Let’s talk about how using heatmaps effectively can help you with your SEO – specifically, your bounce rates.
Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to one of your webpages (which probably isn’t your home page) but then leave without visiting any other pages.
Imagine throwing a ping-pong ball against a wall: that’s a bouncing user, departing almost as fast as they arrived and leaving little sign of their passing.
Little sign, that is, unless you’re using heatmaps.
Why does bounce rate matter?
First, bounce rate matters because we like to think of people wandering happily through our websites, engaging in a leisurely way with our carefully created content, reading about our products, and responding gladly to our calls to action. We don’t want them leaving in a hurry. So we don’t want a high bounce rate.
But bounce rate has another critically important role: it tells Google how interesting a website is.
Nowadays, Google is all about the user experience. Google is looking for webpages that users find interesting, spend time on, engage with – in other words, pages with lower bounce rates. And that’s why CRO and SEO are inextricably linked.
Google always spots a bounce. Even if you haven’t asked it to; even if you’re not using Google Analytics. If Google notices a high bounce rate for a page, it will assume users don’t like that page, and will take that into account when serving up search results. If your pages aren’t keeping people interested, Google will push your page (and your site) further down the search rankings, perhaps behind your competitors.
How heatmaps can help
Although you can’t do anything about Google’s reaction to your bounce rates, you can take steps to improve your bounce rates. Of course, there are some aspects of SEO that heatmapping can’t help you with (for example, very slow page load times can bounce people away). However, heatmaps can help you fine-tune your SEO in many ways – more ways than we can describe here, but here are a few examples:
Internal links – It’s good SEO practice to create links between pages within your website: if a user follows at least one link, they obviously can’t be ‘bouncers’. So use heatmaps to tell you which locations, style and anchor copy make the most appealing links. For example, do people tend to click more on images, or text? Which text strings and keywords engage more people? Are links better at the top or the bottom of the page, or are they equally important?
Boring pages – Are users seeing a wall of text, with no structure or images? Are they overwhelmed to the point of being underwhelmed? Scroll reach heatmaps can tell you exactly how far you’ve pushed your users’ patience.
Faulty pages – Do your mouse movement or attention heatmaps show people scrolling around as if searching for something? Is a vital piece of content, image, link, download or CTA button missing? Or are they repeatedly clicking on something, only for nothing to happen? They may bounce away in frustration.
Unexpected pages – Similarly, aimless rapid scrolling, with a lack of other interaction, can indicate that the user didn’t get what they expected when they landed on your page. Check whether your page title matches your content, and that your h1 tag (the most important heading on your page) reflects, clearly and correctly, both the page title and the main content.
Related pages – Even if a user has a very successful visit to just one page on your website, Google will count it as a ‘bounce’ if they leave without visiting any other pages – and that will affect your search rankings. So add teasers to other, related content, products, blog posts, and user guides, for example. Use heatmaps to see where to place those links, and which links are most appealing to users.