Jeremy Smith Feb 19, 2019 11:29:48 AM 21 min read

How to Unleash the Power of Micro Conversions

Micro conversions, in spite of the diminutive connotation of their name, are anything but a small deal. Micro conversions are a big deal.

No doubt, you’re measuring all the big stuff — conversions, traffic, etc.

But are you measuring the metrics that really matter? Micro conversions are a powerful source of data, and an incredible way to truly hone your conversion craft.

Let's start.

What is a micro conversion?

A micro conversion is a user activity that leads them to your major target conversion. Google defines them as “activities that users frequently engage in before purchasing.”

Google defines micro-conversion as activities that users frequently engage in before purchasing

An e-commerce site, for example, would lead a user through a few actions that lead up to the main conversion (macro conversion) — buying an item.

Why measure micro conversions?

Be honest. No one is going to go straight to your website, click buy now, and plunk down their credit card info.

That just doesn’t happen in real life. Movies, maybe. Real life, no. (Wait, movies about conversion optimization? Swweeeeett!)

Every single user is going to convert in small ways before they convert in a big way. What are these small ways? That’s what you get to decide based on the development and architecture of your site. That’s where you realize that micro conversions are awesome.

You’ll never know how those medley of micro conversions are going down unless you track them.

Avinash Kaushik, demigod of analytics, beats the micro conversion drum as hard as anyone that I know.

Focus on measuring your macro (overall) conversions, but for optimal awesomeness identify and measure your micro conversions as well.

While the term “optimal awesomeness” may be redundant, Kaushik’s recommendation is spot on. Measuring micro conversions is just as important as measuring macro conversions.

You will only discover the path to success (macro conversion) if you measure the process that users engage in. Those are your micro conversions.

Most of the people who visit your website won’t complete a macro conversion.

So what the heck are they doing there?

They are there to complete a micro conversion. You are there to measure those micro conversions.

If you take the big mass of all your visitors and divvy them up according to conversion type, here’s what you come up with (roughly):

Mass of conversion by type

(Image source)

Lots of micros. Very few macros.

I’m not going to call this some sort of “shocking secret,” because I don’t even like ViralNova, but it is pretty incredible. Once you realize the power of measuring micro conversions you pretty much have to do a face palm.

when i realized i hadn't been measuring micro conversions

Here are some advantages of identifying and measuring your site’s micro conversion points.

  • Provides a complete picture of your website visitors. Viewing your visitors as a holistic demographic rather than just a paltry few ultimate converters is valuable. You get a far more nuanced understanding of why they are coming to your website, what they are doing, and who they are. One of the best things that you can do in your pursuit of bigger and better conversions is to know your users. Micro conversions tell the story of the user in powerful ways.
  • Furnishes you with the best areas to focus on for conversion optimization. As a conversion optimizer, I’m always looking for the low-hanging fruit. I want to fix the stuff that will make the biggest impact. For example, if you were working on repairing a car, you wouldn’t spend your time fixing a broken radio. Instead, you would focus on fixing the engine. Your goal is to have a moving car, not a functional radio. Same is true for conversion optimization. Put your best effort into the areas that will produce the greatest impact.
  • Gives you insight into what users are most interested in. If there are micro conversion rates that hit the roof, you know that these are some of the best areas for conversion potential.
  • Allows you to track multi-channel engagement. Many micro conversions go beyond the site itself, and track user involvement into social channels, downloads, and other brand events.
  • Identifies areas where users are getting stuck or derailed. Want to unstick your conversion flow? Then figure out what’s making users get stuck, and blow through it. The secret Unstick Weapon? Yep, you guessed it: micro conversion tracking.
  • Proves the success of particular conversion strategies. If you’ve ever wondered which lead technique or process was best for your audience, wonder no more. With micro conversion tracking, you get instant insight into which is better — the sidebar signup or the Hello Bar header. Boom!
  • Is A/B test fodder par excellence. Never again wonder which element to split test. Micro conversions are a veritable treasure trove of testing potential.
  • Creates a comprehensive website performance picture for executives and decision makers. The world of micro conversions unlocks sheer power for the data-loving, bottom-line executives who rule the company with a quarterly-earnings-iron-fist. Give them the data that best paints the picture of the customer, their needs, their proclivities, their up-and-to-the-right potential. Give them micro conversion data.

The bottom line is this: You get more and better data. And, hey, every CRO in his right mind craves more and better data.

The money is in the micro conversions.

Let’s go after the money, shall we?

How do you do micro conversions?

So, what’s the secret to implementing this earth-shattering micro conversion strategy?

There are two steps:

  1. Identify your micro conversions.
  2. Measure your micro conversions.

Step One: Identify Your Micro Conversions

First, you have to figure out what qualifies as a microconversion. It’s going to be different for every site. There are a million potential niches, and a ton of variety within websites. Your micros will be different from your buddy’s micros. It’s going to be okay.

The way to find out what your micros are is by thinking backward, not forward. In other words, start with the macro conversion in mind, then find out what steps a user takes to get to that macro conversion.

Let’s use a standard e-commerce store as an example. You sell Darth Vader costumes. (Humor me.)

Darth vadar custome

The macro conversion is buying a Darth Vader costume. Before someone buys the costume, they might do one of the following:

  • Follow @Darthvader on Twitter.
  • Sign up for inspirational Darth Vader quotes.
  • View a product.
  • Put a Darth Vader costume in their shopping cart.
  • Download a “Power of the Dark Side” PDF.

See? A potential costume buyer might want to do something other than going to the dark side of a macro conversion.

Come to darkside

Another method of determining the best micro conversions to measure is to simply whip out your handy dandy onsite conversion funnel, and point to all the spots in the funnel that have a correlating micro conversion action.

What?! You don’t have a handy dandy onsite conversion funnel? Well, what are you waiting for? Make one! It might look something like this:

onsite conversion funnel

(Image source)

In this funnel, the micro conversions would be ...

  • Navigating to a category.
  • Conducting a search.
  • Landing on a product page.
  • Putting a product in the cart.
  • Entering the checkout process.

I’ll show you more micro conversion examples below, but for now just believe me so I don’t find your lack of faith disturbing.

You may want to measure micro conversions that simply spark your curiosity. The more you measure, the better data you’ll have.

Step Two: Measure your micro conversions

Now it’s time to do the actual measuring. And guess what. I’m not going to tell you how.

Why not? Because this article is geeky enough without wandering into a morass of Google Analytics jargon.

Folks, people write books on this subject! Ya think I’m going to cover it in a few hundred words? Dream on!

Okay, so here are a few resources. If you are accustomed to Google Analytics (and you should be), all you need to do is pull out a few goals and events.

And here are some helpful resources:

List of Micro-conversions

I’ve put together a list of great micro conversions below, but I first want to emphasize the importance of identifying a few micro conversions as your most important ones.

The Most Important Micro Conversions of All

More data doesn’t mean better. If you’re going to take in more data, you want to make absolutely sure that it is indeed better data. For that reason, I suggest that you select five micro conversions as your most important.

Yes, you can and should measure more, but you only need to focus on a handful.

Here’s how to choose which micro conversions to focus on:

  • They should lead to a macro conversion. If a micro conversion is truly important, then it will lead in a macro conversion eventually. Tracking other micro conversions is important for providing a picture of the customer, but may not be most useful for homing in on the metrics that matter for revenue.
  • They should grow leads. If you have a B2B business, you’re interested in expanding your number of leads. Find the micro conversions that develop leads. Subscriber lists and email signs ups are valuable for this purpose.
  • They should reinforce KPIs. If you’ve taken the effort of identifying your key performance indicators (KPIs), then you should select micro conversion that help to build toward these goals.

how to choose which micro conversions to focus on

Sample List of ‘Most Important Micro Conversions’

Here is starter list that you can use for measuring your micro conversions

  1. Sign up for a mailing list or newsletter. Gaining email leads is a powerful way to build your marketing potential. Tracking this micro conversion is an essential way to measure and maximize your email marketing success.
  2. Download your resource. Whether you have whitepapers or e-books, track these micro conversions, too. Those who are interested in a resource are likely a great lead.
  3. Add to cart. The cart is the cliff that leads to the macro conversion. So why do so many people abandon their shopping carts? You get to find out. Track those micros, baby.

Other Micro Conversions

Here are other micro conversions you can measure.

Interest Micro Conversion Engagement Micro Conversion

Activity Micro Conversion


So what do you do with all this information?

There are two main takeaways:

  1. Measure and track your micro conversions. This is the most important takeaway. If you start tracking your micro conversions, I can almost guarantee that you will become a better conversion optimizer. The very fact that you have the data virtually demands that you do something with it. What you do with the data determines, in large part, how successful your conversion efforts will be. Go ahead and measure those micros. It’s going to lead you somewhere, and that somewhere is probably going to be way, way up.
  2. Optimize for micro conversions. Ultimately, you want more macro conversions. But the path to macro conversions is made out of the stepping-stones of micro conversions. If you optimize the micro conversions, then you will invariably enhance the macro conversion rate. It’s as simple as that. To optimize for micro conversions is to enhance the conversion power of the site as a whole. It’s the aggregation of marginal gains, and it produces a cumulative impact over time.

Aggregation of marginal gains

(Image source)

Don’t allow these micro conversions to blind you to the wider importance of macro conversions. However, by sequentially and gradually improving the small conversion actions, you’ll be able to gain more macros

Ready to roll? Okay, start focusing on some of the small stuff, and the big stuff — those macro conversions — will get taken care of.


Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.