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How to use heat maps to increase your email signups

Here’s the truth in six words: your email opt-in still needs improvement. When visitors land on your page for the first time ever, they’re not signing up because there are too many distractions or your signup area isn't where they’re looking. Even if you spend a ton of effort driving traffic to your site with ads, social media, guest posts, etc., none of that matters if your landing page fails to match your user’s behavior.

So you have to ask yourself: Is the email opt-in the hottest area of your page? No? Then what are the top three areas being clicked? Any surprises there?

Wait, how do I figure that out? Great question!

Use a heat map.


Why are heat maps so powerful?

Heat maps are a visual overlay on your website that shows you “hot” areas — where most of your clicks happen — and “cold” areas — where no one clicks. While a number of paid choices exist, free tools like SumoMe’s Heat Maps allow you to see how your visitors engage with your site.

Here’s what a heat map looks like:

The hot areas show where people are clicking.

If your email opt-in is NOT the hottest area, you’ll know exactly where to start changing your site. How can you rearrange things to make it the hottest area? Maybe try removing distracting clutter, putting it at the center of the page, adding arrows, making it easy to see, etc.

Soon, you’ll see your email opt-ins grow as well as your conversion rates from the traffic you already have. 


3 case studies of people who used heat maps to explode their email list

Case study #1:

Look how Adam Franklin at Bluewire Media in Australia used heat maps to optimize their homepage. Their top goal was to get first-time visitors to join their email list and get a free Web Strategy Planning Template. After they ran a heat-map test, they realized they had to remove distractions and simplify the email signup form.

Bluewire Media's signup form, before and after.

The old version asked for too much info, which pushed people away. It contained more (and smaller) text. The new version, however, pushed the benefits, gave social proof (10,512 successful marketers) and made the signup area really easy to see.

Adam said: “No-one was seeing the opt-in form on the homepage, nor the form on some of my landing pages. These are redesigned now and heat maps (and analytics) are proving the change is working. Now we are testing a new version without a menu bar on the page to see if we can get even better results."

Case study #2:

Here’s how Bob Lotich, a personal finance blogger at ChristianPF.com, doubled his email subscribers. He realized the video on his homepage was receiving thousands of clicks, but only a handful of them were subscribing to his email list. In other words, the video was taking away from his opt-ins. Should he just trash the video?

Not quite.

Bob said: "With the heat map, I discovered a silly mistake I had made with the video on my homepage, and I would have never known about it otherwise. People were clicking the video graphic like crazy; after all it does have a big fat play button on it! I quickly had my developer add a popup box so that when they clicked on the graphic they opted-in to see the video. The change doubled the number of email subscribers I get from my homepage."

ChristianPF's homepage before.

ChristianPF's homepage after adding a pop-up opt-in.

Case study #3:

John Corcoran, founder of Smart Business Revolution, demonstrates how heat maps can give you valuable insights that boost your email signups:

“My index page used to be just my blog, with the most recent blog post at the top. Then Noah [Kagan] advised me to change that page to a landing page, like he did with OKDork, and it more than doubled my conversion rate on my index page overnight. For awhile, my index page was even getting 20% conversion, which was amazing.”

Smart Business Revolution's heat map shows visitors are clicking on all the right spots to increase signups.

Notice how the hottest spots of his heat map are where people enter their email addresses, sign up, and visit his blog. No clutter. No distractions. No waste. He had one goal, and he nailed it.


Here’s what to do before using a heat map

Before you jump into heat maps and all the awesomeness it holds, take a step back and ask yourself one — and only one — question:

What is the one thing I want my visitor to do?

Wait, just one thing? Yep. Having only one thing creates focus and clarity. The more choices visitors have or actions you want them to do, the less likely they will do any of them. Instead, funnel them to one goal, and watch your conversion rates skyrocket.  (For a complete guide on how to think through the process, set up a heat map and analyze the results, check out What We Learned From 1,000,000 Heat Map Clicks.)

That’s it.

Everything you do as a result of the heat map can be focused by asking, “Does this help us get more email subscribers?” If so, great! If not, don’t do it (yet).

For example, at OkDork.com, the main focus is to get email subscribers. Noah Kagan created a homepage gate to funnel visitors to his main objective. No banners, no extra pages, and no sliders. Just good clean copy and tasty tacos.

OKDork's goal is to get more email subscribers, so the opt-in form is front and center.


Here’s how to get your heat map

While there are a number of paid options, SumoMe's Heat Maps is a free alternative. Better still, installing Heat Maps by SumoMe takes less than 5 minutes — which is less time than it takes to warm up your tacos — and it works on all websites. It even has a plugin for WordPress if you’re not code savvy.

A) Install SumoMe by following the instructions here for HTML or Wordpress.

  • Register a Free Account
  • Click on the SumoMe badge in the top right of your site. Sign up to register your account.
  • Click the badge again to get to your apps. Click on the green Sumo Store logo.
  • Scroll down to Analytics and click Heat Maps.
  • Click Install to add Heat Maps to your site


B) Start a Heat Map Campaign.

  • Click on the SumoMe badge and click the "Flame" to start a new campaign.
  • A message will pop up asking if you want to start recording. Click "Yes."
  • Now the campaign is active.

Click the flame to start a new Heat Map campaign.


Use the results to get more email subscribers

Once you get a good amount of data — anywhere from one to three weeks — look at the visual click data and ask yourself:

  • Where are people clicking?
  • Is it a certain link or certain image?
  • Left-side dominant? Right-side dominant?
  • At the top of the page? Middle? Bottom?
  • Is that what I want?
  • What can I eliminate to get people to focus on what I want?
  • Where can I move my email opt-in to catch more eyes and clicks?

That's just the start of what you can infer about your visitors' behavior on your site.

Just make sure to listen to what your visitors are telling you. As a rule of thumb, start with changes that you can do immediately — i.e. eliminate poor images and links in the sidebar, moving your opt-in area to an easier-to-see area, etc. Over time, you can work on overhauling your entire site if that’s what you want, but for now, focus on the small tweaks that can quickly boost your conversion rates.


Anthony J. Yeung writes for SumoMe.com — free tools to grow your website. He is also fitness columnist for AskMen and Men’s Fitness and the Content Strategist for a SF-based startup. He’s also the founder of Growth Addiction where he interviews bestselling authors, innovators, and everyone in between to learn how they grow in business and life.