E-Mail Heatmaps: More Than a Hot Technology

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What thousand words would you ascribe to this picture?

You aren’t looking at a local weather map or an old-fashion sonogram. It’s an eyetracking heatmap for an email. With this one image, I can tell what copy and creative people are looking at and reading. More important, I can quickly understand which copy and creative points could be suppressing response. According to my latest findings, about 60 percent of people who read an email only see or read 50 percent of the message.


It’s vital, then, to ensure the part of the message that is read is clear, action-oriented, and powerful and drives response.

What Is Heatmapping?

Heatmapping isn’t the newest whiz-bang email technology. It’s inexpensive and quick to do. And works on more than email.

A few months ago, I was introduced to heatmapping by Eyetools. As a director of email marketing practice, I constantly search for new technologies, innovative email applications, and ways to optimize our email marketing process. Like you, I’m always challenged and restricted by email realities. Things like the wait for IT resources, lack of ability to integrate with homegrown systems, and funding challenges. I get really excited when I find something that can be implemented in a virtually barrier-free manner and can drive return on investment (ROI). This time, it’s heatmapping.

Heatmapping records where people look at a specific document, how much time they spend looking at a particular element, and the order in which they look at the items. Eye tracking (how Eyetools generates its signature heatmaps) is a simple, effective process.

Six Reasons Why I Like Heatmapping

I’ve used heatmapping for a number of clients, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). Each time, the findings drive increased response. Here are the top reasons I remain a fan:

  • Heatmapping is fast. Studies are complete in two weeks or less.
  • Results require changing only copy, not creative, layout, or anything expensive.
  • Insights usually double CTR (define) without heavy coding or creative changes (no promises here, but it’s what I have seen).
  • Heatmapping email leads to heatmapping landing pages and Web pages (finally, a way to convince people an effective email campaign requires analyzing the entire email path, not just the message!).
  • It results in a mix of qualitative and quantitative research that provides concrete answers to highly debated questions. For example, what are the optimal number of fields on a registration form?
  • It enables an open forum for creative, copy writers, account teams, strategy planners, and even the client to collaborate over one consistent vision.

Key Offerings

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Heatmapping is noninvasive. You just sit down at a PC and look at email messages. The technology does the rest.

Though heatmapping doesn’t displace the fundamentals of effective email marketing, it is a phenomenal way to glean insights and validate best practices. In many cases, when our clients and account teams see the heatmaps, they see clearly how “common sense” the corrective actions can be. Without heatmaps, we often overlook common sense. Such failures can result in suboptimal response.

Some exciting learnings identified from recent heatmapping tests:

  • A prominent call to action at the bottom of the email often guides the reader’s eye for the entire email.
  • In freemail accounts, banner ads don’t typically detract from the reader’s attention to email copy.
  • Headlines over 50 characters in the email body should wrap on two lines, with action words either at the beginning or end.
  • Bulleted copy gets more attention than straight copy.
  • Bolded copy causes a typical reader to skip over the two to three lines right above it.

If you have questions about heatmapping or learnings for a specific scenario, send them to me. If there’s interest, I’ll share answers in the next column.

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