Heat Maps Increase Website Usability Analysis

Category Archives: SEO & Analytics

Heat Maps Increase Website Usability Analysis

How far down do your website visitors scroll? Which images and headlines do they expect to be clickable?  Where is the best place to insert a photo or button?

Heat maps are visual representations of the relative popularity of your website’s elements; and they can answer these and other non-intuitive questions.  As a small business owner or non-profit organization, you need to know where your website visitors are getting frustrated. You need to see the elements that are causing your visitors to hit the back button and you need to know where your visitors are clicking.

Web analytics software like Google Analytics can tell you how your visitors found your site; which pages of your site are most popular; how long your visitors spent on your site; where your visitors are geographically located in the world and more.

Although most web analytics software can give you the “numbers”, they cannot tell you which parts of your site visitors expect to be clickable. They cannot tell you exactly how far down a page your visitors scroll. Without this information, you don’t know whether your visitors ever saw your call to action; whether they value one image over another; or whether a specific field in a form is the culprit for that page’s peculiar bounce rate.

Heat map tracking software, like CrazyEgg.com, enhances your existing analytics by filling in these gaps and providing precisely this kind of information.

Let’s review a snapshot of the homepage for My Diamond Obsession as an example.  The most frequently clicked elements of the page are colored in yellow and the least clicked elements are colored in blue.

There are several areas of this page that are completely untouched. Two “Buzz” posts, two “Most Obsessed” products, and one of the products in the featured slider don’t have a single click.  Instead, the hottest spots are the arrows showing additional product, other product, and the RSS button.  This suggests visitors want to know about future additions, but don’t necessarily like what they see on the homepage in this instance of time.  This should be a clue to add different content to the homepage.

Heatmap Selling to the Masses, Monday, February 27, 2012Let’s take a look at another example: Selling to the Masses.

In this graphic you can see that one of the “hottest” areas is the play button for the video.  This is as it should be.  The site owners invested a substantial amount of resources to produce the video and should be one of, if not the most, frequently clicked elements.  You can see that “The Mentors” and “The Classroom” links in the main navigation are popular as well. Careful review of this map shows a series of blue spots along the right vertical. What are these? What does this pattern indicate? One possibility is that these are attempts to exit the modal or “pop-up” that appears when the video is played. This is something to consider in an evaluation of this site’s usability. While heat map software provides rich, visual insight, it is important to examine the anomalies of the software’s resulting graphic.

A more significant point of interest, however, is that the “Browse Mentors” link all the way down at the bottom of the page in the footer is highly popular compared with other links on the page. Notice that the central area showing photographs of featured mentors shows very little activity. Some of the photographs are completely untouched. This site’s visitors are more interested in browsing mentors than they are in looking at the details of the featured mentors. This should trigger a repositioning of the browse link to a higher, more prominent area of the homepage.

Heat maps alone do not provide all of the data that other analytical software does. Heat map software can, however, increase conversion and add value to your web analytics by:

  • answering design questions you may not have thought to be relevant
  • revealing poorly performing areas like specific fields in a form
  • identifying usability issues that might have been missed
  • suggesting refinements to your site’s information architecture
  • highlighting areas commonly mistaken for links or other clickable elements

This kind of information allows you to keep the things your visitors like and change the things they don’t. It reveals an entirely different view of your website’s usability and helps you keep your most desirable content intuitively accessible for your visitors. Another advantage of heat maps is that they are visual and, as such, they are well suited for presenting raw data to non-technical audiences. They also help cement the position and organization of the elements of your site that work; and they can help you ensure that that the content on your page is relevant, easy to use and valuable.

#8: Maintain a blog

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series… A blog can be a great way to communicate with customers on a more personal level. Your blog can educate visitors about your industry or provide some perspective on what direction your company is heading. It can show your expertise. A good blog can drive traffic to your website, help you rank with the search engines for more keywords, and add value for your customers.The key is to create interesting content that keeps visitors coming back for more. The questions your customers ask you are a great place to start. News in your industry is another excellent starting point. Your customers will come to rely on you to report the news that affects them. There are a number of different ways to create a blog, but not all of them will give you the results you want. To get the most for your business from your blog, you’ll want to integrate your blog into your web site, or to link the blog and the web site together well. You’ll also want to style your blog to match your web site, in order to reinforce your brand and to give your visitors a smooth transition between the two.Since there are many choices in setting up a blog to go with your web site, your best bet is to discuss your options with your web master or web designer.Contact Sharp Hue and we’ll help you install a completely integrated blog into your web site. Check back soon for tip #9: Engage your visitors

#7: Understand your traffic

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…With web sites, the numbers tell the story. Once you have your web site launched, you’ll have questions. Are people interested in your products? How long do they stay? On what pages do they exit your site? All of these questions can be answered by installing Google Analytics into your web site. Google Analytics is a free service that gives you information on who is visiting your web site, how they arrived, what they do during their visit, and when they leave. This data allows you to make informed business decisions, on and off your web site.Knowing which sources send you the most traffic lets you target your marketing efforts in the direction that gives you the best return on your investment. Knowing where in the world your visitors are lets you tweak your message to encourage local traffic, if that’s what you need, or to accommodate your global clientele.But you can only take advantage of this information if you collect it, follow it, and understand how to use it. If your skill set doesn’t include working with quantitative data, get professional help with this step. Don’t lose out on the opportunity.

Contact Sharp Hue and we’ll help you install Google Analytics into your web site — it’s easier than you think. Check back soon for tip #8: Maintain a blog

#4: Optimize Your Web Site for Search

…part of the “Ten Ways to Maximize Your Small Business Website’s Performance” series…In the early days of the web, there wasn’t much available, and people would flock to almost any new site. Now your site competes with millions of others for traffic.Your web site content should be written with language that will attract both search engines and people. When your customers – or the people who should be your customers, but they don’t know it yet – look for you at their favorite search engine, what words do they type in? Those are your keywords, the words which the search engines need to find at your web site. Those words should have prominence. But your awareness of search engines should never interfere with your human visitors’ positive experience. What’s more, search engines give preference to well-designed, well-written sites. Take the time to create a quality web site for best results. Major search engines favor sites with valid, up-to-date coding and correct English. They favor sites with a high level of usability, or user-friendliness. And they always favor good content.There are no tricks to SEO; it’s just good business. A high-quality, professional web site will perform better than a lesser-quality web site.Contact Sharp Hue and let us help you create a successful and cost-effective Search Engine Optimization strategy. Check back soon for tip #5: Use Professional Web Hosting

Web Site Content Tips from Wikipedia

On the web, content is king. Excellent, dynamic content lures the search engines to visit your site more frequently, turns your casual visitors into regular readers, and gives your web site authority that can improve your rankings.

What kind of writing does it take to achieve these goals? Consider Wikipedia as an example.

Nearly any noun you type into a search engine will have Wikipedia on the front page of results. Tattoos, nanotechnology, Guglielmo Marconi, pilates – almost anything you search for, there Wikipedia will be.

How is Wikipedia getting those results? And how can you get a similar effect with the content of your own web site?

It’s often more cost-effective to have your content written professionally, especially when delays or diversion of staff from other tasks make the opportunity costs of in-house writing high. Sharp Hue, Inc. can provide professionally-written content designed to be effective for both the people who visit your web site and the search engines. Our knowledge of the best practices for search engine marketing and our objectivity allow us to find the words that will accomplish your purposes, faster and more effectively than you can do it yourself.

If you really want to write your own copy, though, you could take a leaf from Wikipedia’s Manual of Style. Where Wikipedia’s style manual differs from the one you’ve had on your shelf since college, it’s often a good SEO move.

Here are some examples:

  • “If possible, an article title is the subject of the first sentence of the article… If the article title is an important term, it appears as early as possible.”

When you type a word or phrase into the search box at Google or Yahoo, the search engine looks for pages that start out with that word or phrase. Whenever possible, use your keywords right at the beginning of your page.

  • “It is not useful and can be very distracting to mark all possible words as hyperlinks. Links should add to the user’s experience; they should not detract from it by making the article harder to read. A high density of links can draw attention away from the high-value links that you would like your readers to follow up.”

While you generally want as many links as possible coming into your page, outgoing links from your page need to fulfill a specific purpose. Wikipedia’s point about the effect on human readers is very important; it’s also true that search engines will decide that your page is less important than the ones you link to if you use links out to do the job your own page ought to be doing.

  • “Using color alone to convey information should not be done. Such information is not accessible to people with color blindness, on black-and-white printouts, on older computer displays with fewer colors, on monochrome displays (PDAs, cell phones), and so on.”

The manual happens to be talking about color here, but this is just one of the many places where they make an important point: think about your reader’s experience. Usability is one of the essential factors in designing your web site, and that includes the text.

We’ve looked at examples that have to do only with online writing; most of the rest of the Wikipedia style manual is similar to the paper style manuals on your bookshelf. Is that less important for optimizing your site for search? No. Google considers pages with writing errors – poor spelling, punctuation faults, bad grammar – less trustworthy than well-written pages. So will your human visitors. Even when you write your own content, you should consider having it edited and polished up by a professional.

Sharp Hue can assist you with all aspects of your web design, from concept to content. Call us to schedule a demonstration of our new product called Visual Cart, an e-commerce system built around writing good content that is friendly to both search engines and people.

Funnels, Conversion, and Google Analytics Goals

A well-designed website encourages visitors to take action: to make purchases, to sign up for a newsletter, to subscribe to a blog. Your site should funnel visitors smoothly toward completion of these actions, without frustrations or distractions.

Is your website doing its job? The first step in building a better funnel is to find out what your visitors are doing now. The Google Analytics “goals” function makes this easy.

At your Analytics account page, you can click “edit” to set up goals for your web site.Google Analytics measures the success of goals by tracking when readers visit a particular page: the “thank you” page after they place an order or leave contact information, for example.

It is essential that there be a page that shows that your visitor completed a goal. It may be one of your goals that visitors call you or come to your place of business after visiting your site. That is not the kind of goal Google Analytics can track. Analytics can tell you when visitors go to your contact information page or look at your map, though, so that may be a way to approximate that goal. If there is no page associated with your goal, you will need to design a page that will allow you to measure it. Sharp Hue can assist you with this.

You can set up as many as four goals for one Google Analytics website profile, and each goal can have up to ten steps. So a goal for leaving contact information might just show that the visitor reached the “thank you” page. This would count as a conversion.

A goal for shopping might show these steps along the way:

  • Visit the catalog.
  • Go to the shopping cart.
  • Provide billing information.
  • Provide shipping information.
  • Check out.
  • Reach the “thank you” page.

These steps are called a “funnel” because they act like a funnel, narrowing visitors from those who are just browsing to those who are interested in your products or services, to those who are actually ready to make a purchase.

When you add these steps to your Analytics goal, you can see when potential shoppers leave, and you can adjust your web site accordingly. For example, if your shoppers visit the catalog, put items in their cart, and enter their credit card information, but leave at the shipping screen, then there must be something about the experience at that screen that is losing you customers. If plenty of visitors make it to your product information, but few go on to the sign up page, then the product information page may need changes.

It was exactly this type of information that led to the development of Sharp Hue’s Visual Cart e-commerce system. By analyzing the experiences clients had with their e-commerce solutions, we were able to design a very smooth experience that is adaptable to many different business goals. You can use the same kind of data to fine-tune the parts of your visitors’ experiences that are specific to your web site.

While each website profile can have four goals, you have the option of setting up a second profile for a website so that you can add more goals.

The goals function at Google Analytics also allows you to discover which pages of your web site inspire visitors to take action. Once you have your goals set up, you can look to see where visitors were before they reached the page you’ve specified as demonstrating conversion. You can tell which of your pages helped your visitors make up their minds to request more information. You can see which keywords led just to browsing and which led to conversion.

You can even set up your goals using dollar amounts. For e-commerce sites, or sites with paid subscription, you will have solid figures to work with. If you are measuring the dollar value of a visitor’s decision to leave contact information, you may need to do some calculation. For example, if you know that one percent of those who subscribe to a free newsletter will hire your firm, with an average commitment of $1500, then each subscriber can be assigned a dollar value of $15.

Assigning dollar goals allows you to keep track of the return on your investment. You can compare the value of your newsletter to that of your blog, or of visitors who reach your web site in different ways. Knowing whether your pay-per-click visitors bring in enough value to justify a PPC campaign compared with an e-mail campaign, for example, allows you to allocate your marketing dollars to best advantage. If a redesign of your web site or a change in your newsletter would increase the rate at which your subscribers converted to customers, it would be worth the investment. Seeing your goals in dollar amounts can help with these decisions.

As always, Sharp Hue can help you with understanding the powerful information Google Analytics provides, and designing your web site to make best use of that information.

While each website profile can have four goals, you have the option of setting up a second profile for a website so that you can add more goals.

Understanding the Google Analytics Dashboard

“What does it all mean?” is a fine philosophical question, but not what you want to be thinking when you check your Google Analytics every day.

You can get more out of Google Analytics when you understand just what it analyses. Your starting point is the Dashboard. This gives you an overview on one page. Let’s look at the elements.

There are four (five if you have an Ecommerce Overview) large graphs on the page. These give you a quick idea of how things are going with your web site. When you click on them, you can find much more useful information. We’ll examine these in future posts. We’ll also look at the Comparing function and the help links later.

Below the main graph you will see six measures of site usage:

  • Visits. When Google says “visitors,” they mean individual people (or at least individual computers) while “visits” counts the event of someone coming to your site, either for the first time or on subsequent occasions. You want this number to increase steadily.
  • Pageviews. This counts the number of times anyone looks at any page on your web site. If one visitor looked at eight pages and eight visitors looked at one page each, this measure will count both as eight.
  • Pages/Visit. This tells the average number of pages one visitor looked at during one visit. You could calculate this yourself from the previous two numbers, but Google does it for you. Depending on the goal of your site, you may want different results here, but generally, more pages per visit is better.
  • Bounce Rate. When a visitor looks at your page and leaves without exploring more, that visitor bounced. The Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors who only visited one page before leaving. In general, a lower bounce rate is better.
  • Avg. Time on Site. This number tells in minutes and seconds how long the average visitor spent at your site before leaving. You want this number to rise.
  • % New Visits. This shows what percentage of this month’s visitors are new. If you are new to Google Analytics, many visitors will show up as new even though they may have visited before. Over time, this will correct itself.

Apart from the large graphs mentioned above, there will also be a chart called “Content Overview.”Content Overview lists the most popular pages at your web site, and the number of times visitors have looked at each of them.

In order to get an understanding of how this information can be useful, let’s look at a couple of real-world examples. We’ll examine the information from the Dashboards of two different sites:

» Site A, the website of a family therapist, has had 42 visitors this month,

» Site B, a business blog, has had 4,107 visitors this month.

Site A’s owner sees an increase in traffic as a priority. Site B is happy with the steady increase in traffic he is seeing over time. Even though they have very different amounts of traffic, both can use the information from the Dashboard to develop strategies.

Site A has a 40.48% bounce rate; her visitors look at an average of 4.88 pages on each visit. This is good news, and shows that her content is useful to her visitors. She sells books from her web site, so she wants visitors to spend time browsing.

Site B has a bounce rate of 89.16 and the average visitor looks at only 1.2 pages. However, since Site B is a blog, it is to be expected that most visitors will read just a post or two, bouncing away to other links. In fact, many of them bounce away to the business the blog belongs to, providing traffic second only to Google. Lowering the bounce rate is not a priority for Site B.

Site A’s most popular page is her home page, which is the result she wants. While she wants people to read her articles and buy her books, her home page brings clients to her office. The Content Overview chart lets her make sure that her home page remains the most popular page.

Site B’s most popular pages are posts from the past, which visitors find through the search engines. These pages continue to send traffic to the business web site through links, so they continue to be valuable.

Site B’s owner makes sure to keep the links and information on past posts up to date. He also should make sure to keep writing posts good enough to be popular; the Content Overview lets him track that.

Site B has many readers who subscribe through site feeds, so he knows that some readers of his home page will not show up at Google Analytics. He can track these readers in other ways.

From these examples, we can see that different kinds of web sites should see different numbers on their Dashboards. The information allows web site owners to adjust their web sites and marketing strategies to reach their goals. There may be general guidelines (for example, just about everyone will want their total visits to increase), but there are no hard and fast rules about what numbers you want to see on your Dashboard.

Sharp Hue can help you understand what the numbers on your Dashboard are telling you about how your web site fits into your overall business plan, and develop strategies for reaching the goals you have for your web site and for your business. We will be glad to meet with you to discuss your specific needs.

Visit us again next month for more on the best ways to use Google Analytics in your business.

What Google Analytics Is, and Why You Should Care

As a businessperson, you know the kind of traffic you have in your physical shop or office. You know your conversion rate and how it compares with others in your industry. You know what people will be looking for at different times of year, when the busy days and hours are, and what kinds of seasonal ups and downs you can expect.

Wouldn’t you like to have that information for your web site?

Often, webmasters offer you charts of domain statistics that just don’t give you the information you need to plan your marketing strategy. Sharp Hue uses Google Analytics instead. This is a sophisticated set of tools for collecting and analyzing data, custom tailored to your site.

Here are just some of the things Google Analytics tracks for you:

  • the number of visitors you have each day and how long they stay at your site
  • the geographic locations of your visitors, down to the city
  • how your visitors found you – did they type in your web address, come to your site from a referral or a link someone emailed to them, or did they find you through a search engine like Google?
  • when people usually come to your site, including the hour and the day of the week

Sharp Hue can e-mail regular reports to you, so you can decide how to adjust your strategy in light of the kinds and sources of traffic using your site.

Let’s consider a few examples of ways in which you can use this information to increase your traffic and fine-tune your business plans:

  • Sharp Hue clients can expect steadily increasing traffic. But Google Analytics can also tell you whether you have returning visitors or not. A profile of two-thirds returning and one third new visitors is good for business – you will have new people coming in, but keep those valuable repeat customers. If you don’t have many returning visitors, then you may need to make changes in your content or in your fulfillment process. If you don’t see many new visitors, then you need to improve your Search Engine Optimization strategy.
  • Google Analytics lets you see spikes in traffic: days when you have an unusually high number of visitors. Perhaps it is the day after you send out newsletters, or the day before purchasing deadlines. You can also compare those spikes in web traffic with spikes in traffic in your physical location. This information lets you see how well your offline marketing efforts affect your web site traffic, and how your web site traffic affects your physical traffic.
  • Another way to use Google Analytics is to watch the geographic locations of your visitors. If your web site is designed to bring people to your physical location, but your web site traffic is international, you need to adjust the strategy you use for bringing traffic to your web site, even if you are happy with the number of visitors. Changing the words you use to include more local references, telling more local directories about your web site, and increasing the offline marketing of your web site in your local area would improve that situation.

We’ll be bringing you more information about specific data tracked by Google Analytics in future posts in this space. Sharp Hue can also work with you directly to help you understand what your Google Analytics data means, and to develop responses that help you meet your goals.

If you build it, WILL they come?

The short answer is: only if they can find you. Over the past few months we’ve been looking more into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click advertising, and web site conversion. These are the fundamentals of what I call “web site marketing”.

A new great friend and new client (great when it works out that way no?), by the name of Jacob Minett has been at the forefront of helping me expose this knowledge for the good of all Sharp Hue clients. Just because a web site looks great doesn’t mean people are going to know about it or find it. So just how do you get good at this stuff? Patience has a lot to do with it (on the order of months and months of tweaking.)

A lot of you are familiar with the way web sites are indexed by search engines, but the mysterious question that everyone wants answered is, “how can I get my site at the top of a Google search”. Well, the answer is, do your homework and make your website search engine friendly and content optimized. Jacob has achieved great ranking for his site http://www.mybluedish.com/ by applying a few of the techniques I’ll mention below. I decided with the launch of http://www.bookant.com/ that I could have a fresh start in building a web site with the right SEO tactics in mind.
  1. use a meta tag analyzer to see how your site stacks up today: http://www.widexl.com/remote/search-engines/metatag-analyzer.html
  2. work to optimize your keywords, title, and description to have RELEVANCY to the content and words used on your page. A long laundry list of keywords might actually hurt you
  3. use “ALT” tags on all your images so robots and crawlers know what the image is
  4. use bold, italics, etc. to bring attention to special keywords that have more important meaning
  5. make sure you include a “robots” meta tag so search engines know how to navigate your page
  6. submit a sitemap file to Google http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ (you can find a sitemap generator tool that will build the XML for you)
  7. update relevant content on your site frequently — and blog too!
  8. make sure you get your link out there…on friend’s blogs, other web sites, etc. This will help your link popularity
  9. it definitely pays to pay-per-click. PPC advertising can get you some traffic to get the word out about your site
  10. Have patience, keep tweaking, and always keep abreast of what your competition is doing