Google Analytics Heatmap: Insights Beyond Page Analytics
Est. time: minutes
Table of Contents
Has someone told you that Google Analytics was so powerful that it was the only website analytics tool you needed? Well, it wasn't true. Google Analytics is an excellent tool for general page-level analytics like numbers and values, we can't argue with that. But it's missing critical data in a visual format that shows, at a glance, exactly how people engage with your website and how those clicks and actions turn into sales. With Google's July 2023 sunset of Universal Analytics, many website owners wonder if Google Analytics 4, will finally include heatmaps (spoiler: it won't).
Knowing how users navigate your website and which user actions lead to conversions is likely the most important metric you can get from your in-page analytics. Viewing this information through an augmented reality style software called a heatmap helps you quickly see user behavior and what elements people use or ignore on your page and uncover roadblocks in your customer's buying journey.
In this article, we'll show you how to view (limited) heatmap data in Google Analytics, what we can expect to view heatmap insights in the new GA4, and share a much better heatmap software that will give you the industry's best heatmap insights and data.
What is a heatmap in data analytics?
A heatmap is a visual representation of your users' activity on your website. It shows you which elements on each web page are clicked or engaged with the most or least, using color representations. Basically, instead of looking at pages upon pages of excel sheet data and trying to make sense of them, heatmaps make it super simple:
- Red colored areas = most engaged with
- Blue colored areas = least engaged with.
This helps you quickly visualize user behavior and to look for patterns and learn where you need to fix or change your website to reach your sales or conversion goals.
Benefits of using heatmaps for your website
Page analytics from a heatmap give you valuable data to make your website's experience more enjoyable and effortless for your customers. Using heatmaps, you can:
- Increase sales (by optimizing your website user experience based on the buyer's journey, not on your guess as to what's best)
- Write better CTAs (by learning what combination of colors, placement, and text is more likely to attract clicks).
- Validate new website designs and features (by seeing which parts your website visitors are actually using).
You can use heatmap insights to answer questions like “How can I increase sales?” or “Why are people asking our helpdesk questions that are written on the website?”
Universal Analytics vs. Google Analytics 4 - What's the difference?
The website analytics world is about to be turned upside down. Before we go any further, here's a crash course on the difference between Universal Analytics and GA4:
Universal Analytics (UA)
For years, the industry standard for website analytics platforms has been Universal Analytics (UA). This Google Analytics solution easily integrated into websites from all platforms (including HTML web pages and sites made on WordPress, Shopify, and Wix). It showed businesses real-time metrics and activity for each page of a website.
In March 2022, Google announced that they're discontinuing UA. As of July 1, 2023, it'll no longer collect new data and will be replaced by their new product, Google Analytics 4.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
UA's successor, GA4, is already live. According to Google, this new platform will help you better see your customers' journey through your web properties and apps. It'll also include:
- Event-based data (rather than session-based)
- Enhanced privacy controls (cookieless measurement and behavioral and conversion tracking)
- Improved predictive capabilities
- Direct integrations with media platforms to drive actions on your web properties.
To continue collecting Google page analytics after July 1, 2023, your web developer should create a new GA4 property for your website.
💡Heads-up: Google will keep your Universal Analytics data for at least 6 months from the software sunset date. We HIGHLY recommend exporting your UA website history before that date to avoid losing your historical data. Get the latest information about the switch on the Google Analytics Help Center.
Is there a heatmap in Google Analytics?
No. Google Analytics never had a true heatmap. The closest thing it had was a visual clickmap overlay to show how many times an element was clicked on a page. Here's what it looked like:
After it was removed from the Universal Analytics dashboard, you could still access these clickmaps through a Chrome web browser extension. It looked like this:
But still, it didn't generate a true heatmap visualization of clicks. It also relied on data collected from Universal Analytics so if Google stopped collecting that click data, the Chrome extension would stop working, like it did in 2019.
And, in March 2022, Google announced that they'll stop supporting Universal Analytics as of July 1.
So, now what? Where can you get click stats when it's gone?
Will GA4 have a heatmap?
If Google is retiring Universal Analytics in a few short months, you might assume that a helpful in-page feature like a heatmap would make an entrance in GA4.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn't look like that'll happen (at least Google hasn't said anything yet). While it could be added in the future, for now, you're left with installing a browser extension or using an alternative website analytics heatmap solution, like heatmap.com.
What about the Page Analytics extension?
Universal Analytics and the new Google Analytics 4 don't have heatmaps within their dashboards. The best you can do to view click map visualizations is to try this workaround: installing the Page Analytics Chrome extension.
We should warn you that there are security risks with installing Chrome or web browser extensions, especially unsupported ones like the Page Analytics extension. A much safer option would be to use heatmap.com, but we'll share the instructions to download the Chrome extension, in case you're willing to take the risk.
Here's how to install the extension :
- Install the page analytics chrome extension: Download Page Analytics (by Google). As you'll likely see in the developer notes, this extension was last updated in 2019, so some data or features may be out of date or no longer supported. Note this extension only works on Chrome web browsers. If you exclusively use other browsers, you may be out of luck and can't use this tool.
- Activate the extension: Click on the Page Analytics icon in your browser bar and follow the prompts to activate your extension. This will link it to your existing Google Analytics property, so it pulls your live data.
- View your data: If connected correctly and data is available, the browser extension creates click maps as an overlay on your website and includes a bar across the top of your web page with other analytics metrics (such as page views, page bounce rates, and average time of page). Then, if data is available, you'll see an overlay on your website with small orange boxes above every hyperlinked element. These will show you a value or percentage for the number of clicks on that element during the filtered date range.
Don't worry. Your heatmap data will only be visible to you when you download the extension and link it to your existing Google Analytics profile. Your other website visitors won't see this..
Struggling with this Chrome extension?
Yeah, us too! It no longer consistently shows the correct information for the click map part of this extension. That's because, Google stopped supporting clickmap-related data in 2019. This is very frustrating, but thankfully we have an alternative to recommend that doesn't rely on Google's analytics platform, and that's way more reliable and helpful.
What's an alternative Page Analytics?
If the Chrome extension isn't working, you can use an alternative Google Analytics heatmap. In fact, only one heatmap actually provides more detail and specificity in the data it displays in heatmaps. Our recommended Google Analytics heatmap alternative is heatmap.com. Here's why it's far superior to Google's heatmap "solutions":
Visual heatmap overlay aesthetics
Look at the difference between how Google Analytics heatmap data was presented and how beautiful the heatmap.com analytics overlay is. You'll agree that the latter visualizes click data much better and gives you an immediate understanding of your most popular elements on the page (by the intensity and spread of the colors).
More specificity in data filters
The differences between Google's website heatmap and the heatmap from heatmap.com goes far beyond aesthetics. Look at the level of specificity in the filters below. It includes advanced filters, including conversion and sales metrics, which no other heatmap software provides.
View related sales and conversion data
Heatmap.com also links click heatmap activity to sales and conversion data. With the old Google Analytics heatmaps, you could see which elements garnered the most clicks, but that didn't include any indication if those clicks led to a sale or campaign conversion.
For example, you could have 75% of all page clicks going to your product page's “buy now” link, but that doesn't tell you how many people actually completed the checkout process. That's not very helpful. With heatmap.com, you'll see how popular that button was and how many click-throughs led to a completed sale.
With this combined sales and conversion data on the same screen as your heatmap click data, you have better data-based information to measure the success of different variations of your “buy now” button to find the one most likely to convert. You can try different button sizes, colors, styles, text, and even page placement to find the one your shoppers resonate with most.
How can you reliably view heatmap data on your website?
Don't just take our word for it, and don't wait for Google to jump on the heatmap bandwagon (if they ever do). You can actually get even better heatmap analytics by using the heatmap.com software. Heatmap.com insights aren't impacted by the UA to GA4 transition and will integrate with your existing website with no advanced coding knowledge needed. Its low digital footprint also means it won't bog down your website speed either.
💡Try a free 7-day trial of heatmap.com today to see how powerful conversion-focused insights can be for your business.