Can Heatmaps Help with Your SEO?

As an SEO, you always want all the data you can get from a website, but how useful is a heatmap of users on your website?

Video Transcript:

Bryan: For SEO, how useful would it be to use heatmaps? Like software that could measure scroll rate and clicks on sections of the website.

David: Okay. Okay. And you said you’d seen some tools with this kind of data in it before?

Bryan: Uh, yeah, I’ve seen it in the past. I was able to keep it. But I actually used plugins or extensions on my Chrome. They use analytics, and then from time to time, I can see a heatmap.

David: Okay. Okay.

Dave: And Bryan, is this related to what we’re doing for our client?

Bryan: Yeah. Kind of. But I just remembered seeing it in the past before. We use a specific tool for heatmaps, but I did see in the past that you can actually just see it. But anyway, in general, my question is, what’s your opinion on using heatmaps? And I don’t know if that’s the right term.

David: So, I think, first of all, it’s really important to make a distinction between SEO as a marketing channel and what I call conversion rate optimization. Heatmaps are within conversion rate optimization as a category. So, in other words, Google doesn’t use heatmaps to rank a website. It does not use interactive data with a page to rank it. Whether that’s scrolls or bounce rates or clicks on links within sites, or even clicks on links from search results. That is not a factor or how Google decides to rank websites. So, the relationship between a heatmap and SEO doesn’t exist. There is none. Google does not use that data to determine how to serve pages to its users. However, heatmaps are really great for getting more out of the existing traffic you have. You’ve worked hard to get a visitor to visit your website through SEO. We want that visitor to do something. We want them to convert. And heatmaps can do things like show us if people are clicking on something that they expect to click, and nothing happens. Are they frustrated? Uh, did we lose that visitor? Or are people able to even notice our call-to-action, or are there other design distracting designs on the page? You know, heatmaps allow us to see things like that. And that allows us to make sure we can get the maximum number of conversions off of a visit. But it’s not a function. It doesn’t affect how Google serves that page to users. Yeah.

Dave: Yeah, like Bryan, if you remember what we were doing for our client. What we noticed is on this one area at the top – the heading. Not the top of the page, the top of the section, as a heading. And then there’s a subheading and then a button, right? Well, we would see that people were clicking on all three of those things. The heading, the subheading, and then the button. We don’t have links on the subheading itself. So, that was an insight that we got. The other thing that I realized, and I’ve tried to learn this lesson. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn it over and over again, is that I am not the market. I don’t represent what users do. You need to get data. I have to continue to stop thinking about it from my perspective. It’s like, why in the world would I click on a subheading? I have no idea why I would, but people are. So, we need to put things in place to take advantage of that. So, that’s what you’re saying, David, that it’s related to getting the most out of people’s visits to the page.

David: And I find heatmaps can be confusing with that ambiguity that you’re talking about, Dave. Yeah. Why would someone click on a heading? Well, one reason is that someone will click on something that they are literally reading. They don’t expect it to do anything. But I don’t know if you noticed when you’re reading a website, my mouse almost subconsciously will move based on what I’m reading, and sometimes my brain will somehow click on something just because I’m reading it. I don’t really expect an interaction. And so, the clicks might reflect that someone’s reading through your page, and in that way, a screen recording can be really helpful, right? Because if you see a screen recording and you see someone clicks on an element several times, Bing’s clarity product will do something like, uh, what do they call them? Do you remember Tricia? It was like, dead click. No, uh, frustrating furious clicks.

Tricia: Um, I forget the name.

David: They have a name for it, but they will track if someone just needs…

Tricia: Rage clicking?

David: Rage clicking. That’s it. Because they know this should do something, and they’re rage-clicking. And it’s funny. You could watch the screen recordings in Microsoft Clarity and watch the rage click, and the screen recording helps you get context to understand. Sometimes people rage-click because they’re just kind of fiddling.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: But sometimes people rage click something like Contact Me, and it says it in bold, and they’re like, okay, I’m trying to contact you. Well, there is a missed opportunity, right? Convert that into a link, and then suddenly…

Tricia: It was interesting last month when we did this for a meetup, and we showed a website. I don’t know who designed the site, but it was the same exact thing. When you would click on a phone number, it was clickable on the home page, but then when you went to the service pages, the same exact layout wasn’t clickable. And he didn’t realize that. And you could see that page needs updating because, for some reason, it’s not clickable. But if you were just skimming through it, you would think it was because it just looked like they copied the layout, but they missed something.

Dave: The other thing that I’ve found in going through some of the videos is that you can go and look at the clicks on a page, and then you’ll see that if you see one or two in an area, then, okay, well that’s maybe like random clicks, but if you start seeing a bunch, then that’s something to take advantage of. The other thing is when you’re looking at the videos if you’ve got a page where you’re like, why are there 20 clicks on that? I mean, how many videos do I have to fricking go through to maybe find one where somebody is clicking on it? And that’s hard, especially if it’s a high-traffic site or a relatively high-traffic site. It’s like I could be watching a thousand videos.

David: Right.

Tricia: Yeah.

Dave: So, that’s what we’ve found. And Bryan, I think you’ve seen that too, is that it is very time-consuming to go through all the data and really think about what makes sense and what doesn’t. There are a few things that I think are apparent. But sometimes, you have to take it with a grain of salt because you have to realize that they’re looking at this with their phone versus they’re looking at it on a desktop. Right? Behavior is different. We’ve seen that on multiple pages, that behavior is different if somebody is looking on their phone versus their desktop.

Bryan: Right.

Dave: Okay. It’s like on this one client’s site. We’ve got two options for them to click, a quick quote and a long quote. People on mobile click on quick quote. Desktops click on the long. So, we have to be careful when we’re looking at this stuff to make sure we really think and not make wrong decisions.

David: Well, and that’s the value of tools like Google Optimize, where you can do quick and easy AB testing. Where you can say, okay, are people trying to get somewhere, or are they just clicking? And you could do an AB test to see if I convert this into a hyperlink – if you can even determine where that hyperlink should go– if you convert it to a hyperlink, what happens? Do people seem to be satisfied, or do they seem to come back with I didn’t really want to go there?

Dave: Do you have something on Curious Ants about the, what did you call it, the Google…? What is it called?

David:  Google Optimize. So, the conversion rate optimization process on Curious Ants is pretty basic. Because it’s written for all things and all people, it’s not fleshed out. I think I mentioned some tools that are helpful, including Microsoft Clarity and Google Optimize, but I don’t go into depth with them. One of the things that are most valuable, I think, in the conversion rate optimization are these documents that Google produced a few years ago, which were Google’s best practices for conversions off different purposes of websites. So, if you have an ecommerce, be sure you do these best practices. If you have a lead gen, if you are in real estate, if you’re selling cars… And so the links to those PDFs are on Curious Ants conversion rate optimization process. Some of it, Dave, is straightforward and obvious. Make sure there’s a big button and a very clear call to action. And, you know, as well as anybody, often designers don’t do that. And sometimes designers don’t do it because clients hate it. Right? I have a client that recently was just so frustrated with the lack of results. I literally went in and put an obnoxious red button on their website, and instantly, it really worked. It was ugly, and it was obnoxious, and it generated a lot of leads.

Dave: Yeah.

David: Right. I don’t know, what do you want? Do you want leads, or do you want pretty? And, you know, pretty is important. Right? But boy, that ugly button worked.

Dave: I think pretty is important from the perspective of presenting your brand appropriately so that people do click on the button and want to work with you.

David: Well, there’s pretty, and then there’s subtle.

Dave: Yeah.

David: Right? And you can make it pretty and not subtle, and that’s the gold.

Dave: Yes.

David: If your call-to-action button blends in with your color palette in such a way that people can glance over it, that’s pretty, but it’s not going to work. Yeah, you could do the David Zimmerman strategy and make it a completely different unbranded, ugly standout color, and it’s going to work, but it also may make your website looks juvenile. Yeah. I never claimed to be a designer. I just want the lead.

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