8 Things Your Email Heat Map is Telling You

Amie Perrott

The hot summer weather reminds me of one of my favorite email reporting tools – the email activity heat map!

I’m always looking to optimize and increase email campaign performance and the heat map quickly helps me evaluate click traffic and trends. I walk away with actionable items to tweak or ideas for what to A/B test.

This is me when I save time and uncover an idea from the heat map, but I have more hair and generally don’t wear goggles and gloves.

What is a Heat Map?

The short answer to that question is a report that provides a visual indicator of click activity in an email.

The warmer colors indicate more clicks while the cooler colors indicate fewer clicks.

My answer, however, is longer. A heat map is a mega-awesome solution that quickly illustrates exactly where readers are clicking in emails. When I need to get a quick gauge on click behavior or hot spots of engagement, the heat map delivers.

It’s like pre-peeled potatoes when you need to make a last-minute meal (stay with me). You buy pre-peeled potatoes instead of peeling 25 pounds of spuds to make grandma’s Monster Potato Mash. The point is, sometimes there’s a quick alternative that helps you get to your goals.

Of course, you don’t throw your email activity reports and performance analytics out the window. The heat map doesn’t replace deeper analytics. It’s another way to help us visual learners.

Why Use a Heat Map

Here are just a couple of reasons why this type of report is so helpful.

  • Get visual direction of reader behavior: You can literally see what resonates with your audience without having to dive into reports. This way, you have insight into what types of language and resources are effective.
  • Placement of key messaging: Quickly figure out where to place key messaging and calls to action to increase conversions.
  • Ideas for A/B testing: The subject line isn’t the only element to test in email marketing (but it’s one of the easiest). The visual of link performance can trigger more inspiration for testing.
  • Identify opportunities: The heat map can uncover areas and subscribers for re-marketing or other nurture/re-engagement campaigns.

What to Do Next

I’ve uncovered a few email activity trends from heat map results. Perhaps these findings might inspire all you email marketers out there. Test one out – you might be surprised.

Move the call-to-action button above bullets.

If you don’t use bullets in your emails why not give it a try? Bullets make your content more scannable. I prefer the look of a call-to-action (CTA) button below bullets. But click traffic tells me to move the button above the bullets.

Email heat map with button below bullets.

Email heat map with button above bullets.

Link the text before a button.

It took a heat map for me to realize that linked text received just as many (sometimes more) clicks than a button. In the example below, three locations around the button are linked. I consider any organized click pattern a win. Now I consistently link at least the title of the resource or event.

Effectively organize your content.

For a specific transactional email, the heat map illustrated that I needed to re-order the bullets to minimize the risk of losing a reader. After the switch, the results were exactly as anticipated – the most active first and the least last.

Forgotten real estate in pre-headers and P.S. Lines.

Try linking the pre-header text and P.S. line in an email. You’ll be surprised at how many clicks you’ll get.

Linked pre-header

P.S. line linked

Identify a separate email.

I found that one email in an automated campaign didn’t gain conversions in terms of resource downloads. Instead, the most traffic came from the social icons in the footer. As a result, I added an email focus on socially connecting.

No clear pattern might indicate a problem.

Sometimes the heat map shows no clear consistent pattern. I’ve realized there were too many links in a particulate type of email (yes, this is possible). I know it’s counter-intuitive to link less.

According to the 2017 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report emails containing between 3-7 links and emails with 31 or more links had higher click rates. That said, too many links can be distracting based on the type of email. Yes Virginia, I’ve linked less and found that it works.

Re-market opportunity identified.

A hotspot shed light on an opportunity to build in a campaign step to see if someone clicked on a particular link and didn’t (or did) convert. I’ve done a few things in this instance, send someone down a different automated campaign path or re-market via an email or a notification to give this person a call.

A/B Testing Opportunity.

It’s easy to get in the habit of only A/B testing subject lines. Heat maps have identified elements that triggered an idea to test either button color, headline text, images and more!


Heat map technology is not an exact science for targeting and personalizing content. As an email marketer, you need to find what resonates with your audience to ensure you’re engaging them, not simply emailing. The email activity heat map is another piece of the pie.

I wish I had a heat map for lots of things in my life – like finding a gift for the person that has everything. I need visual dots that point me into the right direction.

There’s lot’s of talk about automated campaigns in this blog. Have you started using marketing automation to deliver a targeted experience? Not sure you need it? Check out our blog covering 8 signs that you need marketing automation.

About the Author
Amie Perrott

As a Marketing Specialist at Informz, Amie plans, executes and analyzes email marketing campaigns for the marketing department. She loves the hunt of finding just the right subject line, CTA or preheader (and secretly takes unsubscribes to heart). Outside of work, she's enjoying (or fighting) the battle of raising a very assertive toddler.