impact analysis

If users are not as engaged with the second and subsequent folds of a webpage, scroll maps can point this fact out by showing what percentage of users worked their way down to the rest of your content.
If you want users to notice the most important aspects of a webpage, placing them prominently on the top is helpful. But if there is more for you to say than what fits on the first fold, it is important to capture the user’s attention by igniting their curiosity. Combine scroll maps with behavioral flows to better understand which elements of the page triggered an ensuing action.

2) Load times analysis

You can also tell if some elements in a page, such as an image or video, are not loading properly if users spend too much time in one fold of the page. Users tend to abandon scrolling further down the page if the content takes too long to load.
But basing any analysis on a single type of measurement can hardly be practical. Thus, you need to be careful about making heatmaps the be-all and end-all for your webapp’s product analytics.

How NOT to Use Heatmaps

Incidentally, a heatmap as a visual summary for user behavior analytics is prone to misinterpretation if there’s little understanding of what heatmaps are in the first place, and how best to implement them in conjunction with your other analytics tools.
Businesses can make the mistake of relying too heavily on heatmaps when making sense of user statistics. Heatmaps are visually engaging when presenting user reports to teams. They are easy to understand, fun to explore, and give information that was otherwise unavailable through other tools. But dangers arise when heatmaps are used too simplistically.
For one, if users are always clicking on certain elements, it doesn’t always translate to the usefulness of that element or feature. It could mean that an element is engaging, but not necessarily useful. If they are not interacting with certain content, it can mean several things, such as a lack of interest or an inability to understand the proper intent. So, in order to correctly interpret heatmaps data, one must be open to theorizing possibilities of other contributing factors to a particular outcome.
Moreover, heatmaps can be misleading if they are not compared with quantitative data. Does increased engagement always mean increased conversion? For example, how many users who clicked on a purchase button actually checked out successfully? Unless you are able to make actual causal inferences, basing major business infrastructure changes on this data can prove detrimental.
A great way to correlate the data from heatmaps to actual user behavior is to set up a Voice of the Customer strategy. Coupled with a whole suite of highly insightful product analytics tools, heatmaps can help you make unbiased and meaningful inferences.
In conclusion, heatmaps are a top-notch resource for product management and website analysis. They can be a valuable addition to your website analysis tools to transform the way businesses think, and also contribute majorly towards formulating new and improved business strategies.

Check out more Countly articles on our blog and academy.

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