What Is Conversion?

Website visitor holding a credit card making an online purchase.

How many visitors are you driving to your online channels each month? And how many of them have taken action or turned into customers?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s time to better understand a conversion and why it matters to your business.

In this article:

What Is a Conversion?

Oxford defines conversion as “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.

In the marketing world, a conversion is when a visitor of any of your online channels (for example, a website, social media, app, etc.) completes a desired action that brings them closer to a sale or an actual sale.

From a marketing perspective, a visitor’s status changes from one form to another as they take more and more steps along the purchasing journey. A conversion may not happen on the first visit, but over time and through various touchpoints, visitors may convert into customers.

To get a little more granular, it’s worth noting a couple of other conversion-type definitions you should know:

  • A micro conversion is a small step in the journey to a larger conversion like a sale (think downloading an ebook in exchange for an email so that you can nurture that lead)
  • A macro conversion creates revenue, like when someone purchases a product

For more, read:

Why Is a Conversion Important?

Conversions are important because they bring in revenue to businesses.

No matter what marketing tactics you are using, whether it’s advertising, search engine optimization, social media, video, or more, conversion is a key performance indicator (KPI).

A KPI is a measurable result of your marketing efforts. It helps you understand if your marketing is working (or not).

In the SEO world, the main goal is to drive traffic to a website. But, we always make sure that website publishers are aware of maximizing the value of that traffic, and that means making sure the website is set up to support conversions.

Examples of Conversions

Here are some examples of what a conversion might look like:

  • A click on a link (micro conversion)
  • Signing up for an email list (micro conversion)
  • Downloading a content asset (micro conversion)
  • Viewing a video (micro conversion)
  • Requesting a service quote (macro conversion)
  • Buying a service or product (macro conversion)
  • Subscribing to a service (macro conversion)

How Do You Track and Measure Conversions?

There are many third-party analytics tools that can help you track and understand conversions that are happening on your online channels.

For example, Google Analytics is a popular and free tool that allows website publishers to understand the conversions that are happening on their website or app (See the Goals report help file for more).

With these third-party tools, you install tracking codes (for example, on your website) so that they can begin to measure and analyze key online activity.

With Google Analytics, for instance, you can measure the number of conversions, conversion rate and also see the steps or channels that contributed to the conversion.

Multi-Channel Funnels report in Google Analytics showing conversion paths by channel.
Multi-Channel Funnels report in Google Analytics showing conversion paths by channel

Analytics tools can help you get granular and understand what is working or not working when it comes to conversions — whether it’s by page or by channel.

As you are tracking and measuring the value of conversions, you will need to look at how each conversion contributes to the bigger goal. For example, how does signing up for your email list ultimately contribute to the purchase of a product?

This will help you prioritize your efforts and understand the return on investment of your marketing activities.

Conversions vs. Conversion Rate

A conversion is an action that is taken by a visitor on one of your online channels. Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that have completed the desired action out of the total number of visitors. This metric helps you get a big picture understanding of your marketing efforts.

To calculate a conversion rate, take the total number of conversions and divide it by the total number of visitors. If you have 100 visitors and 10 of them bought your product, you’d calculate the conversion rate as follows:

10 / 100 = 0.10 or 10% conversion rate

You can use different calculations to fit your needs. For example, it doesn’t have to be the visitors you are measuring; maybe it’s the total number of leads instead. Or you might look at the number of unique visitors instead of total visitors because it’s possible to get more than one conversion from a single visitor.

The formula would be the same regardless of which metric you are using.

How Do You Optimize Conversions?

Understanding your conversion rate is one thing — making it better is another. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is how you optimize your marketing efforts so that more people convert.

While you may be tempted to increase conversions by driving more traffic to an online channel, you can get smarter about how to maximize the potential of the traffic you already have.

One of the best ways to get started on this is to take the data you have, focus on areas where you need improvement and start testing.

For instance, you might find in your analytics data that visitors to your website tend to drop off on one particular page. That’s the page that you need to work on first.

You could start with your most important, highest trafficked webpages and review conversions there. How could those web pages better support conversions?

Or, you might find that the conversions from your email channel are quite low. What improvements can be made to ensure your audience takes the desired action?

Whichever path you choose, you will first need to set some performance benchmarks and track the data closely as you make changes to see if you are experiencing improvements. A/B testing and multivariate testing are both ways that marketers can test the efficacy of a webpage, for instance.

Closing Thoughts

In the SEO world, even though our main goal is to drive organic search traffic, we also care a lot about conversions. We want website publishers to be able to capture the value of their organic search traffic and turn it into profit.

And they do. I love pointing to this BrightEdge research because it shows that the organic search channel consistently is the largest contributor to revenue for many industries:

Brightedge chart showing channels that drive the most revenue for companies.

But this can only happen if website publishers invest in understanding their conversions and optimizing for them.

Time to convert your readers to buyers? Take your audience and maximize your bottom line with a complete SEO strategy. Get in touch

FAQ: What methods can be employed to monitor conversion rates so as to assess my marketing effectiveness?

Tracking conversions accurately in today’s digital environment is critical to businesses understanding the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives. Conversions may take different forms – newsletter sign-ups, online purchases or form submissions are just a few – by tracking conversions accurately you can gain invaluable insight into your campaigns while making data-driven decisions to optimize strategies for success.

One of the easiest and most reliable ways to track conversions is with Google Analytics, an invaluable tool which enables users to monitor various metrics relating to conversions such as numbers, rates and sources of them. Integrate Google Analytics properly into your website’s framework to gain invaluable information regarding which marketing channels and campaigns are driving more conversions than others.

As soon as you’ve established your goals in Google Analytics, the first step toward setting conversion goals should be identifying them: Which actions would you like visitors to perform on your site? Once identified, Google Analytics allows you to set conversion goals that track these actions – this might include thank-you pages after purchases or form submission confirmation pages after form submission confirmation pages; destination pages could even include newsletter sign-up forms!

Add UTM parameters to your tracking capabilities for even greater tracking capability. UTM parameters are tags added to URLs that allow you to identify the source, medium, and campaign of all incoming traffic – providing valuable insight into which marketing channels are driving conversions allowing you to measure each one independently and determine its efficacy.

Call tracking can provide another effective means of monitoring conversions. If your business relies heavily on phone calls for conversions, implementing call tracking software could give invaluable insights into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and allow you to assign individual phone numbers across different marketing channels to determine which channels generate more conversions via phone call conversions.

And don’t forget to set up and monitor conversion funnels – the steps taken by visitors before converting can help identify areas for optimization or potential drop-offs in conversion processes that could ultimately increase overall conversion rates. By monitoring conversion funnels closely, it becomes easy to pinpoint potential areas of improvement or drop-off that could assist your website and marketing strategies and boost overall conversions rates.

Tracking and measuring conversions is essential to measuring marketing effectiveness, whether through Google Analytics, conversion goals, UTM parameters, call tracking or conversion funnel monitoring. Doing this allows for data-driven decision making which ultimately optimizes efforts toward greater success.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Tracking Conversion Goals in Google Analytics:

  1. Set conversion goals on your website.
  2. Integrate Google Analytics with your site.
  3. Establish a Google Analytics account.
  4. Establish conversion goals in your GA account. Add goal tracking into analytics creating goals within GA to monitor specific activities.
  5. Implement UTM parameters to track traffic sources, mediums and campaigns of incoming visitors.
  6. Assign unique phone numbers to different marketing channels using call tracking software.
  7. Analyze conversion funnels within Google Analytics in order to pinpoint areas for improvement.
  8. Apply insights gleaned from conversion tracking to optimize both your website and marketing strategies.
  9. Keep an eye on conversion rates regularly to monitor campaign effectiveness.
  10. Use conversion tracking data to make informed decisions and optimize strategies for success.
  11. Constantly test and refine conversion tracking techniques in order to guarantee their accuracy and efficacy.
  12. Staying current on conversion tracking trends and advances is important to maximizing marketing efforts.
  13. Seeking assistance from an agency or expert may ensure accurate conversion tracking results.
  14. Analyze conversion data regularly to detect patterns, trends and opportunities for enhancement.
  15. Utilize conversion tracking insights to adjust marketing strategies and allocate resources efficiently.
  16. Conduct A/B testing on various marketing approaches in order to select the most successful ones and compare results against one another.
  17. Communicate regularly with team members and stakeholders the results of your conversion tracking efforts.
  18. Share knowledge gained through conversion tracking with all levels of management across your organization to inform decision making on all fronts.
  19. Optimize website user experience to increase conversion rates.
  20. Analyze conversion rates across various marketing channels to pinpoint those with the greatest effectiveness.
  21. Repeat and refine! Conversion tracking should be an ongoing endeavor that includes constant analysis and refinement to enhance marketing effectiveness. Keep gathering data as you go along to optimize your strategies based on what it reveals about potential conversion points for more accurate tracking of conversion rates.

Bruce Clay Inc. owns all copies for 2023.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (2)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent Conversion Rate Optimization posts is better than the last!

2 Replies to “What Is Conversion?”

I really appreciated the way you emphasized user experience and trust in the conversion game. The analogy of a website being like a digital storefront totally clicked for me.


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