The Three Levels of Analytics Conversions You Need

Ian Barrett Feb 23 2017

What would ya say, that ya do here?

If the answer is online marketing in any way, shape or form, you know the importance of having analytics configured correctly on your site. If you need help convincing anyone, take them over to Portent’s handy Marketing Stack Explainer.

But wait, there’s more! Whether you’re in direct response digital marketing, or brand building, you’re driving people to your website for a reason. Which means you need to set up clearly defined conversions to know whether your efforts are actually working. A very “101” concept to be sure, but nonetheless critically important.

That said, a lot of the marketers that I consult with on analytics need to take one more critical step in configuring conversions.

Smart Goals Are Not That Smart

Right out of the box when you set up a mainstream service like Google Analytics you’ll be capturing great data including some broad, pre-configured goals, without lifting a finger. In some simple cases, this means you’ll simply need a few small tweaks to turn that automatically captured data into something perfectly useful for your business. However, in a lot of cases these “smart goals” are problematic as they can lead to inflated stats. Not a great surprise when you make that correction in next month’s report.

Put simply, Smart Goals can detect and include too many things that a visitor does on your site, and roll all of them into your conversion metrics. If you didn’t configure your own conversion tracking and you don’t know what’s being counted, you owe it to yourself, your boss, and your company to get under the hood, stat.

As you’re getting set to roll up your sleeves, I want to talk you through three main types of conversions you need to track. This is often how we structure conversion tracking for Portent clients, customized to the specific business and goals, of course.

Primary Conversions

Once you’ve split out your conversions and made sure that each key action is being tracked correctly, you’ll define your primary or “macro” conversions. Your primary conversions should be the measurable action a user takes that gets them as close to buying or becoming a lead as possible. On sites with lead capture forms, or e-commerce, it will be the the form submission or the purchase itself. Believe me, it can get a lot more complicated than this, depending on the business.
For a simple example, if you’re a plumber your primary conversions will be anyone who fills out a form to schedule an appointment.

Any and every report that comes from your marketing team should include your primary conversions. They’re the lifeblood of your business. You should also be setting up benchmarking for your primary conversions, so you know quickly and clearly when things are going well, and when they’re not.

Secondary Conversions

While the temptation might be to set up primary conversions and stop, this is dangerous. Just like a scoreboard in basketball, you can glance at the numbers and know how you’re doing, but miss a whole lot of why.
This is exactly why you need to set up and track secondary or “micro” conversions which support the bigger primary conversion. These will help you track users that are a little higher up the marketing funnel, and they can provide richer context about why the big numbers are moving in a particular direction.

Some examples of effective secondary conversions are 1) blog subscriptions, 2) interactions with a live a live chat tool (if you have it), or if you’re getting a little more advanced with analytics 3) visitors who spend longer than XX seconds on certain pages of your site.

These actions work well as secondary conversions specifically because they show a visitor starting to consider a purchase from you. They show intent. For the same reason, these are great events to use for building a remarketing audience to use in paid search or display ad platforms.

Tertiary Conversions

To recap, we’ve set up the scoreboard (primary conversions), and we’ve set up intent-rich engagement (secondary conversions).
The last bucket of “tertiary conversions” is largely about judging whether your site passes the sniff test for first-time visitors or other prospects very early on in their interaction with your company and your site.
Did a larger number of people open the proverbial door of your online store, only to run screaming for the hills? How has that reaction changed over time? Is it different from certain channels, or when you attract people with specific ad messages?
Some suggestions for strong tertiary conversions would be things like

  • Pageviews per session
  • Bounce rate
  • Average time on site

The power of these metrics is that we can tease out specific early indicators, as they change over time and in different channels. For instance, if you’d hired a business to do some blindingly insightful SEO consulting, you’d want to evaluate whether and how the baseline quality of traffic from organic search is improving, and whether you’re presenting compelling, appropriate next steps to those visitors.

Summary
When you have these three types of on-site conversions configured in your web analytics, you’ll be able to see what users are doing, and to optimize your site based on a logical progression of desired user actions. And when it’s time to report out those results, the data will be organized in a way that lets you clearly demonstrate how each distinct part of your online marketing funnel is performing. A nice little change from “I hope these numbers are right” if I do say so.