Data lies at the heart of any strong web strategy. Analytics tools enable designers and marketers to sift through heaps of data points and extract insights about their website’s design and content.
However, site-wide and page-wide performance indicators like page views, traffic source, clicks, and bounce rates only tell us so much. Sure, they can tell us a lot, but the truth is that every visitor’s experience on your website is different in ways that can’t be captured with these common quantitative metrics.
If we really want to understand our users’ activity — what they see, what they click, where they scroll, and where they end up — we need more specialized methods. Heatmaps are a great place to start.
Heatmaps provide a fuller picture of your visitors’ experiences. They help you hone in on the specific parts of your website that work and spotlight the parts that don’t. Plus, they’re easy to understand and use on any site, including those powered by the WordPress CMS.
In this post, I’ll explain in more detail what heatmaps are and what they can do. Then, we’ll review 8 of the best tools to incorporate heatmaps into your WordPress analytics toolbox.
What is a heatmap?
A heatmap is a visual representation of how visitors interact with pages on a website. A heatmap layers the page with colors that correspond to level of engagement — ”hot” colors like red and yellow indicate higher engagement, and “cold” colors like green and blue indicate lower engagement.
Heatmaps can visualize three signals of engagement: clicks, scrolling, and mouse movement. All three are good indicators, but they differ in implication and application.
For example, you might use a click map to determine which of your links or buttons gets the most engagement on a page:
A scroll map can tell you which page regions are viewed most. If visitors are missing an important section, consider moving it up on the page:
Finally, mouse hover maps show roughly where visitors are looking. You might opt to place important elements like CTAs in the “hotter” areas of your page:
As you can see, heatmaps help us understand user activity in greater detail than site-wide and even page-wide stats. Software like Google Analytics is certainly useful, but tends to highlight broader things like page traffic, time-on-page, and bounce rate.
Heatmaps add another qualitative layer to your research. They tell you precisely what page areas and elements draw the most attention. With this information, you can fine-tune your page elements and layouts to improve performance and usability while greatly reducing guesswork.
If you run a WordPress website, there are many heatmap tools and plugins. To narrow down your search, we’ve compiled the best available — check out the list below.
Note that few heatmap tools offer only heatmaps. You’ll typically get other features like session recordings, which show you how anonymous visitors use your site in real-time, and form analytics, which tell you how visitors complete your website forms. When making your choice, consider what other insights you might want to pull in addition to heatmap data.
Best Heatmap Plugins for WordPress
- Crazy Egg
- Lucky Orange
- Clicky by Yoast
First on our list is Hotjar, a comprehensive visual analytics platform that offers heatmaps for scrolling, clicks, mouse movement, and digital content downloads. Hotjar also comes with visitor recordings, form tracking (for understanding how users engage with your forms), and surveys to gauge visitor satisfaction.
If you’re interested in user testing, Hotjar even has a way to recruit participants and conduct testing on your site — the tool helps handle contacting participants and paying them for their input.
Hotjar prices its service by the number of recorded pageviews per day, starting at $39 per month for up to 10,000 recorded daily views. There’s also a free “Basic” plan that allows for 2,000 pageviews per day, but it’s quite limited in features and storage.
As is the case with several options on this list, Hotjar has its own free WordPress plugin. This plugin isn’t required to use Hotjar, but it can help you set up and use the tool within your WordPress dashboard.
2. Crazy Egg
With over 300,000 users, Crazy Egg is the most popular heatmap tool on our list, acclaimed for its cost-effectiveness and ample amount of features for understanding audience behavior. Crazy Egg offers click maps, scroll maps, visitor recordings, and other visualizations of user engagement.
You’ll also get data about the source-based clicks, like whether more clicks are coming from social media traffic or organic search, and tools that help understand user flow through your site. Used together, Crazy Egg’s features tell a complete story of how users engage with your content.
Plans start at $24 per month (billed annually) for 30,000 tracked pageviews and 100 recordings per month. One bonus is that all Crazy Egg subscriptions allow for use on unlimited websites at no extra cost. This is a huge benefit for WordPress multisite owners that we haven’t seen offered by competitors.
When trying Crazy Egg, you can install its WordPress plugin which places the Crazy Egg tracking script on all of your pages for you.
At its core, Mouseflow is a visitor activity playback system. It records all mouse movements, including clicks, scroll events, and even taps on mobile devices, then gives you the option to generate a session replay. You can even tag users to track their repeated sessions, and filter session recordings by a specific tag.
Let’s not forget heatmaps, though — Mouseflow lets you make click maps, cursor movement maps, and scroll maps. You can also filter maps by users’ geographic location. Finally, Mouseflow includes tools for tracking user funnels (i.e. user journeys through your site), viewing form interactions, and collecting feedback via surveys.
Mouseflow offers a decent free plan: 500 recordings per month allowed on one website with one month of storage. Paid plans start at $24 per month (when paid annually) for up to 5,000 monthly recordings. Plus, Mouseflow has its own plugin for WordPress users.
4. Lucky Orange
Lucky Orange is a powerful set of conversion optimization tools, and its dedicated WordPress plugin makes it great for WordPress websites. This software also unlocks several techniques for understanding user experience — included in the suite are visitor recording, surveys and polls, form analytics, and heatmaps for clicks, movement, and scrolling.
One standout feature of Lucky Orange is live chat. With the built-in chat area, you can speak directly with visitors and answer their questions. The feature lets you communicate with multiple visitors at a time and auto-suggests canned responses to reduce friction for your support team.
Lucky Orange offers subscription plans for small-time site owners and larger businesses alike. For $10 per month, you’re allowed 25,000 pageviews on one website, and data is stored for 30 days. Higher-tier plans increase the number of pageviews and sites, but storage remains limited to 30 days — storage extensions cost extra.
Clicky by Yoast is a free WordPress plugin developed by the creators of the popular Yoast SEO plugin. This add-on syncs your WordPress website with Clicky, a web analytics platform. To use Clicky with heatmaps, you’ll need to purchase a Clicky subscription — $14.99/month allows heatmaps and 30,000 daily page views across 10 websites.
Clicky helps you monitor site activity by collecting heatmap data on every page along with the length of each user session. Other key features include goal monitoring (with exceptions for some specific user activities), APIs to enable video tracking by third-party software, and an advanced bounce rate calculator.
Another strong web analytics option, Inspectlet can compete with the more popular options we’ve listed. It provides heatmaps for clicking, scrolling, mouse movement, and even eye-tracking, which can be an asset for user testing.
Alongside Inspectlet’s heat-mapping are its session recording, form analytics, and A/B testing tools. Inspectlet’s tagging system lets you assign names to specific (anonymous) visitors on your site. This way, you can observe how first-timers interact with your pages versus repeat visitors.
Inspectlet plans are geared toward medium and large websites — the cheapest plan is $39 per month for up to 50,000 monthly pageviews and 5,000 monthly recorded sessions. If you want to download your sessions, however, you’ll need to upgrade your plan. There’s also a free version to try out.
Those in need of an enterprise-level analytics tool should consider Clicktale, an analytics suite with the most features of any solution we’ve covered. Clicktale is built to provide tailored analytics for online businesses, which explains why there are no pricing plans listed on Clicktale’s website — you’re required to request a meeting to get a quote.
On top of the expected heatmap offerings (clicks, scrolling, and mouse movement) and session recordings, Clicktale brings a powerful array of project management offerings to the table. There’s a detailed analytics dashboard where you can perform drilldowns of your metrics and focus on key insights, and an area where you can see how visitors complete forms and when they drop off in your conversion funnel. Google Analytics users will also enjoy Clicktale’s seamless integration.
Smaller budget-conscious websites who want to store their analytics data on their own servers should consider userTrack, our final recommendation.
Unlike other options I’ve listed, userTrack stores data on your WordPress server instead of a separate server run by the analytics provider. Since userTrack doesn’t host your heatmap data, the long-term costs are low. A self-hosted personal license is a one-time payment of $99, and a company license is $299. However, self-storage also increases load on your server, so it’s best for small websites producing fewer heatmaps and recordings overall.
A self-hosted installation of userTrack generates heatmaps for clicks, cursor movement, and scrolling, as well as session recording. It also includes A/B testing tools and a tagging system for visitor segmentation, so all users can be grouped by identifiers like country, visit duration, device screen size, and more.
Bring the Heat To Your Website Analytics
Forgive me for that pun, but it’s true — heatmaps are one of the most valuable qualitative tools you can use to understand and appreciate your users’ journeys.
And, speaking of data, research has shown it takes the average visitor less than a second to form an impression of your website. This means that, to be successful, you must prioritize the user experience in order to build a WordPress site that pleases from the get-go.
Any of the tools above can generate impressive heatmaps, but that’s just one of many things they can do. So, take advantage of free plans and trial periods to determine which analytics option best serves your needs.
Originally published Dec 2, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated December 05 2020