14 Sneaky Online Tools Used to Spy On You

You’re in business to cater to your audience, right? In person. Over the phone. Via email. And even passively through your website. Whether they’re prospective customers just checking out your site, loyal subscribers who have yet to purchase anything, or actual paying customers, it doesn’t matter. Every point of contact you have with them counts.

But unless you explicitly ask your audience how you’re doing, how do you really know how they feel about you? This is especially important for your website — one of the most valuable assets in which you’ve no doubt invested a lot of time and money building.

According to Esteban Kolsky of thinkJar:

“Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest churn. A lesson here is that companies should not view absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. The true enemy is indifference.”

The takeaway here is this: if a visitor should feel dissatisfied in any way, don’t trust that they’ll speak up. Unless they’re a long-time paying and loyal customer (and, even then, it’s not a guarantee), why should they go out of their way to let you know your site loaded too slowly or that there was a security warning in their browser? Instead, you’ve got to read between the lines.

If you’re not doing so already, take matters into your own hands. The following list of 14 online tools will help you “spy” on your site’s visitors in an attempt to better understand what you’re doing right with your website… and what you’re doing wrong.

Online Tools to Help You Better Understand Your Visitors’ Behavior (and Needs)

Anyone who takes the time to interact with your brand expects to receive something valuable in exchange. While that something of value may differ from site to site, what remains the same is this: your site’s visitors (and your prospects and customers, in general) never want there to be a disruption to their experience.

Without the right online tools in place, you may never know that there is a disruption. Sure, Google Analytics can usually tip you off to something being amiss, but it’s usually not enough. You can’t afford to rely on analytics to tell the whole story. High bounce rates are bad, but can you even tell what’s caused them?

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There are a number of ways you can go about snooping on your visitors. Analytics tools like Google’s are just the beginning. Consider the following:

Analytics Tools

Let’s start by reviewing the numbers.

  • Okay, I know I just said that Google Analytics isn’t “enough,” but it’s still a necessary part of every business’ spying arsenal. It offers real-time insights on:
  • Who your audience is, including geographic location, demographics, device and browser use, and so on.
  • How they found your website, including social media, organic search, paid search, and more.
  • Where they went once they got on your website and how long they stuck around for.
  • What sort of goals they accomplished on your website, including filling out a form, reading a specific number of pages, making a purchase, etc.
  • There is a lot of information to glean from Google Analytics, so rely on their reporting system to simplify this. By setting up reports that track bounce rates, drops in activity, and any other alarming triggers, you can stay attuned to traffic trends happening on your site in real time.
  • Interested in Google Analytics?
  • Once you’ve got Google Analytics set up on your WordPress website, the next thing you should do is add it to your WordPress dashboard. This will ensure that every time you hop into WordPress that you’re reminded to check in on your site’s activity.
  • There are a number of plugins available that will help you do this, though the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin is one of the most popular and well-reviewed of the lot. It will not only provide you with a snapshot of real-time activity on your site, it will also tell you what’s happening in terms of goal completion, bounce rates, 404 errors, and more.
  • Interested in Google Analytics Dashboard for WP Plugin?
  • Let’s talk about your funnel for a moment. There is an ideal pathway that every website has, from the moment a visitor enters the site until they reach the final point of conversion. You’ve built your website strategically around this. One of the things a basic analytics tool can’t really tell you is what’s happening throughout that funnel. What are your customers doing along the way? What prompts them to leave? And so on.
  • Kissmetrics is a premium service, but it promises more direct insights into on-site behaviors and what you need to do to remedy any hiccups responsible for those undesirable behaviors.
  • Interested in Kissmetrics?
  • If your website is content-heavy and you want more insights into the failures and successes of that content based on your visitors’ behavior, then Chartbeat is a good tool to look into. With a multi-pronged approach, this analytical tool starts by tracking your audience’s behavior (including attention spans, drop-off rates, etc.) as they read your content. It then gives you the ability to adjust and optimize your content in real time based on their behavior.
  • Interested in Chartbeat?

Analytics are the first step in figuring out whether you’ve got a problem on your site or not. Heat maps are the next step to take in troubleshooting what’s going on with your visitors.

  • This particular heat mapping tool is a good one to start with. Not only can you test it out for free, but there is also a plugin you can integrate with WordPress.
  • While each of the heat map online tools you’ll find here basically capture the same type of information, each one has its own unique strengths. This one happens to track cross-platform and -device activity, giving you better insights into weaknesses in your site’s responsive design.
  • Interested in Heatmap?
  • SeeVolution’s heat map technology solution promises customers the opportunity to see:
  • The most commonly clicked spots on their site.
  • The areas where the mouse moves the most (and, consequently, where your visitors pay the most attention).
  • The percentage of people who actually scroll down a page.
  • If you’re curious about how much of your website is being seen or if there are weak spots that aren’t getting the attention they deserve, this heat mapping tool will steer you in the right direction.
  • Interested in SeeVolution?
  • CrazyEgg is very similar to SeeVolution’s heat mapping technology. The main difference here is the Confetti tool.
  • This particular tool not only shows you where people most commonly click on your website, but it segments each of those users based on where they came from or what search terms drew them there. So let’s say you have a high volume of traffic from a particular keyword, but most visitors drop off before taking any action — that’s a good sign your SEO is misleading. For deeper audience insights, this tool is a good one to try.
  • Looking for a free way to use heat maps and not have to leave WordPress to do it? Check out this Hotspots Analytics plugin then. It’ll show you the spots on your site where people click or tap the most. There is also a reports feature to show you click/tap trends over time, which comes in handy if you make alterations to your website and want to see how those changes affected your visitors’ behavior.

Do you have a live chat on your website? If not, you may want to think about getting one simply for its customer insight capabilities.

  • You may think that live chat modules are only for e-commerce companies that need to engage with customers to improve their chances of making a sale. But you’d be surprised at how many uses you can find for a live chat software; one of which is to actively intervene if it looks like visitors may be about to leave.
  • With an online tool like GoSquared, you can establish identities for your visitors, follow along as they travel through your site, and provide them with personalized care and assistance when they engage with you.
  • One of the best things you can do for your site’s visitors is to be proactive about providing support. With a live chat prompt neatly tucked away in the bottom of your site, you don’t have to be pushy about it either. Just let them know you’re there and ready when they need you.
  • This particular one requires that visitors share their email address before they engage, and it also provides you with their “profile” so you know who they are (where they are located, where they were referred from, etc.) This provides you with another opportunity to understand your visitors’ behavior on your site, as well as to intervene if they’re experiencing issues while on it.

If you thought heat maps were cool, then it’s time to check out some more comprehensive online tools that include heat map tracking, website recordings, conversion funnel analysis, and more.

  • If you’re short on time and want to know right away what was clicked, how frequently, and even by whom, heat maps are the way to go. But if you want to watch a play-by-play of what a visitor did on your website, take a look at the Clicktale session replay recorder.
  • This online tool records desktop and mobile visitor sessions on your website. Watch as they move their mouse over your website, scroll down the page, or click through your navigation. Clicktale also includes heat map tracking and conversion funnel analytics, for a more cohesive approach to studying your visitors’ behavior.
  • Hotjar’s another all-in-one visitor tracking tool that gives you all the bells and whistles you need to better understand their behavior — and how your website plays into that. This particular tool, however, has a number of features that are worth checking out if you want to encourage your visitors to speak up, with built-in surveys and polls.
  • By now, you’ve probably noticed that all of these comprehensive tools include the same sort of features. If you’re looking for one that captures everything we’ve mentioned above — and more — check out LuckyOrange. It’s affordable and easy to get started. Here are the various visitor tracking features that come with this one:
  • Analytics dashboard
  • Website recordings
  • Dynamic heatmaps
  • Live chat
  • Conversion funnel analysis
  • Contact and purchase form review
  • Customer feedback polls

Last, but not least, let’s talk about why A/B testing is an absolute must for any professional (website) spy.

  • Although A/B testing isn’t necessarily a tool you can use to actively spy on your visitor’s behaviors, it does help you figure out what makes them tick.
  • So, if you’ve gone through all the analysis, the heat map tracking, the live chatting, and so on, and you have a sneaking suspicion about what may be tripping up your visitors, use A/B testing to confirm that theory. It’s a safer way to test out an alternative approach to your site’s content, design, or conversion funnel, and many of the A/B testing tools are built right into WordPress so you don’t have to go outside the CMS to see what’s going on (or to manage it).

Want your bounce rate to drop and the average time on site to increase? Want to see more conversions with each visit? Want to give your visitors a better experience than they’d ever get from your competitor’s website?

Don’t wait for your visitors to pipe up (because you might have to wait forever for that to happen). Start spying on them now and see what story your website tells.


Originally published at premium.wpmudev.org.