7 Ways to Use Heatmaps to Improve Your SEO
Written by Daniel Bishop
08 August 2018
The eCommerce industry has undergone many changes over the last couple of years, with the vast majority of them closely mirroring the updates made to search engine algorithms. Out of all the currently available tools at marketer’s disposal, heatmaps are arguably the most cost-effective and proficient methods of discerning customer behavior in order to gain an insight into how customers think and act. Information obtained through heatmaps allows marketers to create content that will meet their customers’ needs and provide them with the best possible user experience.
Heatmaps might be effective in presenting specific evidence for known issues, but their effectiveness is significantly reduced when being used with the diagnosis of new issues. This is simply a data visualization method that can provide you with zero insight unless you fully understand the type of data being visualized. Heatmaps are not data, but rather, they rely on the color spectrum to represent data. But what are the ways you can use them to improve your SEO?
1. Determining the length of your content
Creating relevant, SEO-friendly content is considered as the backbone of a well-thought-out optimization strategy. However, different industries have different customer bases and target audiences. While you can rely on some of the already established best practices, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The best solutions are almost always user-centred, meaning that you adjust your content based on the type of audience you’re trying to engage.
That said, you can use heatmaps to determine what suits your target audience the best. For one, if your visitors are leaving before reaching the 1,000-word mark, then you might want to consider using shorter texts, regardless of the best practices and the idea that longer content ultimately ranks better. Whether you’re using shorter texts or essays spanning thousands of words, it’s important to realize that users are often taken back by a large wall of text and would rather skim it or simply leave the page. Have that in mind when creating your texts and divide it into more manageable, skimmable chunks.
2. Using heatmaps to improve conversion rates
CTAs are one of the most useful tools in driving conversions. Formulating a captivating copy and phrasing it in a user-friendly manner is important, so is finding the optimal on-page location where to place them. Low conversion rates often signify that there is too much clutter on the page distracting the users from CTAs. Reducing the number of options is one way to improve click-through rates, but heatmaps allow you to identify where exactly are your users clicking if they’re not clicking on your calls to action. Using this information, you can restructure the various page elements in order to highlight your CTA and focus user-attention solely on it.
3. Testing on-page elements and page structure
Page structure suffers the same fate as content length, being susceptible to a number of completely different yet equally effective best practices. Most of them focus on appearance, structure, and readability. Graphics and images certainly help, so do animations, interactive graphics, videos, etc. You can use analytics to figure out your bounce rates, exit pages, pages per visits and the time spent on your site, but you can also take it a step further to a type of mouse tracking called scrollmapping to find out exactly where and why your users keep bouncing.
If your scrollmap starts out strong but your visitors suddenly start fading out around the 1,000-word mark, what you should do is examine the page and see if there are any CTAs or irrelevant photos distracting visitors from your content. This is why the top digital agencies use heatmap to determine what grabs the attention of your users and use a scrollmap to adjust and rearrange your page structure accordingly. Test a couple of options before determining which one fits your target audience the best.
4. Augmenting the power of internal links
The use of internal links is one of the staples of search engine optimization. They are used for interlinking pages and connecting them to corresponding landing pages to convert visitors. As you work on developing the internal linking structure, you need a way to know which of the links actually add value to users visiting your website. Heatmaps can provide you with a visual representation of your visitors’ clicks throughout the page and show you exactly which links are clicked on and which are ignored.
5. Improving engagement for related posts
Talking about the notion of interlinking your pages, once a visitor has reached the end of your article or a blog, the best course of action is to offer a suggestion that will allow them to dig a little deeper and cover the topic from a different angle. This helps to drive page views and increases engagement, but to further improve your optimization strategy, you need to figure out two things: whether your visitors are clicking on related posts, and which ones are the most popular. Again, heatmaps can help you identify poor-performing articles and replace them with content-optimized ones for engagement, that provides real value to your visitors.
6. Outbound link optimization
Citing and referring to reputable sources in your pages is an excellent way to improve your optimization efforts. They might not be the most important factor when it comes to improving page rank, but they certainly do have a role to play.
Having outbound links that point towards reputable, quality websites and provide valuable information to site visitors, signals Google and other search engines that your website is a part of a legitimate business and not a spam. You can use heatmaps to find out which links are getting clicked and which are ignored and use that information to further optimize their placement and quality.
7. Improving image placement and effectiveness
A cleverly placed image has the power to divert and guide visitor’s attention towards your content, CTAs and evoke an emotional response, improving your chances of making a sale. On the other hand, a poorly placed and optimized image not only serves as a distraction but can also increase page-load time and result in even more bounce rate on your website.
There are two types of heatmaps that can help you optimize the placement of your images: scrollmaps, which we already mentioned and eye-tracking heatmaps or gaze plots. They might be somewhat more expensive when compared to other types of heatmaps, but they offer valuable insight into what your visitors are looking, for how long and in which order and help you figure out the most effective placement for images, but also logos and other graphic elements making up your brand.
Measuring engagement can be difficult, but the impacts on your page rank are undeniable. There’s a number of factors you need to consider, including CTAs, navigation, page structure, visual content and your particular optimization strategy. And once a page stops performing the way you’d like, it can be difficult to determine the exact reason behind it.
Fortunately, heatmaps are a simple, cost-effective solution that can help you determine the cause and offer insight into how visitors interact with your website. The information obtained using heatmaps can help you improve your optimization strategy, drive traffic and engagement and improve your performance.