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 are some examples of conversions in digital marketing?

From the moment a user interacts with your online channels to the ultimate goal of securing a sale, a journey unfolds, and conversions take center stage. Let’s delve into the essence of conversions and explore some enlightening examples.

Micro Conversions: Nurturing the Path

Micro-conversions are users’ subtle steps on their journey toward a larger goal. These small actions are essential in building trust and engaging customers. Clicking a hyperlink, subscribing to a mailing list, downloading content assets or watching a video are just a few ways people can become engaged and build their own sense of community.

Macro Conversions: The Ultimate Triumph

On the opposite end of the spectrum lie macro-conversions, the prized outcomes that directly impact your business’s bottom line. These include requesting a service quote, making a purchase, or subscribing to a service. Macro-conversions are the true measure of success in the digital marketing world.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): The Power of Precision

To enhance your digital marketing efforts, you must master the art of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Optimizing your strategies involves ensuring more users reach the coveted conversion points. A/B testing and multivariate testing are powerful tools that enable marketers to refine web pages and maximize conversion potential.

Tracking and Measuring: The Data-Driven Approach

In the digital realm, data is your ally. Tools like Google Analytics provide insights into the performance of your online channels. By tracking the number of conversions, conversion rates and contributing channels, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your marketing’s effectiveness. Moreover, this data helps you allocate resources where they matter most.

Understanding and leveraging conversions is the cornerstone of successful digital marketing. Each action contributes to your business’s success, from the subtle steps of micro-conversions to the ultimate triumph of macro-conversions. Embrace the data-driven approach, optimize your strategies and watch your digital marketing efforts thrive.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Demystifying Conversions in Digital Marketing

  1. Introduction to Conversions: Start with an overview of conversions in digital marketing.
  2. Micro Conversions: Explain the significance of micro-conversions and provide examples.
  3. Macro Conversions: Describe macro-conversions and their impact on business outcomes.
  4. Conversion Rate Optimization: Introduce CRO and its role in digital marketing.
  5. Testing Methods: Discuss A/B testing and multivariate testing as tools for CRO.
  6. Tracking and Measuring: Explore the importance of data-driven approaches and tools like Google Analytics.
  7. Conclusion: Summarize the key takeaways and emphasize the importance of mastering conversions in digital marketing.

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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