How to analyze heatmaps – an actionable guide

Kasia KowalskaApril 29, 20217 min

If you own a website, chances are, you’ve considered setting up a heatmap. Perhaps, you might even have one set up but find it troubling to make sense of all the colors or marks and can’t properly interpret your findings. While it might seem overwhelming at first, with the right instructions, conducting and drawing conclusions from your heatmap analysis will be pretty straightforward!

In the following article, we’ll explain how to read a heat map and share a few of the top best practices. We’ll also tell you which other tools you might find useful to get the best understanding of what your audience thinks about your site and needs from a service like yours.

Let’s jump right in.

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Heatmap analytics – best practices explained

Below, we share a few tips which will help you make the most of your heatmap analytics.

Identify the pages that you’ll run the heatmap analysis on

You might be wondering – is there such a thing as a ‘Google Analytics heat map’? Not quite! However, Google Analytics is a great starting point in your heatmap endeavors, as it helps you decide which webpages it would be worth setting up a heatmap on. Among others, these can be pages that have a disturbingly low conversion rate or a bounce rate well above your industry standard. The general rule of thumb is to focus on pages with sufficient traffic to ensure that your analysis is statistically relevant.

Google Analytics heat map – how to know which pages are worth setting up a heat map on

How to read a heat map?

Assuming that you’ve set up a heat map, you may now be wondering how to read it. Here’s an explanation of the general rules and those relevant to specific heatmap types, such as click and scroll maps.

Understanding heatmap colors and what they indicate

In the most simple terms, heat map colors indicate areas on your webpage which are “hot” (i.e., get a lot of engagement, such as clicks, looks, or scrolls) and those which are “cold” (get the fewest notices or interaction from site visitors). The “hotter” the area, the warmer the color – think of yellows, oranges, and reds (with the latter colors pointing to the most noticed parts of your page).

Respectively, areas with few interactions will be marked in green and blue (to remember, it’s good to think of blue as being ice-cold).

Notice where people click (click map)

Using a click map can help you do the following:

  • identify the most clickable elements on your website as well as those that don’t get any clicks. This will help you find the best spots for placing your CTAs
  • determine how many clicks each CTAs gets. Does any button on the page get more clicks than the most important one? Or maybe there’s a banner or sidebar which distracts users on their way towards the purchase? A good example of such a scenario would be a banner for a free ebook, which distracts users from buying a paid one.
  • spot rage clicks or error clicks. Are there any web areas or elements that visitors click on intensely? This might indicate visitor frustration. For example, if they click on a CTA, and nothing happens, they might keep clicking on it. This could tell you that your CTA lacks a link or that it’s broken.

Here’s where a usability tool like LiveSession will come to the rescue, allowing you to easily spot customer frustration in your heatmap analysis.

Learn how far down the page people scroll (scroll map)

Another benefit of using heatmap analytics is assessing the relevance of your content. To learn if people lose interest you can turn to scroll maps – they’ll help you check how far down the page people scroll.

It’s worth bearing in mind that just because someone stops scrolling at half the page, doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in your content or your offer – it’s just one of the possible scenarios. It might also indicate they got answers to their questions and are ready to convert.

using a scroll map as part of heatmap analytics

To find the reason why people stopped scrolling, you should ask additional questions, like did they click on any CTA’s? To get a detailed overview of how visitors behave on your website you should turn to session recordings.

Noticing which parts of your page users ignore (eye-tracking & click map)

One of the ways of creating a good user experience for site visitors is paying attention to the elements that are frequently ignored. You must find the reason behind any unexpected behavior – are there any areas that get zero clicks, or parts of the page where people don’t look at all?

Eye-tracking is also handy in spotting eye fixation – it might tell you where to place your CTAs, as it shows what elements people spend the most time looking at. It can also indicate the same for written content – for example, something you wrote on the page is too difficult to understand, which is why people spend too much time looking at it.

while conducting your heatmap analysis don't forget about eye tracking

Bear in mind that eye-tracking is, however, a method that requires a special device, which means it’s mostly used in a lab environment.

Avoiding heat map bias – where and how to cross-refer your findings?

Now that you know how to read a heatmap, it’s worth addressing the issue of heatmap bias. As you can see from the above section, heat maps will tell you a lot about what is happening on your site. However, it will not always reveal why.

For this reason, you should supplement your heatmap analysis findings with data from other tools. We particularly recommend:

Session recordings

Unlike heatmaps which show you the bulk of interactions, session recordings allow you to watch recordings of specific users. Let’s assume a scenario where you notice on your heatmap that your “add to cart” button gets a high volume of clicks, but it doesn’t translate to the number of people who proceed into the purchase finalization user path. To find the reason, you might decide to turn to session recordings. After watching, say, 10 videos of various user sessions you notice that an error is to blame – people click on the “add to cart” element on their wishlist page, but the button doesn’t work, so users simply decide to leave your site.


Source: WooCommerce

Customer surveys – qualitative & quantitative

As mentioned earlier, while heatmaps can help you spot problematic pages or areas, it might be difficult to draw any conclusions solely based on heatmap data. If you want to understand the ‘why’ behind user behavior, then we recommend turning to surveys.

You can include a survey directly on your page, asking ‘Did you find everything you were looking for’ or ‘Could you please tell us what we can improve?’. Alternatively, you could send out a survey to your users asking them a few questions related to the problematic areas you have identified with heatmaps.

Usability testing sessions with users

Sometimes, nailing down the reasons behind UX or conversion-related issues requires closer user investigation than any online software can give. Here’s where you can turn to usability testing sessions, which let you ask a group of people to complete a task on your website (for example, finalizing a purchase or finding a category in the site menu). While they do so, you can either watch them live or even ask follow-up questions to understand what they’re doing. This creates a great opportunity for what many other user-related tools lack, i.e., the chance to note down a decent volume of qualitative feedback.

Heatmap analysis – concluding thoughts

In order to make the most of your heatmap analytics, we recommend the following tips:

  • take a look into Google Analytics to identify the pages with decent traffic, select those that have low conversion or those that perform well (understanding why those pages are successful will help you improve your poorly performing ones) and set up a heatmap on them
  • pay attention to different colors – it’s worth placing your CTA’s in the ‘hot spots’
  • notice which areas get the most clicks and how far down the page visitors scroll
  • don’t ignore elements that get a lot of clicks, as they might be considered rage or error clicks

Remember that in order to avoid heatmap bias, it’s worth cross-referencing your findings with data from other tools like user recordings or surveys. If you’re searching for a platform that combines session recordings and heatmaps then check out LiveSession – we offer a free trial.

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