Over the last 6 years or so tools like Hotjar and Lucky Orange have become an indispensable tool in the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and UX toolbox.
We’ve reached a point where you’d have to pull Hotjar from our cold, dead hands to make us give it up – that’s how important these tools are for us. But we’ve noticed that most clients and plenty of marketers still don’t understand the full benefit of this technology.
So we’ve taken the time to address some of our favorite features and toughest sources of friction for session-recording newbies. Keep reading for answers to our clients’ top questions about these invaluable tools.
Google Analytics is one of the most powerful weapons in a marketer’s arsenal – but it does have some big limitations. GA is a powerful tool which experienced users can use to extract all sorts of insights and stories about users behavior on your site. What it doesn’t provide is the ability to see precisely how users are interacting with your site.
Google Analytics is great to identify the what – that users are backing out before converting on a particular e-commerce page, for example. But it can’t always tell you a whole lot of useful info about why users are backing out.
Seeing session recordings helps marketers to identify the precise issues which are generating friction for users. That real-time view is vital to identifying problems that need further investigation and insights that you couldn’t get with Google Analytics alone.
Yes! CRO isn’t just for large companies. It’s true that some
techniques – like A/B testing – are only relevant once a site reaches
a given number of conversions.
But a great deal of insight can be extracted from qualitative approaches such as heuristic analysis,
copy teardowns, and of course, tools like Hotjar and Lucky Orange. While A/B testing might require conversions in the thousands before becoming practical, session recordings can produce useful insights for even very low traffic sites.
In some cases, just a handful of recordings can help marketers to notice repeating patterns of user behavior that point to problems getting in the way of conversion. This kind of qualitative data can point to UX and messaging improvements before you find yourself with a lot of traffic and thousands of frustrated users.
Session recordings can generate an overwhelming quantity of recordings for high traffic pages, making it a challenge to extract useful insights – if recordings aren’t properly organized.
Locked in, locked out
In short, yes! We can connect hotjar with Google Analytics using hotjar’s User Attributes feature, which allows us to collect extra data from Google Analytics. Including the Google Analytics user ID.
After the snippet is installed, the client ID from GA will be associated with future recordings, allowing us to find recordings connected to specific GA users. The result? A powerful shortcut to zoom into the behavior of specific users and figure out the whys behind GA’s whats.
As we mentioned, Google Analytics and session recordings both have some shortcomings when viewed in isolation, and this question is another great example of the need to combine them the best out of each tool.
By using analytics data, we can select pages by defined criteria like pages with the highest or lowest numbers of visits, most time consuming pages, or pages with highest and lowest conversion rate. This way we can use GA to identify where optimization is required and Hotjar/Lucky Orange to figure out why.
For the pages we identify, we begin by checking the heatmaps and session recordings which both Hotjar and Lucky Orange automatically create for each page.
The owner of the website can add some pages to blacklist so they won’t be collected. But by default, every page, which is at least once visited by user, and will be created as a heatmap, in Lucky Orange and hotjar.
While there are a number of differences between the two tools, overall they have very similar functionality. In most cases, either can give great results. But there are some notable differences.
One thing we’ve notices is that hotjar has a better ability to share recordings. This makes it easier to discuss our thoughts about specific recordings with the team and include them in our reports.
Another big difference is data retention – Hotjar’s 365 day policy means you can always go back to what you saw and have proofs for that. By comparison, Lucky Orange’s 30 day data retention policy creates some limitations.
That being said, we’d recommend comparing the price, what they offer, and how that fits for your company. Moreover, both tools have some free options, so it’s always okay to try for a couple of weeks and then decide what’s more convenient.
First step is to make a spreadsheet of the issues we notice with columns for specific issues, detailed descriptions, and recommendations or fixes. We should also include a column with links to two to three recordings so we have visual proof that we can show
to the client or other stakeholders and review as needed.
We thought it would be interesting for readers to see exactly what this looks like, so we’ve included a link to our template to help you get started documenting these types of findings.
How long is a piece of string? Really though – some issues can be noticed, grouped, and understood after watching just a handful of sessions. But for more subtle problems, you might need to watch dozens.
The number of pages a particular site has is a big factor too. If your site has a very large number of pages it will be important to watch a lot more recordings to understand what’s getting in the way of conversions. In short, it’s very dependent on the specific problem, and you won’t know for sure until you sit down to watch the recordings.
Just like combining Hotjar and Lucky Orange with Google Analytics, combining either of these tools with moderated user research opens up a whole new level of understanding our users.
Compared to Analytics alone, session recordings are incredibly useful, but they have one big shortcoming: it’s not possible to interact with real users and ask questions about what they’re doing and why. One good way to get that kind of insight is moderated user research.
But of course that comes with its own problems – it’s both expensive and time consuming. Session recordings, heatmaps, and click maps help us cut down on costs by identifying potential problems and hypothesising what’s happening before we invest in costly moderated research.
Intuition is useful… and dangerous. It’s a tricky one, because when you get it right it can save a lot of time. But even the most skilled CRO specialists aren’t always going to get it right.
And while intuition can develop with time, sometimes it’s the most experienced analysts who are too attached to their interpretation. So you have to be VERY careful to avoid putting your subjective point of view on what’s happening.
Of course, if something that you see is very obvious, then you can be fairly sure of it… or not.
If there’s any doubt, it’s better to generate a hypothesis and test that on real users so you can be sure you’re not just interpreting the data to match your expectations.
Our first recommendation is having some shared place where stakeholders can access our analysis and findings from user research. If they’re going to navigate the ocean of data, it’s also worth revisiting our tagging to make sure that recordings are organized into groups, sections, and so on.
But having a shared space to present findings is only the beginning if you’re at the stage where you’re investing heavily in CRO. At this stage it’s worth considering how to establish a pervasive culture of experimentation in your business that informs everything you do, from product development to customer support.
To begin, proper tracking and configuration is step number zero. If we have issues with Tracking and Data Collection, then we will have contaminated results. As the old saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.”
Next step is to make sure we’re properly tagging our session recordings into buckets so we don’t have one huge mass of recordings to sift through.
After we get our tagging fixed up, we can allocate a certain amount of time on a weekly basis to just go through recordings and analytics, make notes, and try to formulate some hypotheses. But as useful as these tools are, we can’t view them in isolation.
Of course, establishing a culture of CRO in your business is a complex endeavor. We’ll be covering the process in-depth in a future series of posts on our soon-to-be relaunched site at altamedia.co.
In the meantime, if anything’s not clear, the team is always happy to share our knowledge and insights. Just send us a message!
I run Altamedia. We help Clients increase conversion rates, get more sales, improve the bottom line.
Listening and learning. Then advising and acting. Covering inbound, UX, user journeys, A/B tests, data analysis.
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