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What Are Micro Conversions and Which Should You Track?

What Are Micro Conversions and Which Should You Track?


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In this post we’ll look at micro conversions how they can give a broader view of visitor behavior, and some common examples to track. 

Micro conversions are small actions that users take on your website. They can be seen as steps towards the main (macro) conversion rate optimisation goals, and can provide an insight into how people are engaging with your website.

Micro and macro conversions

Macro conversions

A macro conversion would be something which is the main goal of the site in question. For a retailer it would be a sale. For other sites, including SaleCycle, it may be a request for a quote or demo, a solid lead.

The common factor is that these macro conversions have an impact on the site’s profits, whether immediately, or with strong potential to result in a sale in the short term.

Micro conversions

Nielsen Norman Group’s Jennifer Cardello splits micro conversions into two categories, which is a useful way of looking at them.

  • Process milestones. These are steps taken towards a macro conversion. For example, a customer may view a product page or video, or perhaps add an item to their wish list.
  • Secondary actions. These may not directly lead to conversions, but indicate an interest and engagement in the site.

Examples of micro conversions include:

  • Email newsletter signups.
  • Browsing the site, perhaps a threshold of pages viewed.
  • Comments left on articles.
  • Steps towards checkout – add to cart, product page views etc.
  • Video views.
  • Shared content on social media.
  • Downloading ebooks.

Why track micro conversions?

The vast majority of visitors to most websites won’t go on to make a purchase or sign up for a demo, and therefore won’t result in a macro conversion.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that this traffic is worthless, and this is where tracking micro conversions can help.

For example, a retailer may improve its call to action for email signups, or place it in a more prominent position. This may not immediately increase sales, but adding more interested users to the email list can help to drive sales in the long term.

Let’s take SaleCycle as an example. We track macro conversions such as requests for a quote or a demo of our products.

These are major goals which impact our bottom line, but we realise that some people visit our site many times before converting, and that many may never convert.

This doesn’t mean this traffic has no value to us, far from it. If people are viewing articles before sharing them on social media, it’s helping to increase awareness of our brand. If they sign up for our monthly newsletter, then they’re showing an interest which may lead more directly to a sale further down the line.

Micro conversions also help us to see how effective we are at engaging the visitors that come to the site. For example, we can look at how many visitors to the site view more than three articles.

If the proportion for this goal is high, or if the trend is going the right way, this tells us that the content we produce is appealing to visitors, and that the layout of the site, navigation and related content recommendations are doing their job.

Tracking micro conversions also helps you to understand customer journeys. On a B2B site like ours, no-one is going to simply head to the site, click to buy and enter their card details. It’s a longer, more considered purchase that requires plenty of information and discussion before completion.

Like many B2B sites, ours doesn’t exist simply to sell, it’s also important that we provide key information to visitors, whether they’re potential or existing customers. So we try to provide useful information about how our products and services work, as well as information on the industry in general.

More reasons to track micro conversions:

  • Tracking micro conversions gives you a fuller picture of your site performance and tells you more about how people use your site than you could find from macro-conversions alone.
  • It identifies areas to focus on for conversion rate optimization
  • It helps you to track across channels. Which social channels are visitors using to share content? Which traffic sources lead to micro-conversions?

How to track micro conversions

Which micro conversions are important will depend on the type of site, so you will need to identify your own goals.

There are various ways to track micro conversions, but here I’ll give an example of goal tracking from Google Analytics.

Using Google Analytics, you can set up a ‘goal’ to measure micro conversions, in this case email sign-ups. You can find this in the ‘admin’ tab of your Google Analytics account (help from Google here).

If you have a destination URL for email sign ups, a page which says ‘thanks for signing up’, then you can define this as the goal page as any user accessing it will have subscribed to your emails.

You can also choose to attribute a value to each goal completion. This leads to the question, ‘how much is an email address worth?’.

It’s relatively simple to answer with the right data. So, if 5% of email sign ups result in a purchase, and the average transaction is worth $100, then you could assign a value of $5 to this micro conversion.

Once you’ve set the goals up, you can then view them in the ‘Reporting’ section of GA, under the ‘Conversions’ menu.

These goals will tell you how many micro conversions occurred on your site. When combined with other data, you can see which traffic sources or individual campaigns have been most effective in terms of micro conversions, and so on.

For more detail, there are ideas for micro conversions to track here, while this post looks at viewing micro conversions within the GA goal funnel. 

In Summary

Macro conversions are of course very important, but by measuring them alongside micro conversions, you can gain a much fuller picture of how visitors use your site.

It can reveal insights you may have missed otherwise. For example, if you’re tracking the number of times an item is added to a shopping cart, and you know the typical percentage of ‘add to carts’ that result in sales, you can see when this pattern changes and identify potential issues in the purchase funnel.

As Avinash Kaushik explains here, tracking micro conversions can help you to become a better analyst or marketer. It will expand your ‘measurement horizon’, leading you to take a broader look at how people use your site, and where micro conversions fit within the customer journey.


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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.