How to use heatmaps to level up your SEO strategy

June 14, 2022 - 10  min reading time - by Adriana Stein
Home > Technical SEO > How to use heatmaps to level up your SEO strategy

Can’t quite figure out why customers aren’t tapping that ‘add to cart’ button?

Or maybe you’ve A/B tested your headline, but are still scratching your head trying to figure out where you went wrong.

Don’t fret, we’re here to help.

Heatmap SEO is your new best friend.

Heatmaps unveil hidden parts of your website to help you level up your SEO.

Think about it like having x-ray vision for where your customers are navigating on your site.

Pretty cool, huh?

Once you get your eyes on exactly where your customers (or target audience) are clicking, you can better understand the performance of your content.

And, once you gather these valuable insights, it’s easier to map out future SEO strategies (and on-page optimizations).

By the end of this article you’ll be an expert at using heatmap SEO to make minor tweaks that’ll exponentially grow your business.

First, we’ll cover the nitty gritty of heatmaps in digital marketing, then heatmaps in SEO, and last but not least, six ways how heatmaps can improve your SEO strategy.

Ready? Let’s get to it.

What is a heatmap in digital marketing?

A heatmap visually represents where users are clicking (or not clicking). A heatmap collects information based on customers’ behaviors and showcases it with color. The darker the color, the more an area has been clicked while the lighter the color, the less the area has been clicked (or interacted with).

Because humans are visual by nature, this provides a quick snippet of information that is highly digestible and easy to act on. This data provides valuable information for decreasing bounce rates, increasing sales, and ultimately strengthening your SEO strategy.

Let’s review the different types of heatmaps:

  1. Scroll maps: a visual representation of how far down a user scrolls on any given page. This might be helpful for long-form blog content to see how far users are reading and where they lose interest.
  2. Click maps: a visual representation of where a user is clicking on any given page. This type of heatmap would be beneficial for instance if you’re A/B testing which CTAs are working and which aren’t. This way you can optimize the CTAs to reflect the successful ones.
  3. Hover maps: a visual representation of where a user hovers their mouse on any given page. This heatmap is useful if you’re having a hard time understanding where users are getting lost. Hovering (but not clicking) can indicate some sort of confusion on their end.

Determine which heatmap is right for your project so that you can align your SEO strategy accordingly.

Speaking of, let’s talk more about heatmaps in SEO.

Heatmaps in SEO

Heatmaps in SEO are used in many different ways including improving content quality, efficiency, and engagement. Specifically heatmaps are used to improve SEO by:

  1. Better understanding the intent of a user. This is often challenging to determine solely based on bounce rates, click-through-rates, or form submissions.
  2. Determining how effective your content is. For instance, if most users stop scrolling three-fourths of the way down on your blog posts, they are mostly too long for your target audience and you can try to shorten your content altogether.
  3. Understanding which internal links aren’t resonating and changing them to strengthen topic authority (and increase your visibility on search engines).
  4. Deciding how a site should be designed and laid out to cultivate an excellent user experience.
  5. Optimizing keywords and improving your click-through rates.
  6. Recognizing which titles are most attractive and adjusting meta titles to reflect those.

Heatmaps help you decipher what the problem is so you can focus your attention on fixing or improving it.

While you may include surveys on your website and analyze sales reports to better understand your customers, the information a heatmap provides is a deeper look into their wants and needs.

So, how exactly can you use heatmap data to improve your SEO strategy?

6 ways how heatmaps can improve SEO strategies

You’ve done all the research, you understand your audience, but you can’t quite read their minds. Well, with these six techniques, you’ll read their minds and take over the world. Oh, wait… did we just say that out loud? What we meant was… you’ll read their minds and be able to better help them. Yup, that’s what we meant!

Let’s dig into understanding user intent.

1. Understanding user intent

Heatmaps provide you with a good idea of what users are looking for when they land on your page. For example, maybe you expected your website navigation to be in tip-top shape, but the heatmap reveals users are dropping off at a certain place on your homepage. It could be that you’ve tested a certain CTA button on a landing page, but it just so happens it’s not getting the job done.

Once you examine these results, you can better craft each area of your website to fit the intent of the user and increase your chances of ranking on search engines. When a user lands on your page and instantly finds what they need, your bounce rates decrease. When your bounce rates decrease, this triggers the search engines to recognize, “Oh hey, they have extremely relevant information on their site, we’ll show it to more people!”

Let’s take a look at an example from AS Marketing’s FAQ page:

AS Marketing FAQ

AS Marketing FAQ

As you can see there are many blue circles that indicate traffic however among the blue circles, more people have clicked on the last question:

The blue circles indicate points of engagement with the page – which questions are most users asking? We see that most users are interested in the last question: ‘I run an agency. Do you provide white label services?’

So, what can we learn from this?

People are interested in white label services and from that, we might highlight white label services on our home page to better align with users’ needs and purchase intent.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the quality of your content.

2. Understanding the quality of your content

Heatmaps show how engaging and efficient your content is. They help you set the optimal length and structure for each type of content.

For instance, say you write a long-form blog on ‘how to create a content marketing strategy’ with a word count of 4,000. However, when users reach the 3,000-word mark– they lose interest and click out of your site. What does this tell you? Well, either they’ve found their answer in the first 3,000 words or they simply lost interest. Either way, shortening the length of your blog would be beneficial.

When you compare what the heatmap data is telling you with a page’s bounce rate, it’s solid intel on which you can take action.

The image below shows that many people have clicked on the word ‘initial KPI’ and ‘organic traffic’ so those keywords should be converted into internal links as they’re gaining the most clicks from users.

Initial KPI_organic traffic heatmap

Initial KPI & Organic Traffic Heatmap

Okay, now how can you combine your heatmap data with your CRO (conversion rate optimization) to make some killer changes?

3. Combining SEO with CRO

Keywords and CRO go hand in hand. Your heatmap spews out critical information on how well a certain keyword is converting. In this way, you can visualize the breakdown of each individual element on the page from the graphic to the specific keywords. They can be real assets to understand how each keyword converts and what section of the page is the main cause for that.

Take a look at the image below:

SEO and CRO heatmap

SEO and CRO heatmap

Here you’ll notice the graphic on the right is red on the abbreviation USD which indicates MoFu traffic. From this, we can infer that developing US-targeted BoFu content could potentially optimize conversions from the pricing page.

Now, let’s talk about navigation.

In life and online, you can’t get anywhere without a proper map. Let’s uncover what this has to do with heatmaps.

4. Improve internal links and site navigation

Your website navigation can make or break your customer’s experience with your brand. Do you have different colored buttons on multiple different areas across your pages? That will frustrate your user. Keep your navigation consistent, simple, and specific by observing what your heatmap has to say.

For instance, heatmaps can point out whether internal links are being used by your audience, helping them to understand their relevance. They also help you to better recognize which tabs users find most useful so you can improve your site.

You can also determine whether internal links are helpful or not via heatmaps. Once you recognize which links are most beneficial for users, you can sprinkle those on other pages and you can also take out the ones that just aren’t cutting it.

We think you’ll also agree with us when we say that optimizing your internal links also amps up your SEO as strong internal links are an important ranking factor.

Speaking of SEO, let’s dive into how you can optimize website design using your handy dandy heatmap.

[Case Study] How OMIO uses Oncrawl to improve website quality

Omio, a global transport platform, needed to adapt their SEO strategy to keep up with their significant growth. Read the case study to find out what technical SEO techniques they implemented to meet their goals.

5. Optimizing for SEO and UX

Heatmaps are essentially a roadmap (hence the word map) that bridges the gap between what you think you know about your users to what they’re actually thinking. With that being said, heatmaps are often used to design websites and for layout optimization. That way, you’re cultivating a site that’s fully mindful of the target audience.

How your audience feels while using your site vastly impacts their overall thoughts about your brand as well as your ranking factor. And while you might think, ‘What does UX have to do with SEO?’, the reality is they both go hand in hand. Although both jobs are vastly different, they need to work in harmony to cultivate the best possible experience for the user.

Imagine this example:

You’ve just launched a new site, but when looking at your heatmap you realize many people are clicking on an internal link, but then end up bouncing out of your site.

What does this mean?

It could mean that while your UX designer did a brilliant job designing your site, they didn’t communicate with your SEO strategist, and all the pages weren’t 301 redirected to the new website.

At that point, all your built-up SEO efforts have gone down the drain.

Ultimately, utilizing your heatmaps and ensuring your departments don’t work in silos is critical to leveling up your SEO.

6. Optimize meta title and description based on user behavior

Meta title tags provide a relevant snapshot to users while they glance through multiple pages. This way, they can choose what’s most applicable for them. While analyzing your heatmap, observe which content on your page users pay most attention to and sync your meta titles to reflect that content.

This is a minor tweak that pays off in the long run as far as obtaining more relevant organic traffic and ranking higher on search engines.

Final thoughts

When used correctly heatmaps make a world of difference for your SEO. By making minor adjustments through careful analysis, you can slowly but surely strengthen your SEO. Here’s a quick recap of the small but mighty ways to use your heatmap:

  1. To understand the user’s intent and behavior
  2. To determine the quality of your content
  3. To combine SEO with CRO
  4. To improve internal links and site navigation
  5. To optimize SEO for UX
  6. To optimize meta title based on user behavior

Like James Clear from Atomic Habits says, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But, as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger.”

Now, go build big things with small heatmap SEO habits.

Adriana Stein See all their articles
Originally from the US and now living in Germany, Adriana Stein is the CEO and Founder of the agency, AS Marketing. She leads a team of Digital Marketing Experts who develop holistic online marketing strategies for B2B and B2C companies across Europe and North America. With an SEO-first approach, they help their clients develop efficient go-to market strategies, expand into new markets, and sustainably grow their business.
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