This is the kick off  to our annual January Blog Challenge: 31 Days To Clean Up Your Blog. What better time than January to sit down and review your blog? Over the 31 days we'll be sharing 31 tips, ideas, and strategies for you to deal with all those pesky maintenance tasks, take steps to grow in the new year and make blogging easier. This is Day 24.

31 Day Blog Challenge Day 24: Heat Maps & Blog Navigation

Using heat maps can help you understand how your users spend time on your website and can help you improve navigation and user experience.

One of the things we've stressed over and over again during this series is making it easy for your readers to find what they're looking for on your site.   Nothing is more frustrating than finding a site with content you love but... you can't find that review you read three of months ago of the new BBQ joint you want to check out or, that recipe for pecan pie.

Have you ever actually stood over somebody's shoulder and watched how they use your site? Too creepy? Try using a heat map!

What is A Heat Map?

Heat maps are pieces of software that track and analyze how people move around on your website. They use colour to help you understand where people click and how far they scroll among other things.

The results can be eye opening and can help you determine everything from where your best ad placements should be to what content users expect to be able to interact with and whether they're struggling with your recipe index. Often, very small changes based on heat map data can result in big changes in traffic, revenue, email signups, or interest in your products or books.

It all depends on what you want to track and what you want to improve.

There are a couple of heat map services that are quite well known in the blogging community: Crazy Egg and Hot Jar. But there are many others to investigate as well.  They are almost always paid services based on your traffic - although some may offer a free trial.

When Should I Use a Heat Map?

As bloggers and digital content creators we're usually very savvy at navigating the online world - which is great. But we tend to forget that's not the case for a lot of people.

Understanding your demographics from your google analytics reports and teaming that up with heat map data can really give you a sense of who's using your site and how.  And as technology changes so rapidly, user habits adapt quickly. Something on your site that people knew would be static two years ago might be something they expect to interact with today.  A heat map can show you that.

You don't need to use a heat map service all the time. But running one for a few months can be a good way to see what's working and what's not - especially if you're really struggling with one aspect of your blog that just doesn't seem to be performing the way you think it should.

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One of the best times to use a heat map is when a site redesign is in your near future. They can give you so much information about how people navigate your site and that information can then be incorporated into your new site design to make for an intuitive user experience.

Improving Your Website Navigation

Whether you choose to use a heat map service or not, it's a good idea to regularly review your website navigation and make regular improvements. This includes:

  • your desktop version menu bars
  • your mobile menus
  • your recipe or review indexes (more on that below)
  • your home page layout
  • your blog post layout
  • your sidebars
  • jump to recipe and social share buttons
  • print recipe buttons
  • ad placements

Making continual small adjustments to these can have a big impact on user friendliness. If you use a heat map service it can help you gauge the success of your changes.

Recipe or Review Indexes

Whether you review restaurants or write recipes it doesn't matter - you should have an easy to navigate index for your readers. The principals behind creating an index are the same regardless of which food blog niche you fall in.

You are basically creating an index for your readers just like you would if they were reading a travel guide or a cookbook. All the desserts in one, easy to find spot. All the Vancouver pizza restaurants in one, easy to find spot.

Using your blog's categories or tags is a simple way to create a basic index. It can be done in your menu by creating drop down menus in your navigation or on a specific index page on your site.

Certain blog themes will allow you to easily create a visual index without any additional help.

If you want to get fancy and create a visual index from scratch or an index that offers additional filtering (like by dinners by ingredient) you may need help from a plugin or a developer. But most bloggers should be able to create a basic text index without any help!

As you can see, there are lots of ways and tools to create an easier to navigate website. Take some time to do a little research into how you can make your readers have a great experience!

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One Comment

Joanne T Ferguson

G’day! Great site suggestions; visually always enjoy!
What do people think of Tag Clouds vs photo gallery tiles?
Both have their merit on different types of websites, but I always think people need/want a QUICK way to access recipes they might like to look for without the home page being too visually busy.
I am continuing to enjoy the challenges too!
Cheers! Joanne

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