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How to Pick One Objective & Optimize it with Heat Maps

Drake Ballew
How to Pick One Objective & Optimize it with Heat Maps

When visitors land on your website, there should be one primary objective that you want them to take — to read, click, watch, whatever. What the objection is depends on the content of your site.

According to Jakob Nielsen, you’ve only got 10-20 seconds to capture the majority of your visitors’ attention. As a marketer, designer or small business owner, this means you need to focus your content in a way that drives people to your objective as quickly as possible, and definitely in less than 20 seconds.

 Image source: Nielsen Norman Group

Unfortunately, many websites are not designed with such an action-oriented mindset.

Content is hodgepodged in different sidebars, sliders, widgets, menus and myriad other places. A visitor arrives on your website and rather than taking the action you’d intended, they waste time searching the page.

Heat maps are graphical overlays of your website that help show which content is hot (or not) by tracking eyeballs, either literally or via clicks, providing you with the information you need to optimize the design, flow, and layout of your website. Today we’re looking at click-tracking heat maps.

Tyler Vawser of AppSumo wrote a comprehensive guide on what he learned from 1,000,000+ heat map clicks. In this post, we’re going to walk through the basics of Tyler’s guide. We’ll cover how to use heat maps to solve the problem of errant, non-converting visitors to your website.

Focusing on the most-trafficked page on your site, we’ll consider what kind of objective it should have, walk through how to set up a heat map on it, and then look at how to use the heat map to drive more conversions for your business.

Identifying the #1 Objective For Your Page

Before we get started, make sure you know which page is most heavily trafficked on your site. It’s usually the homepage, but if, for example, you have a static, informational homepage or a gateway landing page on an associated blog, you probably want to optimize conversions for the blog rather than vice versa.

With your page selected, you now want to consider your objective. Beware: pursuing more than one objective for a given page confuses visitors. Tiering objectives — i.e. #1, #2, #3, etc. — is fine, but be sure that you are always driving toward #1. As Pat Flynn says: “Think about the first thing you want a new visitor on your site to do. Make it extremely easy and obvious to do THAT.

Examples of landing pages with a single, clear objective for their visitors:

Landing pages with a single, clear objective for their visitors to take

Image Sources: WhatsApp, AppSumo and SEMrush

Choosing your page’s #1 objective can be difficult, almost philosophical, especially when you’re considering a homepage. Think big picture on this part:

What is the business objective of this page? Why does this webpage exist? What purpose does it serve for your business?

Common answers to these questions are fairly high level and generally have to do with things going up: driving more downloads/sales, increasing engagement, capturing email addresses, etc.

Common objectives by business type include:

  • Signing up to an email list: blogs, e-commerce, news content, software
  • Trying a freemium product: software
  • Reading and sharing content: blogs, news content
  • Subscribing to a trial period: software, news content
  • Downloading an app: software
  • Installing your plugin/software/tool: software

Choosing a single objective for your landing page will not necessarily be easy, especially if it’s cluttered (fix that!), but is essential before proceeding to use heat maps since a page with multiple objectives will result in a confusing number of user behaviors.

Setting Up A Heat Map On Your Site

The next step is to get a heat map running on your website. There are a number of free and paid tools you can use to do this.

In this post, we’re going to use Heat Maps by SumoMe. It’s free, can be set up in 5 minutes, and works on all websites (including a convenient plugin for WordPress).

Heat Maps by SumoMe

Image Source: SumoMe

To install SumoMe, follow the instructions for HTML or WordPress:

  1. Register a free account
  2. Click on the SumoMe badge in the top right of your site. Sign up to register your account.
  3. Click the badge again to get to your apps. Click on the green Sumo Store logo.
  4. Scroll down to Analytics and click Heat Maps.
  5. Click Install to add Heat Maps to your site

SumoMe Heat Maps

Image Source: SumoMe

To begin a Heat Map campaign:

  1. Click on the SumoMe badge and you’ll see an "Flame" icon.
  2. Click the blue flame icon to begin a new campaign. A message will pop up asking if you want to start recording click "Yes."

SumoMe Heat Map Campaign

Image Source: blog.drakeballew.com

The campaign is now active. To view the results, just click the "Flame" icon again. Or you can access Heat Maps from the SumoMe Dashboard.

Using Heat Maps To Drive Conversions

You’ll want to run your heat map campaign for a few thousand visits. This means at least a week for medium to higher volume sites and probably three-to-four weeks for sites with fewer than 10,000 monthly visits.

Once you have sufficient visitor results, you’ll want to ask yourself the following reflective questions, in this order:

  1. Is my #1 objective the hottest spot on the map?
  2. If not, what is? If yes, what spots are #2 and #3?
  3. What spots are surprising? (Look for spots that work against your objective or are nonsensical)
  4. What are the high-performing types of content: video, images, buttons, links?
  5. Looking at everything, are visitors finding what they want to find and doing what you want them to do on this page (#1 objective)?
  6. If not, what are three potential ways that you can drive them toward the desired behavior?


Running heat map campaigns on your website pages will probably result in many common sense conclusions, but it also might reveal some surprising takeaways. Regardless of how expected or surprising the initial results are, you’re going to want test everything to avoid local maxima and plateaus within your site’s hill climbing process.

A quick place to start is to leverage existing hot spots on your heat map to point to the content or action you want your visitor to take. Relocating or entirely removing distracting low-quality content and relocating, resizing, and adding more high-performing content are also some quick fixes.

Page hot spots using Heat Maps

Images Source: Nielsen Norman Group

More surprising insights might be that people tend to pay attention to content on the left side of the page more than the right or that readers spend about 80% of their time “above the fold” (above the point where readers need to scroll to see more) but that percentage viewing time skyrockets at the bottom of a page. Message: test putting a call-to-action down there and see what happens!

Ready to Get Started?

However you plan to use heat maps to improve your site’s flow and your business’s conversions, getting started today is free, fast and easy.

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Drake Ballew writes for SumoMe.com, which provides users with free tools to grow your business. He is the Growth Manager for Unbabel, a translation company that helps businesses communicate with their customers. Say hi to him on Twitter and follow him on Medium.
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