When you create an email marketing campaign, you’re beginning a process. As people open your emails and click on the links, you start looking at the numbers and find patterns.
Email heat mapping is the practice of creating pictures from these patterns. Using a heat map not only aids visual learners but it reveals patterns — relating to the layout or design of your email campaign — that can make it easier for you to identify what’s working and what isn’t.
Similarly, if you want to get the most out of email tracking software, you need tools to see the whole picture — and the actual pictures created by email heat mapping help.
What is an email heat map?
An email heat map visually represents how people interacted with an email, shows which links are most popular, and gives the percentage of people who clicked on them.
In the email heat map example below, the bright spots show all links or calls to action (CTAs) that someone clicked on, and the number of clicks each link or CTA got.
How do I create a heat map?
A good professional email provider should offer heat maps as part of its email tracking software.
However, if your email service doesn’t create heat maps but does detail your clicks, you can make your own heat map with a digital design tool such as Canva or even by printing out a copy of the email. Simply highlight those areas of the email that generate clicks and mark how many each received.
What are email heat maps used for?
Heat maps help you understand how subscribers experience your campaigns. They provide insight into overall engagement and the success of your CTAs, which is information you can use to optimize future campaigns by focusing on what works best for your audience.
Heat maps are most interesting when your email includes multiple links, but they can be useful even if you only have one connecting a CTA’s performance to the email’s layout and design.
The importance of clicks
The click-through rate is the percentage of people who clicked on a link in your email, and it’s an important metric for measuring an email campaign’s efficacy.
Your goal is to drive customers from their inboxes to your website or business, and clicks reveal whether your messages are engaging your audience and motivating them to take action beyond their inboxes.
In the United States, the average click-through of all marketing emails is 2.6%, but that number can be interpreted in several ways. Set your email marketing benchmarks with an eye to your industry and clientele.
How to read a heat map
A heat map clearly marks which parts of an email attracted a click and how many. The trick is to figure out the why behind the what, and you may need to rephrase your CTA or review email marketing best practices to do so. You don’t want to overwhelm readers with an abundance of links or information, so a more focused approach may be in order.
When you examine your map, identify all the variables in audience, content, and timing that could affect your results. Doing so ensures you compare apples to apples instead of apples to submarines — context matters if you want to interpret email reports in a way that best helps you increase the number of clicks.
How to improve your email marketing campaign using heat maps
Use email heat maps to determine which elements of your emails are performing well, which ones need improvement, and where there might be further opportunities. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Run a/b tests
A/b testing is an invaluable tool for understanding how users interact with your emails by comparing two versions of a page or element to determine which one performs better. For best effect, run the test on a small section of your audience to decide on the winning version, and then send that one out to the rest of your email list. If that’s not practical for your campaign, you can still use the a/b test results to inform future efforts.
Let’s say that a spa wanted to increase online bookings for their services, which they could do by creating an email campaign that includes links to the spa’s booking page. The first version could place the button in the middle of the email, while the second could save it for the end. It matters that the emails are otherwise identical, limiting the variables that could affect the test.
After the campaign, the spa can apply any resulting insights going forward.
You can also identify content and placement that runs hot by examining previous campaigns that generated some heat. Consider the phrases, positions, and contexts that moved people to click, then leverage those previous victories to optimize your emails.
Trim your content and focus your CTA
If you wind up with a heat map that creates a polka-dotted pattern, you may be overloading your emails. Narrowing the focus lets you direct traffic where it will do the best and leaves you with plenty of material for your next campaign.
Pare down the text and reduce the CTAs to one in order to give future email campaigns a clearer direction. A single CTA tells readers exactly what you want them to do next and makes it much easier for them to receive that message.
Place segment-specific content in hotspots
In case you haven’t heard the news, personalized content and email segmentation are all the rage in email marketing. Learning how to segment an email list can make a huge difference to your email campaigns.
Email segmentation allows you to divide your subscribers into different groups based on criteria such as age, location, or interests, which allows you to tailor content so that subscribers only receive material relevant to them.
Combine segmentation with email heat mapping, which shows you the areas most likely to catch someone’s attention, then tweak your emails for the segments of your list. For example, say you’re running two promotions at once and want to offer both to your full audience. You could take advantage of previously identified hotspots to highlight the best deal for each segment.
Start warming up
A basic understanding of heat maps is pretty intuitive because you just look for the glowing dots, click on them, and read the number of clicks for each. The harder part is interpreting these results and coming up with ways to apply them in future emails. Try to identify all the variables in play, control them when you can, and use information on elements that perform well to position your most attractive offers.
As you continue with email marketing campaigns, you can implement heat maps for each one. You can also look through your heat maps for previous campaigns and pin down one actionable insight about the language, the layout, or the design. Then take advantage of it when creating your next email campaign.
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