Optimize.

Optimize is one of the most frequently used words in web design and online marketing. It literally puts the “O” in SEO.

Some optimization tactics are basic — make sure all of your links work, include a Call to Action, etc. Professional ‘optimizers,’ however, need to go deeper than these surface-level improvements. And to do that, we need data.

Developers often use information from Google Analytics to optimize their websites for conversions.

This information is helpful, but it includes gaps.

Google Analytics can report on how long people stay on a page, where they came from, and where they went, but more precise and granular data — like where users stop looking at a page before they leave it — is not available.

Not through Google Analytics, anyway.

Enter the heat map.

What You Need to Know About Heat Maps & Scroll Maps

What’s a Heat Map?

Heat maps, which are available through tracking programs like CrazyEgg, show where users are and are not clicking on a given website page. The map is formatted intuitively, showing warmer colors like orange and red on page areas that get the most clicks and cooler hues like blues and purples on places that aren’t getting as much attention.

According to Webmaster, heat maps typically track eye movement by attaching complicated machinery to someone’s head to see where their eyes land on the page.

Since heat map providers can’t wire up every visitor to your website, they track clicks instead. This isn’t such a bad thing — a Carnegie Mellon study found an 88% correlation between where people’s eyes go and where they click on a web page.

Heat maps are extremely helpful for judging the performance of your content and Calls to Action. Once the heat map is installed, you’ll be able to decide which CTAs to keep and which ones to change or remove based on user data, which can lead to a higher conversion rate.

Website heat maps provide the power of a premium eye-tracking software at a much more reasonable price than more sophisticated usability testing.

What is a Scroll Map?

Scroll maps show which areas on a website visitors leave from. This information allows you to remove or reconfigure these elements so that more people convert on your offer.

Typically, one specific area or a select few are causing people to leave. With the scroll map, you can identify these areas quickly through the same intuitive color scheme as the heat map. This tool lets developers and online marketers monitor activity on your website and make improvements for more conversions.

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Lessons From Heat & Scroll Map Tracking

Heat maps, scroll maps and other tracking software make it much easier to see the actions that users take on your website. Your online marketing provider can use these programs to improve your specific campaign, but are there any overarching lessons that tracking can tell us?

HubSpot found a few lessons after studying a number of heat maps and scroll maps provided by Marketing Sherpa. Website designers and “maintainers” can use these tips to optimize their sites and improve their conversions — even without direct tracking data of their own.

1) People don’t read, they scan.

As we mentioned above, tracking maps can take some of the guesswork out of web design by showing exactly what your visitors are or are not doing.

HubSpot found that website visitors aren’t reading, they’re scanning — quickly perusing information on the page to find what they need and take the next step.

Designers and content writers who want to increase conversions should adapt to this reality by creating content for these ‘scanners.’

Bullet points and bold text can highlight key ideas, and short, simple sentences will keep users engaged — unlike long, unbroken blocks of text.

2) Images draw interest — even if they aren’t interesting.

People love to click on images. So much, in fact, that research shows people click on images that are not even linked to anything.

If your website is full of uninteresting stock images that don’t engage visitors, you’re missing out on potential leads that could help your business. Each image should contribute towards the goal of that page.

If you’re building a landing page, for example, the images should help convince people to submit their information. If you are sending out an email campaign, the images should convince people to click and visit your site or take advantage of an offer.

3) Get to the important stuff right away.

Online users’ reluctance to scroll, especially in search engine results, is one of the reasons that Google rankings are so important to businesses who want to grow online.

Research shows that “below the fold” content, which is not visible when you open the page because you need to scroll down to see it, will only be viewed by about half of your site’s visitors.

While an increase in mobile-friendliness has made scrolling more common in website design, it’s still a best practice to put your most important content, including a Call to Action, above the fold.