How I recorded user behaviour on my competitor’s websites

By Dan Petrovic

Here’s what I did:

  1. User lands on my page (referrer: google)
  2. When they hit “back” button in Chrome, JS sends them to my copy of SERP
  3. Click on any competitor takes them to my mirror of competitor’s site (noindex)
  4. Now I generate heatmaps, scrollmaps, records screen interactions and typing.

script

Interestingly, only about 50% of users found anything suspicious, partly due to the fact that I used https on all my pages, which is one of the main trust factors on the web.

Many users are just happy to see the “padlock” in their browser.

At this point I was able to:

  • Generate heatmaps (clicks, moves, scroll depth)
  • Record actual sessions (mouse movement, clicks, typing)

I gasped when I realised I can actually capture all form submissions and send them to my own email.

Yikes!

Wouldn’t a website doing this be penalised?

You would think so.

I had this implemented for a very brief period of time (for ethical reasons) and then moved to one of my disposable domains where it still runs after five years and ranks really well, though for completely different search terms.

Its new purpose is to mess with conspiracy theory people.

Alternative Technique

You don’t have to spoof Google SERPs to generate competitor’s heatmaps, you can simply A/B test your landing page VS your clone of theirs through paid traffic (e.g. social media). Is the A/B testing version of this ethically OK? I don’t know, but it may get you in legal trouble depending on where you live.

What did I learn?

Users seldom read home page “fluff” and often look for things like testimonials, case studies, pricing levels and staff profiles / company information in search for credibility and trust. One of my upcoming tests will be to combine home page with “about us”, “testimonials”, “case studies” and “packages”. This would give users all they really want on a single page.

Reader Suggestions

“I would’ve thrown in an exit pop-up to let users know what they’d just been subjected to.”
https://twitter.com/marcnashaat/status/1031915003224309760