The Rocket Blog

Heatmaps. So hot right now.

Crazy Egg vs Google Analytics: A Rotten Egg

Click tracking is phenomenally insightful. It allows webmasters to go beyond pageviews and basic navigation reports by showing the links and elements users actually click. That data has all kinds of implications for design, UX, CRO, PPC, UPS, BBC, SEO, REO Speedwagon, and all kinds of other acronyms.

Recently, I’ve seen an uptick in people using heatmaps for click tracking (or as a proxy for eye movement). From what I can tell, it seems like heatmaps, scroll maps, confetti maps, etc., are primarily deployed to make half-baked blog posts look like minor scientific studies. 

Are heatmaps really that useful? Are they actually telling us anything or are they just big, cool-looking graphics and not much else?

I was the kid in elementary school who questioned whether your mood ring actually had any correlation to your mood. I've never been able to trust rainbow gradients for user analysis, and accordingly I saw no reason to trust all the heatmaps in blog posts.


(As you can see in the picture to the right, the left side of the ring is converting at an extremely high rate. Usability tests show the right side of the ring at the bottom is not engaging users at all. Very insightful.)

At any rate, if you do subscribe to things like mood rings and the "enhance" effect, Crazy Egg and ClickTale are the two best-known providers of heatmaps, and are great places to start. As far as free solutions go, heatmap.js is an excellent if you have the chops for it. I chose to try out Crazy Egg first. 

After visiting Crazy Egg’s website for the first time (this was a few months ago), I was even more skeptical of the whole heatmap trend.

Is Crazy Egg misleading people or just misinformed?

Crazy Egg’s copy seemed to really lean on how their click tracking was superior to Google Analytics overlay. Fair enough—with all the features Crazy Egg is loaded with, sure, it’s obviously superior to Google Analytics for click tracking.

My problem was, at the time, they were using some misleading claims around GA’s overlay report as a selling point. Not to go all watchdog on Crazy Egg, but consider the following claims, which were still up on Crazy Egg’s site in June 2013.

“Here is the problem with Google Analytics overlay:

 Let’s say you have two links that go to the same place and one of them gets 15 clicks and the other one gets 25 clicks. In Crazy Egg you’ll see 15 and 25… whereas in Google Analytics you’ll see those two links with 40 clicks each. […] that deficiency on the overlay is one of the main reasons we built Crazy Egg.”

That claim is not entirely false; it’s not entirely true, either. The above claim would apply to the default installation of Google Analytics. However, experienced analytics users know enhanced link attribution, which was rolled out in November of 2012 (eight months prior to when I saw these claims), solves that problem.

They also had this comparison chart at the time:

crazy egg chart

I contacted Crazy Egg about those claims at the time. To their credit, they corrected it soon thereafter. They changed the copy and updated the chart. They left a testimonial up that makes that claim, but since it’s probably an older testimonial, I can’t really call them out on it. It could have legitimately been an unintentional oversight. Crazy Egg has software to build, not copy to monitor.

Nonetheless, when you’re in the business of selling things (particularly when your business revolves around making webmasters more acutely aware of what affects conversion rates), it's certainly more challenging to explain those oversights as honest mistakes.

On the current version of their website, the “problem with Google Analytics” now is that it doesn’t keep a visual record of the page. Fair enough.


crazy egg chart

Not to mention that Google Analytics does offer scheduled reports—not for in-page analytics though, which I guess is what they mean. Why isn't this clear anywhere on the site?

They also have some other claims around the site—which are still on their website as of October 3rd, 2013—that don’t particularly make sense, but are more like bias rather than just misinformed and/or misleading:

reasons why crazy egg is better than google analytics

Three out of five of those reasons are highly questionable and the other two are just weak.

“2. Plug leaks in your sales funnel”

Google Analytics has far more sophisticated funnel reports than Crazy Egg.

“3. Segment your traffic.”

Google Analytics segmentation is so much more sophisticated than Crazy Egg’s segmentation, I’m surprised they would even try to pass that claim on anybody, particularly now that analytics offers visitor-based segmentation as well.

“4. Track actions to the link.”

Eh, oh well. Maybe I gave them too much credit above.

Again, this isn’t really to say that Crazy Egg is a bad product. They just have some questionable copy on their website.

At any rate, I did eventually wind up trying Crazy Egg. I’ll continue with the review of the platform in part II of this post (spoiler alert... I actually like Crazy Egg) at a later date. 

UPDATE: For part II, read this post.