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Back to Basics: What’s A Conversion?
Marketing Foundations

Back to Basics: What’s A Conversion?

You've heard your digital marketing team talk "conversions," but you might still find yourself wondering exactly what one is. With so many ways to measure them, it's easy to get a little confused. So, what is a conversion?

A conversion is a predefined action taken by a user on your website. That's all.

It could be as simple as someone scrolling through the page, or as complex as a user completing a sale. These definitions are useful for both organic and paid advertising, online and offline. You can track just about anything on your site as a conversion, but for most companies, there are two main focuses:


Most businesses are using their websites and digital marketing efforts to get sales. But how do you tie in a customer who views your website and then buys in-store? What about when a customer leaves a page, navigates to a different section of the website, or takes a few days to make a decision?

Sales are a complicated, tumultuous, ever-bouncing-back-and-forth process. Tracking a user’s journey and setting up all your conversion tracking tags can be a big task, but it's worth it to track accurately and find any friction in your sales process.

Online Sale

This conversion is the one most people go to first. You want to make sure your ad, email, content, etc. is actually leading to sales. This should be the page the user will complete the sale on, and track when the sale is finalized. For extra credit, you can also specifically track people who abandon their cart at specific points and retarget them with ads about their waiting products. (If you've ever gotten a "Your cart misses you" email from an online retailer after doing some digital window shopping, this is what was happening.)

Users respond positively to well-designed, professional sales pages. Think about it: You wouldn't trust a site that looks like a 1990s Geocities page with your credit card number, and neither would your customers. Make sure your page uses https, and use your tracking data to make the experience as frictionless as possible. Only capture information in forms that is needed for a sale, and keep the fields clearly labeled.

Offline sales import

There are three ways to track offline sales through Google Ads: manual import, Salesforce import, and Zapier import. Once you have an offline conversion tracking setup, you can manually import conversions into Google Ads by uploading a file or transmitting via the API. Both Salesforce and Zapier offline conversion tracking let you automate the import of your offline conversion tracking information from your customer relationship management (CRM) system to Google Ads.


The second most popular (though arguably more used) conversion type is Leads. When aiming to gain leads you’re trying to convince people to give you their information, either for a next step in the sales process or to sign up for a newsletter. While these two are similar sounding, the user’s intent is the main differentiating factor.

Offer / Deal Form Submission

For a form submission conversion, a user is submitting their contact information in exchange for an offer or deal. This can be in the form of a free audit, discount, or product demo. This is critical: what you’re giving needs to be worth it in the user's eyes for them to give you their information. Whether it's their email, phone number, or social media profile, users are becoming increasingly wary of giving these out. A good rule of thumb is to always give more than you get - make sure the user leaves the interaction feeling satisfied. 

A common mistake is to demand too much from the users - first name, last name, email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile, job title, company name, company industry, number of employees, your firstborn child...By the third form field, a lot of users will just give up. Keep it concise and don’t overwhelm users.

Newsletter / Resource Form Submission

This conversion action is similar to the above, but think of it as a low-stress contact. These users aren't necessarily looking for a follow-up action or contact, but want to get more information for their search. Again, make sure to balance the pros of receiving your newsletter, ebook, or case study with the perceived con of giving out contact information. The main thing to remember with this type of conversion is the leads generated from them are more “soft” than a form submission asking for a product demo and should be treated as such.

Alternate Conversions

Infrequently, you might find yourself with an instance where your goal isn't solely generating leads or sales. You might want to show more information alongside the standard conversion actions. The conversions below are a bit harder to track, more esoteric, or a little less useful than the standards.

Phone Calls

Not necessarily a lead or sale, this is still a pretty common conversion to track. These conversions can be tracked through the ad platform itself or on your site directly. Unfortunately, doing it this way doesn’t let you know what the call was for - sales, support, a complaint? 

Using a call tracking service is the most effective way to track these conversions on your site. They work by, essentially, showing each user a unique phone number on the landing page. When the user clicks that faceplate number, their actions are tied to that number at that time. You can then audit the call recordings to make sure they’re quality.

If you’re just tracking through Google Analytics, you’ll see the data aggregated: how many clicks the number got, but not necessarily which actions a specific user took before they clicked or the reason for their call. The benefit of call tracking services also extends to other departments - you can get call records for quality assurance, or track which sales reps land the most deals over the phone. 

Some industries (and demographics) prefer phone calls to filling out forms. Most times these are people who require direct action, or have an immediate problem, so if you offer phone support make sure you’re ready for it!


Best practices dictate that pay-per-click ads should be directed towards a specifically curated landing page, as opposed to just any page on your site. These landing pages should have content that reflects the offer in the ad copy and the keywords the user searches. 

Click-through conversions aren’t necessarily something you’d want to track, but rather a strategy of filtering conversions. Your goal is to direct the user to your landing page and then get them to click to another page to complete the action. This can filter out users who may be too high in the sales funnel to take decisive action at that moment.

It's also useful as a “category” page for online sales, from which you can direct users to buy from one of the single-product pages linked. One key facet of this type of conversion is that you can retarget to people who reach the landing page and navigate away as well as the people who complete the conversion process.

Video View

For Instagram and Facebook, this is counted if the user watches 3+ seconds. For YouTube, it's 11 out of 30 seconds for a short ad or at least 30 seconds for longer ads. While mainly thought of as a top-funnel activity, showing video ads can work for brand consideration and decision as well.

With more people consuming online content than ever, tracking video views can be a good alternative to (or in combination with) using traditional TV spots. Keep your videos short, catchy, and intriguing to ensure you make it to the required watch time.

App Downloads

This conversion can include tracking who downloads your app, who completes an in-app purchase or upgrade, or when someone opens the app for the first time after installing it. There is also a specific campaign type in Google for targeting app downloads.

Scroll depth / Time-on-page/Reaching a specific page

These can also be useful in addition to Lead or Sales conversion goals, as combined they’re the best way to track if people are actually reading the site. Consider these when your goal is understanding how users explore and move through your site.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

These are, by far, not the only conversion actions you can track. It’s like anything on the internet: if you can think it, you can track it. If you’re not sure if you can track it, you can. There’s always something else you can track.The most important piece of your tracking plan is to make sure everything you’re tracking makes sense to you, and that you can explain it simply and clearly. In the end, having so many snippets of data doesn't really help if you can’t piece together the big picture and use it to help meet your organization's goals.


How does your tracking stack up? Contact Us for a tracking audit or help understanding how your business KPI’s can translate into conversion tracking. 



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