Let’s take a look at micro conversions – smaller user actions that you can track on your website, and how they can help you to understand visitor behaviour.

First of all, it’s useful to define both micro and macro conversions, so we can understand how they relate to each other.

What are macro conversions?

Macro conversions are the main goals of a website – what the site hopes most visitors will do when they arrive on site. For retailers, this would be someone making a purchase, while for other sites, it may be a booking for a demo, or a request for a quote.

These macro conversions have a direct effect on the site’s profitability, and are therefore the primary goals for many websites.

They will be the main focus, but it’s important not to overlook micro conversions, as these can in turn help to increase the number of macro conversions.

What are micro conversions?

Nielsen Norman Group’s Jen Cardello spits micro conversions into two categories:

  • Process Milestones. These are micro conversions that can be seen as steps along the path to a macro conversion. For example, this could be viewing a product video on an ecommerce site, or adding an item to a wishlist.
  • Secondary Actions. These actions are not necessarily steps on the path to conversion, but actions that show customer interest, and can be indicators of future macro conversions.

Here are some examples of micro conversions:

  • Posting comments.
  • Sharing content from the site.
  • Signing up for email alerts or newsletters.
  • Reading blog articles.
  • Steps towards checkout – viewing product pages for example.
  • Downloading content like ebooks and white papers.

Why track micro conversions?

Micro conversions are all indicators of how well your site is working towards its main goals.

Most visits to a website will not result in a major conversion, but this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from these visits and visitors.

Micro conversions can give an indication of how people are interacting with your site, information you can use to improve performance in terms of macro conversions.

For example, sites with a blog or other content could track engagement metrics such as the number of people reading multiple pages, or sharing content. This indicates that content is performing well in terms of attracting visitors and keeping them interested.

Even if no macro conversions come from these visits, they are helping to promote your site by sharing, or their interest in your content may be the first step towards a later conversion.

By tracking micro conversions, you can see a fuller picture of your site performance and find out more about how people use your site than you could find from macro-conversions alone.

Other micro conversions, those referred to as process milestones, have a more direct relationship with macro-conversions. Tracking these can help you to identify areas to focus on for conversion rate optimization.

Email sign ups are one such example. For retailers, visitors signing up for email alerts and offers are showing a clear interest in the retailer and products, and a possible future intent to purchase.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to track micro conversions like sign ups, and look to optimise to drive more subscriptions.

How to track micro-conversions

The micro-conversions you choose to track will very much depend on your site and its goals, and this is something you need to identify.

There are various ways to track micro-conversions, but here we’ll look at how it can be done in Google Analytics.

In this case we’ll look at tracking email sign ups, by setting goals in Google Analytics.

You can find this through the admin tab of your Google Analytics account. Google has a guide here.

In the admin section, head to the ‘view’ column and click on ‘goals’.

google analytics goals menu

From here you’ll see any goals that have already been set up on the site, as well as options to create new goals. You can also import goals from a gallery of existing ones already created by other Google Analytics users.

This last option, like custom reports and dashboards can be good to save time and effort, and benefit from the work of other analytics users.

Then, select a template from the list and a goal type (acquisition in this case), and you’ll reach this step.

Name the goal (email sign ups here) and select destination, as email sign ups will lead users to a destination page, something like yoursite.com/thanks-for-signing-up.

In the next step, enter the target URL in the destination box, so GA can track visits to this page.

You can also assign a monetary value to the goal. The question here is how much is an email address worth to your website. It could be that 5% of all email sign ups lead to a purchase, the average purchase is worth £100, therefore one email sign up is worth £5.

Once you’ve saved the goal, you can then view it via the ‘conversions’ tab on Google Analytics.

In summary

Tracking both micro and macro conversions is about gaining a much fuller picture of how people are using your site.

It can help you to understand the customer journeys, how they get from one point to another, and how micro conversions work towards the major conversions goals.

Main image by Pina Messina