Read more: in this separate piece about how to increase your conversion rate, we share a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) cheat sheet that helps you get inside your users’ heads, remove barriers-to-purchase, and boost conversion rates by employing tools such as heatmaps, surveys, and session recordings together.
Hotjar vs Google Analytics: it’s not an either/or (and why you should use both)
If you came here thinking you have to choose between Google Analytics and Hotjar, let us stop you right there: Hotjar is not meant to be a Google Analytics replacement, and we do not recommend that you pick one over the other.
At Hotjar, we're big fans of Google Analytics (GA)—we use it on a daily basis, and most of our customers do the same. Hotjar is built to give added depth to the insights you get from GA: using them together, you can answer questions about the behavior and needs of your users that GA alone can’t ever answer for you.
Because the two tools are fundamentally different, we’ll avoid a feature-by-feature comparison and instead cover:
- What is Google Analytics?
- What you can (and cannot) do in GA
- What is Hotjar?
- What you can do in Hotjar
- How to use Google Analytics + Hotjar to grow your business
(if you’re already familiar with Google Analytics and Hotjar individually, we recommend that you skip straight to the relevant How to use Google Analytics + Hotjar to grow your business section).
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics (GA) is a tool offered by Google that helps you collect, analyze, and report on website traffic data.
It exists both in a free and enterprise version; the former is ideal for individuals and small-to-medium-sized businesses, while the latter is for larger enterprises that need advanced functionality, integrations, and unlimited data collection.
What you can use Google Analytics for
After being installed on your site, Google Analytics is constantly recording data—every page view, bounce, drop-off, conversion is logged, along with every user’s traffic source, pages visited, country of origin, etc.
Using these data points, GA lets you dig deep into how different traffic segments interact with your website. For example, you can:
- Compare conversion rate of traffic from paid ad, social media, and search engine traffic
- Find landing pages with the highest drop-off rates
- Determine which pages have the biggest impact on your goals—for example, high-traffic pages where customers go before either converting or leaving
- Determine which country/market has the highest conversion rate
- Discover which landing page has the best/worst conversion rate
- Determine which product purchases result in the most return business, in which market
- ...and a whole lot of other use cases.
What Google Analytics won’t let you do
GA keeps an ultimate log of pretty much everything that’s happening on your website—but numbers and graphs alone can’t tell you what’s happening from the perspective of your users. By itself, GA cannot reveal:
- What need or goal drove potential customers to your site in the first place
- Why people bounce from your pages
- What your visitors are thinking as they browse through each page
- Whether users have questions that remain unanswered
- What kind of information is missing from your pages
- Whether visitors found what they came for and left happily vs. left in frustration after getting stuck or being unable to do what they came to your site for
In other words, GA shows you what’s happening on your website, but it doesn't tell you why things are happening.
With web analytics you're seeing a clean set of events, like: someone visited the homepage → clicked on a button → visited a pricing page, and you get information such as how much time they spent on a page.
The problem is: what happened in between those things? And what happened when they got there?
Maybe the time on page is high because a lot of people are actually scrolling down, they’re lost, they can’t find something. Maybe they got to the page by mistake and now they’re stuck.
So looking at what happens between those events is where it becomes really interesting. That's where you get the juicy stuff.
Without knowing the motivations behind user behavior, what people want from your pages and products, where they get confused, and where their attention goes, it will take you longer to make the right improvements to your website—because, at best, you can make educated guesses about what people may or may not need from it.
The solution: relying on complementary insights from behavior analytics software, which is where Hotjar comes in.
What is Hotjar?
Hotjar is behavior analytics software for any business selling online. It’s designed to help you:
- See how people interact with your website
- Investigate whether visitors encounter problems or issues in their journey
- Collect direct feedback from customers about your website experience
Like Google Analytics, Hotjar exists both in a free and a paid version—the former available to anyone, forever, and the latter for businesses with high-traffic volumes and/or advanced customization, tracking, and integration needs.
Sidenote: it’s likely impossible to take a photo of all of Google’s employees (of which there are over 100k spread across 70 physical offices across the globe), but it’s relatively easy to take one of the entire Hotjar team—there’s about 100 of us. Hi 👋
We are a 100% distributed company, and meet in person just twice a year. This was one of those two times last year (2019), back in December.
What you can use Hotjar for
While GA tells you what is happening—conversions are going down, bounce rate is going up, etc.—Hotjar can help you understand why. Hotjar gives context to Google Analytics’ data and answers behavioral questions about your visitors and customers that GA can’t, such as:
- Where on a page visitors get stuck and struggle before dropping off
- How they interact with individual page elements and sections
- What they are interested in or ignoring
- What kind of information they expect to find
- What they want from your website or product
This happens with a set of tools that coexist within Hotjar’s dashboard, including:
Heatmaps → heatmaps give an at-a-glance understanding of how people interact with an individual website page by showcasing 'hot' and 'cold' interaction spots (which in turn help you notice trends and optimization opportunities to drive more engagement where you want it).
Session Recordings → recordings reconstruct your users’ journey across the website so you can observe how users move around, what they click on or ignore as they browse, and whether they encounter any issues or obstacles on their way.
Polls → on-page surveys (which we call ‘Polls’) help you collect feedback from your visitors and discover what they think about your products, brand, and website experience.
Incoming Feedback → a feedback widget that can be installed on any page of your website, giving users the chance to leave comments without being actively prompted.
How to use Google Analytics and Hotjar to grow your business
By now you probably understand why we started this piece by saying that Google and Hotjar are not opposite, but rather complementary tools. Here are 5 of the most common scenarios where you can use them together to get maximum insight:
#1 Improving conversion rate on your website
When your goal is to improve website conversions, you need a clear understanding of where opportunities and blockers lie. There are times when something is obvious from GA alone (for example, you could notice that a broken checkout page stops 100% of visitors from completing their order), but other times there’s nothing apparently wrong in GA reports and yet your numbers are still going down. When this happens,
📈 Use Google Analytics to:
- Discover which pages get the highest/lowest number of visits
- Find out which traffic sources are more likely to convert
- Identify which page visits lead to the most/least conversions
- Spot weak points in your conversion funnel and determine your most problematic pages
🔥 Use Hotjar to:
- Watch session recordings of the problematic pages you’ve identified
- Get a better understanding of what makes people stumble and eventually leave the website
- Collect visitor feedback to uncover why people are leaving, what products or services are missing from the site, and what you would need to add/remove/change to make potential customers convert
#2 Before and after a website redesign or launch
A website redesign can have a huge impact on your business: a well-executed job can lift conversions significantly, but a poorly executed one could actually tank traffic and conversions in just a few hours after launch. If you’re approaching the release of major changes to your site,
📈 Use Google Analytics:
- Before a redesign, to identify pages that you need to handle with extreme care (you can follow this research process)
- After a redesign, to monitor and compare performance
🔥 Use Hotjar:
- Before a redesign, to understand how visitors behave on individual pages and throughout the journey
- Before a redesign, to get user feedback on what works and what people would like to see improved
- After launching changes, to identify bugs or issues that can impact your visitors (something you will never be able to diagnose with analytics alone)
- After launching changes, to collect and compare feedback on the updated experience
Read more: check out this complete guide to website redesign that focuses on the research process to follow when combining data from Hotjar and Google Analytics, and this 3-step checklist you can use when launching changes to your website: it will help you stay on top of major issues and deploy fixes in real time.
#3 When you want to improve your customers’ experience
Website redesigns and conversion-improving initiatives are usually one-off events, but great customer experience requires daily focus—if you have multiple people making multiple changes (content, pricing, new product lines, new support methods, etc.) to your site then you'll probably want to keep a constant eye on your customers' experience, both to analyze what can be improved and to source and investigate customer feedback.
📈 Use Google Analytics to:
- See which paths people take on your website
- Clarify which pages they visit, and how long they stay on each
🔥 Use Hotjar to:
- Review session recordings to see how people interact with your website and identify potential bugs or broken elements in the experience
- Collect in-the-moment feedback
- Ask questions about what’s working and what isn’t, so you can read in your users’ words why they make the choices they make—including not purchasing your product/service
#4 When you need buy-in from management, clients, colleagues
Say GA shows a high drop-off rate on your product pages, and your boss/colleague/client is convinced that people are leaving because the content is too long and demands that the page be simplified. How do you prove or disprove this assumption? And how can you use data to demonstrate the way forward and bring everybody on board with the decision?
📈Use Google Analytics to:
- Observe website activities at scale and highlight problem areas (like the high drop-off rate on a specific set of pages from the example)
🔥 Use Hotjar to:
- Collect data points and feedback about how people really use your website, and add it to the presentations/reports you share with stakeholders, colleagues, and/or clients
For example, you could discover that users want more information rather than less. You can now make a business case to revise the content and provide fuller descriptions; you’ll also likely get the green light to test the new descriptions and see what effect they have on the drop-off rate.
#5 When your business embraces digital transformation
‘Digital transformation’ has been a buzzword for a while, but the process of consolidating all customer experiences into one, connecting the online and offline parts of a business, is still very current. Combining GA and Hotjar you can develop a holistic understanding of your customers and their journey across your website, motivations, and behavior.
📈Use Google Analytics to:
- Track and report on large-scale behavior patterns on your website
- Drive paid marketing decisions
- Measure user journeys and compare usage patterns
- Validate changes to improve the user experience
🔥 Use Hotjar to:
- Visually understand how users interact with your pages and see barriers to conversion
- Ask customers what drove them to your site
- Collect feedback on the experience, including the level of effort required to complete an action and the likelihood to recommend the website/product to other potential customers
Build and refine customer journey maps that cover both online and offline experiences
Hotjar and Google Analytics—what people have to say
Hotjar is a great complement to Google Analytics, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Here is a collection of Hotjar reviews taken from popular review sites Capterra and TrustRadius where verified Hotjar users make a similar point:
”Gives great insight… in addition to Google Analytics”
”We also correlate Hotjar insights with Google Analytics”
”Analytics is great… but being able to watch recordings is very useful”
”Great addition to any analytics toolkit”
”Provides the added depth that most analytics packages don’t have”
”Google Analytics provide(s) information about how you acquired the user but Hotjar shows you what the users are doing”
”Provides context to data like Google Analytics”
...Ready to give it a try?
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Frequently asked questions about GA and Hotjar
What is the purpose of Google Analytics?
Google Analytics allows companies to collect, measure, report, and analyze website traffic data. Companies can then use the data to test changes and achieve goals such as increasing traffic, boosting conversion rates, lowering ad spend, and improving user engagement.
Why is Google Analytics important?
By showing where traffic comes from, which pages users visit after landing on the site, how much time they spend on each page, etc., GA gives organizations a clear picture of their entire website ecosystem, helping them use this information to better achieve their goals.
Can I combine GA with Hotjar?
Yes! Regardless of the size of your company, you can use Hotjar to better understand your customers at every stage of the customer journey. GA will tell you what is happening on the page, and Hotjar’s tools can help you discover why users behave the way they do.
What are popular analytics tools to track website visitors?
According to website profiler BuiltWith, in Feb 2020 the following companies are collectively responsible for tracking user behavior on over one million websites (and we’re proud to say that Hotjar made the list).
Google Analytics is the most popular website analytics tool, giving users a wide range of data from one of the world’s largest technology companies.
Google Site Tag
Google's primary tag for Google Measurement/Conversion Tracking, Adwords and DoubleClick.
Facebook Pixel, Facebook Signal, and Facebook Conversion Tracking
These Facebook tools allow organizations to track users behavior on your website, and interface with your Facebook Ads Manager dashboard.
Rapleaf specialize in automation tools help brands keep their customers engaged.
New Relic specializes in analytics for browser-side software application performance.
Hotjar offers a suite of tools to help businesses selling online understand their users on a deeper level, including heat maps for aggregate user data, surveys, polls, feedback widgets, funnel analysis, and session recordings.
Yandex Metrica offers web analytics, heatmaps, recordings, and other tools.
LiveRamp helps companies analyze data and refine messaging to better target potential customers.