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Google Analytics Heat map: How To Create & Read

6 Min Read

Google Analytics is one of the many services that Google offers to help you track your website’s performance by tracking and collecting metrics on your website’s visitors, their conversion rate, bounce rate, average session duration, page views, and so on.

Despite tracking every data that marketers need on their website’s performance, GA lacks one very important element – the visualization of collected data, in particular, heatmaps. And this was a major cause of concern for its users because it meant they invariably had to invest in other visualization tools.

Google Analytics and Heatmaps

A quick SERP analysis of the query ‘Google Analytics Heat Map’ on Google shows that there is two contrasting intent behind raising this query. The first is that readers want to learn how to create a website clickmap using their GA data (with a Chrome extension called Page Analytics), and the second is how they can analyze data using different heatmaps. This blog attempts to address both these queries so readers can gauge every aspect of Google Analytics related heatmap.

To tackle the gap between numerical data and data visualization, Google released its In-Page Analytics feature, which now works through a Chrome extension, namely Page Analytics. By introducing this feature, GA bridged the gap between quantitative and qualitative data to a great extent.

Chrome Extension for Google Analytics Heat Map

When it was first introduced, the In-Page Analytics feature looked like this on the GA dashboard:

screenshot of the In-Page Analytics within Google Analytics
Image Source[1]

The heat map generated using this feature showed user clicks on links on a page in percentages (aka a click map).

screenshot of the chrome extension listing for Google Analytics
Image Source[2]

The only pre-requisite for this was that you must be logged into your website’s GA account,  and then you can configure your GA setting and view data on your web pages as you navigate through them.

However, GA soon removed this from In-Page Analytics and introduced a chrome extension for the same. Once you install the extension, you can view click data in the form of clickmaps. The video (GIF) below elucidates how this extension works and the resultant overlay website heatmap (clickmap):

GIF on how to use Page Analytics Chrome Extension from Google

The Page Analytics extension once turned on for a page, gives an overview of metrics like page views, unique page views, average time on page, bounce rate, exit percentage, and real-time page visitors. These are the default metrics that are shown when the extension is turned on but you can always change it to the metrics that you want to see on the page.

a screenshot of the metrics displayed by Google Analytics
Image Source[3]

More importantly, it gives you an option to change the segment whose data you want to see on the page itself. 

Here’s how the Page Analytics extension by GA works and how you can configure the data displayed in the above-shown reporting tab:

1. Set Up Your Google Analytics Account: The only condition that needs to be met for using the Page Analytics extension by GA is for you to have a GA account set up for the website/URL on which you want to use the plug-in. Once you have an account set up, you can download the Page Analytics extension[1], and your GA account will supply it with all the captured and configured data like segment, geography, and so on.

2. Segment Visitors: GA comes with built-in segments on top of which you can create custom segments based on the audience you are targeting. These segments are then automatically fed into the extension’s segment drop down so you can easily change them on the page while you are browsing through it. 

a screenshot for all the different visitor segments within Google Analytics

You can add up to 4 segments, and for each segment, Page Analytics displays individual reporting tab.

3. Modify Configurations: If you look at the extension’s reporting dashboard above, you will see that it displays data on metrics like page views, unique page views, average time on page, bounce rate, and so on. For each of these, there is a drop-down from which you can choose the metric you want to track.

screenshot of the different configurations of metrics and dimensions within Google Analytics

Once you configure these elements, you will be able to see some numbers reflected against each of them. Now, the best part about this particular extension is its versatility and how much room it gives for you to configure the settings on the page itself. You can select if you want to see data on all visitors or real-time visitors, you can modify the date range, add a date range for the data to be compared, customize the clicks threshold, and more.

screenshot of the date range selected within Google Analytics
screenshot of the various percentage options available within Page Analytics Chrome Extension

The configurations being taken care of, the Page Analytics extension generates a Google Analytics heat map, in real-time, that visualizes click data on the web pages. You can either choose to simply see the data through colors or a small bubble displaying percentages or both.

screenshot of the configuration options available for heatmaps within Page Analytics Chrome Extension

4. Analyze the Plotted Heatmap: Using the 2 visualization types using above, and diving deep into GA data as well, you can discover trends in user behavior on your pages, their click pattern on links, and come up with data-backed solutions to fix experience compromising elements. 

However, even after offering so much, the Page Analytics extension by GA has one major flaw that it only creates clickmaps and that too for the links on the web pages alone. Hence, if you plan on using website heatmap as a primary tool for data visualization and analysis, you will have to invest in a full-blown heatmap tool.

Google Analytics Powered Other Heatmaps

The second query intent on how to create heatmaps using the data collected through Google Analytics has been answered in detail by Seer Interactive[2]. Their analytics team built a Google sheet. This sheet basically behaves like a dashboard, that lets you heatmap certain metrics and enables you to identify major trends over time. For instance, look at the heatmap they created using GA data to identify when visitors are landing on the website organically so as to pinpoint the best time to push content pieces live and when to promote them:

screenshot of the Google Analytics powered Heatmap spreadsheet created by Seer Interactive

To get you started, you can refer to Seer Interactive’s Google Analytics heat map sheet and see how they help their clients by leveraging the power of GA. 

Now that both the questions pertaining to Google Analytics heat map have been addressed, put on your analytics glasses on and see for yourself how it can help you collect and visualize data in a way that was not possible before when GA offered only numerical information on how visitors interacted with your website.

FAQs on Google Analytics Heatmaps

What is Google Analytics in-page feature?

The Google Analytics in-page feature shows user clicks on links on a particular page in percentages, i.e, a click map. It is no longer a feature of Google Analytics, however you can still create the clickmap through GA, using the Page Analytics Chrome extension.

Why is heatmap for GA data useful?

The heatmaps created on the data extracted from Google Analytics can help you easily identify and visualize trends within your important GA metrics such as the number of new visitors, pages/session etc. We have shared a template where you can easily setup GA powered heatmaps. Get the template in the post.

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Shanaz Khan from VWO

Hi, I am Shanaz from the VWO Research Desk.

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