Micro Conversions - Definition, Relevance and Tracking


Are you measuring the micro conversions that are happening on your website? If you answered ‘No’ to this simple question, then you’re leaving large amounts of potential income on the table.

This is so because micro conversions can show you what visitors are doing before completing your primary macro conversion. Not measuring and analyzing this data therefore means you’re not using the full potential of behavioral data that your visitors are offering you freely.

What are micro conversions?

A micro conversion is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your primary conversion goal (usually called a macro conversion). For most websites, these macro conversions are either making a purchase, giving a donation or providing a lead.

Types of micro conversions

As mentioned by Jennifer Cardello of NN Group, micro conversions can be split into two types.

  1. Process Milestones are conversions that represent linear movement toward a primary macro conversion. Monitoring these will help you define the steps where UX improvements are most needed.
  2. Secondary Actions are not the primary goals of the site, but they are desirable actions that are indicators of potential future macro conversions.

Commonly measured micro conversions

These include the following (with arguments on why you should measure them)

  • Read RSS feed: While this secondary action doesn’t offer you a way of directly talking to your prospective customer, it does allow you to reach them with your content. Even though some would argue that RSS feeds are dead, the popular RSS feed manager Feedly has over 12 million users. Considering that most blogging platforms such as WordPress or even static blog generators like Jekyll provide RSS feeds or plugins, there’s really no reason not to offer them to your visitors.
  • Subscribe to newsletter: A visitor that subscribes to your newsletter is often interested in what you have to say or offer, but isn’t ready to convert yet. By offering you their email address, they give you permission to stay in touch, and slowly build a relationship with them. Because the average sales cycle often spans multiple months (especially for B2B websites) and several visits to your website, having a way to stay in contact with a prospect offers you tremendous value.
  • Create an account: By creating an account on your website, a visitor has shown intent to either try out what you’re offering or that they have an intention of shopping again on your website. Do keep in mind that creating an account should be optional for visitors that which to buy your services or products. An in-depth review of the topic of a guest checkout can be found in this excellent post by Peep Laja: How to Design an eCommerce Checkout Flow That Converts.
  • Each step in funnel: To analyze the influence of an experience on the entire checkout funnel, you want to measure each process milestone separately. For example, learning that a large group of visitors adds items to their carts, but only a small percentage proceed to the checkout might indicate that your shopping cart has issues that’s preventing them from checking out. Be wary that you don’t overanalyze this type of micro conversions and when running an experiment that you only draw conclusions when you’ve observed a statistically significant difference between different variations.

The other 98%

two percent conversion Even though one probably shouldn’t be comparing conversion rates in the first place because it’s a lot like comparing apples to oranges, the average conversion rate is assumed to be about 1-3% for e-commerce websites. This means that every website that isn’t measuring micro conversion in any way, is missing out on what about 98% of the visitors on the website are doing, and why they aren’t converting. Compare this to website owners that are measuring micro conversions, and one quickly sees how measuring micro conversions and analyzing the data that comes from them benefits organizations greatly.

Why are micro conversions relevant?

Many of the sites that I’ve analyzed weren’t measuring any micro conversions. In fact, some of them weren’t measuring any conversion data in the first place, but that’s a story for another time. By not using this data, most sites are in the dark regarding the current state of the customer journey that a visitor is in.

Missed opportunities

As mentioned earlier, by analyzing micro conversions you can get a full view of what’s happening on a website. With a view like this, it’s far easier to discover opportunities for optimization, get new test ideas, or spot problems that are preventing your visitors from converting.

Optimizing websites with little traffic

Measuring micro conversions is also a great tactic for websites that have little traffic and/or few conversions. This is so because with a small number of visitors or amount of conversions experiments sometimes have to run several months (or more) to gain statistical significance. If you want to find out more about how long an experiment will need to run on your website, check out this A/B testing duration calculator.

Non-significant macro conversion response point

Because micro conversions happen far more frequently than macro conversions, most often you will be able to get actionable data from them. The problem with this however is that with little traffic often you aren’t able to get a statically significant difference on the macro conversion response point (usually the ‘Thank you’ page). If this response point doesn’t show a significant difference in the number of conversions between testing variations, one strictly speaking cannot reject or fail to reject the testing hypothesis and therefore can’t pick a winning variation.

Qualitative testing

For smaller websites, it’s therefore advised to (also) look at more qualitative testing methods, such as user testing, interviews and focus groups. More advice on how to do conversion optimization for websites with little traffic can be found in these articles on ConversionXL and Moz.

Targeting stages of the buying cycle

If you know how far along the buying cycle of ‘Awareness - Consideration - Purchase’ a particular visitor is, you can use that knowledge to support him in his conversion process. Some of the techniques you could use are outlined in the article ‘Why online shops need clerks’.

Use targeted content

Knowing the current phase of the buying cycle a visitor is in also allows you to offer targeted content.Aside from using techniques such as recommendations and offering cross-sells at the appropriate time, knowing the current phase of the buying cycle a visitor is in also allows you to offer targeted content. For example, a visitor that is well aware of your solution and the benefits that it offers is probably served best with additional customer reviews and testimonials. A visitor that isn’t aware of the benefits of your solution on the other hand is probably served better with detailed information on the features of your products and the benefits these features offer them in solving their problem.

How to track micro conversions?

Micro conversions can be tracked in several ways. The most common way to track them is by logging the micro conversions into web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics. That tool allows you to log micro conversions both as events and as goals, each of which will be discussed below. Alternatively micro conversions can be logged in testing tools such as Optimizely, SiteSpect or VWO.

Tracking in Google Analytics

As events

Micro conversions can be tracked in Google Analytics by adding them as events (or when using Google Tag Manager use this method). By adding the micro conversions to your web analytics data, you can compare them to other metrics such as keywords and traffic sources.

As goals

In Google Analytics, you can measure the steps that a visitor has reached in your checkout process by adding the individual steps as goals and setting up a conversion funnel based on these steps.

Tracking in testing tools

When you’re running experiments, having data on the micro conversions that users are taking in the different variations can be extremely valuable. For example, one might find out that moving an image on the product page has the (unexpected) effect of raising the amount of items added to the shopping cart with a significant percentage. If you hadn’t been measuring your micro conversions, this change would’ve probably slipped through, and the variation wouldn’t have been declared a winner if it didn’t significantly influence the macro (primary) conversion rate.

Dutch translation: Micro Conversies - Definitie, Relevantie en Meten

Theo van der Zee

Author: Theo van der Zee

He is the founder of ConversionReview. He has been building and optimizing websites for 15+ years now, and doing so with great success.

On top of his digital skills, Theo is also a trained psychologist and frequent speaker at events around the world.