It's been proven that websites have specific areas where human eyes always spend the most time, and website heat maps are the ultimate tool to help determine exactly where they're looking.
With a heat map, webmasters can improve and tweak a website to make it easier to use, funnel people toward a specific goal, or even put the most valuable stuff in the most opportunistic spots.
Read more about heat maps, and how to implement one on your site!
What Is A Heat Map?
A heat map is a color coded overlay used to show the high and low "attention areas" of a web page. There are basically two ways that a heat map can be created: by tracking eye movement, or by tracking the path a mouse cursor takes when a visitor uses a web page.
Accuracy Via Numbers and Time
The longer you've had a heat map implemented on your site, the more accurate the data will be. More users means more data. The more users you have, the more precise the heat map's data will be. It's like running a focus group: the more people are involved, the more general of a final result you'll get!
When this data is recorded from multiple users, a pattern can be seen. The most frequented areas where mouse cursors have been are usually red, orange and yellow, and the lesser-traveled areas are seen in green and blue. Areas not frequented at all are not colored.
What's the Point?
The data that you get from a heat map is more than a bunch of pretty colors: they show what areas of the page your users are looking at...or ignoring. This is invaluable data that you'd never be able to get from any conventional analytics package.
By taking full advantage of the "hot" areas on a heat map, you can either enhance your site's navigation to boost usability, or improve the visibility of your ads to increase profitability. It's like having a focus group for your website, telling you exactly how to improve.
Above: a typical heat map diagram for a web page. The darker/more red & orange regions are the "sweet spots" for advertisements, since they were proven to be the regions where peoples' eyes instinctively travel to the most.
Using Heat Maps to Improve Ad Placement
By placing ads in the "hottest" regions seen in a heat map, you're giving those ads the most exposure. As results have shown, the top-center and upper-left areas of a website get the most attention and the best possibility for more ad views and clicks.
The top of the page isn't the only hotspot. You may notice that the upper right body area of a page also gets a significant amount of attention. This is exactly why some advertisers fight for the third or fourth position when placing an ad on Google: they simply want to be at the top of the right-hand column. A heat map will reveal any other notable spots on your site that can be utilized better, as well.
Above: heat maps are not just for conventional websites. As you can see, everything from smartphones to tablets and even social networking sites are tracked to record optimal placement and observe user behavior.
The "Golden Triangle"
The "Golden Triangle" is an industry term referring to the sweet spot on a search engine results page, which happens to be shaped like a triangle with its most viewed point near the region where a website's logo typically rests.
This particular heat map region is a benchmark not only for websites, but for articles and even search engine results pages. It is also a major determinant for ad placement. In this example, when looking at Google AdWords placement: the top/center region gets the most visibility, with the top of the right column getting second string.
Above: an illustration showing the "golden triangle" heap map pattern on a Google search engine results page. Note where people look most, both in the organic listing section and in the paid ads area, as well. This kind of data is used by companies like Google to enhance the placement of objects on pages.
Heat Maps as a Marketing Analysis Tool
One of the most profound advantages of website heat maps is that they give insight into visitor behavior. You'll be able to see what most people on average are clicking or gravitating to. Here are a few other important points:
- With a heat map, you can see which part of a link is being clicked more. For instance, if you have a link such as "cars for sale," you might notice that most people are clicking on the word "cars" within that hyperlink, instead of the "for sale" part of it. Look for these kinds of behaviors as a whole, and you can more effectively fine tune your site's navigation and enhance your linking strategy.
- You can reveal poorly performing areas of your website with a heat map. For instance, if many visitors are clicking an non-hyperlinked image, they're probably expecting something to happen. These kinds of actions are much easier to diagnose when your website has a heat map feature. Locate these spots, and hyperlink them accordingly to where visitors are most likely expecting them to point to!
- As previously mentioned on this page, look for "high click traffic" spots on your page, and consider putting an ad there for maximum results. Also, pay attention to highly trafficked areas on your menu. Is there anything you can do to make it better or less cluttered?
Get A Heat Map For Your Site
Until Google Analytics includes a heat map feature (which has been rumored for a seemingly long time), there are alternative programs you can use to see where the most activity occurs on your site. These third-party heat maps are based on the areas where your visitors' mouse cursors have been trailing.
- UserTrack for Wordpress: A Wordpress plugin that tracks mouse movements, cross-website activity and detailed browser statistics via heat map. Cost: $30 to use on unlimited domains & free lifetime updates.
- Click Tale: An enterprise solution for implementing a feature rich heat map solution, with analytics and heat map playback. Plans range from free to $990/mo.
- MouseFlow: Mouse-tracking software that lets you actually view video of how your visitors navigate your site. A really cool innovation in viewing visitor behavior on your sites. Plans range from free, to $264/mo.
- ClickHeat: The free (but very basic) solution to getting a fully-functional heatmap up on your site.
- WhatPulse: Worth mentioning, this free program can use a heat map to show activity on your own computer.