Heat Maps: Clicking More Than Links

A few of my colleagues have been talking to me a lot about heat maps lately. You may already use them in your business. If you don’t (or aren’t sure what they are), let’s take a look at them, consider why they are valuable, and how you can get them for free or really cheap.

Most of you are familiar with analytics packages that can track clicks on a given page. Google Analytics, Omniture, and Coremetrics all offer site-overlay features that show your Web site, then dynamically place click percentages on top of the site. This is great for telling you which links a user clicked on.

Those click percentages tell only part of the story, however. They answer the question, “Of the available links on the page, which were clicked most often?” They don’t answer the question, “Where were most people clicking on the page?” What’s the difference? People might not have been clicking on a link. In that case, their clicks wouldn’t register in the analytics package. This heat map is taken from LabsMedia’s ClickHeat Web site:

ClickHeat.com heat map

Oftentimes, we encounter companies that make very simple mistakes without realizing it. One mistake we saw was that on the home page and category pages, product images weren’t clickable. Instead, the user has to click on the product name, which is printed below the image.

Similarly, people tend to click on headers, assuming the header will take them to another page. If your home page shows “What’s New” and lists three items, you might be surprised to find out that people clicking on “What’s New” expect to get a larger list. Or perhaps you are highlighting a category by saying, “New in Comedy” and highlighting two new DVDs. People might click on the “Comedy” part of the header expecting to be taken to your comedy section.

Heat maps, like the one above, show you where people are clicking on your pages. Different companies offer different features, and it is beyond the scope of this column to research all of them. But do a Google search on “heat maps” and you will find them all. While ClickHeat’s heat map isn’t the most robust application out there, it is free. If your site is written in PHP (define), you can take advantage of it.

Companies like Crazy Egg offer much more robust services, allowing you to filter clicks based on any number of parameters, such as referring sites browsers.

An Important Extension to Analytics Packages

In the next year, we will see traditional analytics packages include this functionality. It really belongs as part of a larger analytics platform and not necessarily as a one-off tool. By combining it with traditional analytics, we could filter clicks based on our segmentation models, e-mail campaigns, and the like. This isn’t really possible now (or at least not easy), because the tools aren’t merged yet with the larger platforms.

Do you use other “new” tools beyond traditional analytics to help understand your customers? Let me know!

Until next time…

Jack

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