Identifying Macro and Micro Conversions

In the first post of this series we looked at understanding business objectives. This second post will cover macro and micro website conversions, how they differ and the roles they play in overall performance.

Once the business objectives have been clearly defined and understood, the next logical step towards a successful measurement and optimisation strategy involves identifying the various conversion types that can occur on the website in question.

These conversions can broadly be split into two categories: macro (or primary) conversions and micro (or secondary) conversions.

Macro conversions

Most website owners focus heavily on tracking and optimising their primary conversion point (or macro conversion); this might be an order completion for an e-commerce website, a completed contact form for a lead acquisition website or a subscription sign up for an online software provider. These overall conversions are commercial outcomes that deliver against the company’s main objective.

The previous post included an example long-term objective which was to double revenue in two years. For this objective the website in question would most likely be e-commerce and therefore the macro website conversion would be a completed order.

Macro conversion example
Macro conversion example: e-commerce order completion

Examples of macro conversions can generally be categorised as follows:

Revenue based conversions

E-commerce order completion

Paid subscription sign up

Lead/member acquisition conversions

Application form completion (e.g. credit card provider or mortgage advisor)

Member sign up (freemium software or social media platform)

Enquiry conversions

Contact form completion (for websites without e-commerce)

Phone call (driven from websites without e-commerce)

The above list is not definitive by any means but it does provide a guideline of the most common types and examples of macro conversions for typical websites.

Micro conversions

Macro conversion performance is of obvious importance. However fixating solely on this single metric (or any single metric) is ill-advised. This alone will not paint the full picture of performance and in fact there may be a multitude of other user actions that indicate changes in performance. These actions are often referred to as micro conversions and mark an outcome on a website that is of less importance than the primary, or macro conversion. This is a concept that Avinash Kaushik, the renowned analytics and digital marketing evangelist, has blogged passionately about in the past.

Taking an e-commerce website for example, the macro conversion would be an order completion whereas micro conversions could include sign up to an email newsletter, a PDF brochure download, a Facebook like, etc. In this case these actions indicate user engagement and potentially even lead users to complete an order at some point in the future. However in isolation they do not generally drive revenue or customer acquisition at the point of their conversion.

Micro conversions could also include more standard actions such as viewing a product page or adding an item to the shopping basket. They can also include less obvious conversions such as click-through from search results (CTR could justifiably be counted as a micro conversion rate).

micro conversion examples
Micro conversion examples: social media interaction and newsletter sign up

Examples of micro conversions can often be categorised as follows:

Navigation based conversions

Viewing a product page

Entering the checkout process

Reaching an application form

CTR from search results

Interaction (or completed action) based conversions

Adding a product to the cart

Downloading a PDF brochure

Watching a promotional video

Social actions

Email newsletter sign up

RSS subscription

Request a call back

Engagement based conversions

Time on site over a certain threshold

Number of pages viewed above target

Visit frequency/recency above target

Identifying macro and micro conversions

As the macro conversion is the primary desired action on the site this should be obvious to identify and will generally be a single action. There may be exceptions to this for large or complex online businesses but typically a website will have one primary conversion point.

The process for identifying micro conversions is not complex in itself but the larger the website, the more time that will be required to produce a definitive list of micro conversion points. The process is time consuming and somewhat laborious, but highly worthwhile nonetheless for mapping out all conversion performance indicators and influencers.

There are certain tools which can help streamline the process of documenting a micro conversion walkthrough for a website (e.g. Notable, which allows you to annotate and group full page screenshots) but the process must be completed manually where possible to ensure all micro conversions are identified.

Micro conversion mapping example
Micro conversion mapping: site walkthrough

It is important at this point to note that micro conversions don’t necessarily lead to macro conversions, although this is often the case. For those micro conversions that are expected to start users on a path to overall conversion, these should be mapped out accordingly so the analytics solution in use can be configured to track how effective certain micro conversions are at influencing subsequent macro conversions (e.g. using custom variables).

The mapping of objectives to metrics will be covered in the next post in this series and the corresponding configuration of an analytics solution will be covered in a later post about defining and implementing a measurement framework.