What are Heat Maps and should you really trust Heat Maps?

By | March 1, 2016

Ok, we (I mean all digital/online marketers at the very least) all know what Heat maps are and what it is used for. If you don’t, very simply Heat Maps shows you EXACTLY (really?) where people are (or not) clicking on your website. With this information, you can then:

  • find the best position for your form fields or buttons
  • move your Call-to-actions (CTAs) to make them more visible
  • see which banners or sales ads are clicked more often, etc

In case you don’t know, there are basically 3 types of Heatmaps (Source: Hotjar):

  1. Click Maps – helps you determine where your visitors are clicking or tapping (if they are on a mobile/tablet). These heatmaps help you quickly uncover issues with your page – for example, are visitors clicking your links? Or are they clicking areas that aren"t links?
  2. Move/Attention Heatmaps – show where visitors have moved their mouse on the screen.
  3. Scroll Heatmaps – used to show you how far down your visitors scroll.

The next big question that comes is: Should we really trust Heat Maps? How do we know if it is really accurate? People might be looking at things that they don’t hover over or maybe they are just hovering over things that are not important? Conversionxl has an article as to why accuracy of mouse movement heatmaps is questionable.

Click Maps on the other hand is probably more useful where you can see when people click on things that aren’t links. If you discover something (an image, sentence, or whatever) that people want to click on, but isn’t a link, then either make it into a link, or don’t make it look like a link.

Scroll maps are also useful where it shows you where users tend to drop off, and can be very useful (helps with prioritising content as well).

Attention maps help you see which parts of the websites are most visible to all users, across all browsers and devices. They help you decide where to put your value prop and other important elements.

User session replays

This isn’t really a ‘heat map’ per se, but is the most valuable bit in most tools that offer heat maps.

Use session replays allow you to record video sessions of people going through your site. It’s kind of like user testing, but has no script and no audio. But people are risking with their actual money – so it can be more insightful.


This is more qualitative data. You’re trying to detect bottlenecks and usability issues. Where are people not able to complete actions? Where do they give up?. One of the best use cases for session replays is watching how people fill out forms. Though you could configure event tracking for Google Analytics, it wouldn’t provide the level of insight as user session replays. Also, if you have a page that is performing badly, and you don’t know why, then you can watch user session replays to figure out possible problems. You can also see how fast they read, scroll down the page, etc. Analysing them is, of course, timely. User session replays are irreplaceable tools in your arsenal.

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