This Surprising Use of Heatmaps Gives Big Wins for SEO

Jeremy Rivera


March 20, 2023 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Heat mapping has surprising uses for SEO

Usually heatmap tools are touted by PPC experts and CRO-focused consultants, but popular Japanese SEO blogger Kenichi Suzuki brought two interesting case studies during Austin’s Pubcon conference in his session “SEO and UX: SEO is all about User eXperience.”

Armed with hands on examples, he laid out two very intriguing applications of heatmap technology that could give SEOs an extra weapon in their arsenal for their on-page optimizations. While he used his own company’s Japanese language only heatmap tool, he suggested in the Q&A session to give Microsoft’s free Clarity analytics tool a chance in this role.

Leverage Insights in Scroll Heatmaps for Improved Rankings

before and after images of a page scroll with the use of a heatmap

In his first case study, he reviewed the scroll behavior of visitors to the article. The read heatmap showed the largest amount of engagement was actually with a portion of content sitting almost at the bottom of the page instead of at the top of the article.

So they changed the structure, changing the order of paragraphs in the text, and found that this had a significant impact on the amount of traffic interacting with the call-to-action section at the end of the article! There was a dramatic increase in signups and activity on the CTA button, moving the usage from absolute 0% to 1.32% of traffic.

This also made them re-evaluate the meta title and header usage, because this aspect of the article was so popular. They also changed the title to match the more popular section. While Kenichi was refreshingly quick to remind the conference attendees that Correlation doesn’t equal Causation, he was able to share that these changes lead to significant improvements to rankings for their target keyword phrase—rising from position 28 to number one over the course of the next six months.

Evaluate Negative Impact of Off-Topic Images

It would be fair to say that most SEOs don’t think very much about images, aside from making sure that they have appropriate file names, title, and alt attributes.

screenshot of a pubcon slide about the use of heatmaps on images

Kenichi’s second case study brings to light that the role of images can actually directly impact your content’s ability to retain visitors, giving you a better outcome for your calls to action to turn eyeballs into dollar signs. He reviewed the “Scroll” interaction of visitors to an article and realized that they had a problem with a particular image on the page.

screenshot of pubcon slide that talks about the rankings with use of a heatmap

They modified the H1 of the page, the opening sentence, and the copy on the image, so they were no longer duplicate. Not only did they increase the percentage of users by 24% who scrolled further down the page, but they also saw a ranking improvement for a relevant keyword phrase that put them on the first page.

Again, leavening expectations for replicating the process by re-iterating that correlation doesn’t always prove causation, I think SEOs can all see the wisdom behind adding a review of your content performance outside of the single metric of keyword performance to discover areas for improvement. Utilize best practices for user experience to increase the depth of interaction and improve the percentage of users who stay on-page. This, in turn, will improve your content’s performance in a positively cyclical fashion as your edits appeal better to searchers and search engines as well.

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Jeremy Rivera

With over 17+ years in SEO, Jeremy Rivera has worked with enterprise level companies and literally hundreds of small businesses in dozens of industries. His skills have been used at nationally recognized SEO SaaS companies, SEO agencies and multiple years of running his own freelance consulting business. He specializes in building SEO forecasting models, understanding how data and software can augment SEO campaigns and how to help overcome technical SEO challenges to supercharge SEO outcomes.

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