What's the Difference Between Macro and Micro Conversions

Data Tutorial Product Analytics

There are several ways to measure and improve the performance of your website. A common method is to focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO), but it requires selecting the right metrics. This tutorial will explain what micro and macro conversions are and how to select them.

What are Macro and Micro Conversions?

Conversions are actions that users take on your site that you deem critical for your website. These can really be anything - watching a video on your site, clicking on a link, signing up for a newsletter, making a purchase, etc. Conversions are sometimes called goals, a more intuitive name that emphasizes that completing the action means that the customer has reached a goal that you care about. Conversions are often categorized as micro and macro conversions.

Macro conversions (or macro goals) are the actions a user can take that represent the primary objective of your website. For example, in an e-commerce website, the macro conversion is likely to be making a purchase.

Micro conversions (or micro goals) are actions that a user takes that are either:

  • Critical on the path towards reaching a macro conversion
  • Or highly correlated with reaching a macro conversion, even if it not a necessary step in the macro conversion

In an e-commerce site, adding an item to a shopping cart is often a required step before making a purchase. Thus this action could be a micro conversion. Also, many e-commerce product pages have a product video the user can watch. It’s unlikely that watching the video is required for purchase, but it may be that those who do watch the video are much more likely to make a purchase. In this case, the action of watching the video could also be a micro conversion.

How to Select Macro and Micro Conversions?

The more macro conversions you have, the less clear it is what you want out of your site. In general, you want to limit yourself to one or two actions as macro conversions so that you and your team can focus on what really matters on your product. The macro conversion(s) should reflect the desired business outcome of a user’s visit to the site.

You should select as many micro conversions as are critical and actionable on your customer’s path to a macro conversion.

What Are Common Macro and Micro Conversions?

Selecting the right micro conversion(s) usually depends on your industry. Here are some examples:

  • Making a purchase - typical for e-commerce
  • Creating an account - typical for social networks or freemium e-commerce sites
  • Signing up for a newsletter - common for content sites and companies with brick-and-mortar stores
  • Requesting a demo - common for SaaS companies
  • Clicking through a sponsored link - common for affiliate sites

Most micro conversions are common across industries. Some examples are:

  • Navigating on a catalog
  • Executing a product search
  • Clicking on a search result
  • Adding to shopping cart
  • Creating an account
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Watching a video
  • Adding to wishlist
  • Browsing X number of products
  • Scrolling down a page
  • Liking or upvoting

Notice that some micro conversions are also on the macro conversion list. Creating an account might be the ultimate goal for a new user to a social network, but creating an account without a purchase would be of secondary importance to an e-commerce site.

Common Uses of Macro and Micro Conversions

As the primary business objective of your site, your macro metric is generally used to calculate the overall conversion rate of your site. Conversion rate is simply the number of users who took the macro conversion action divided by all users who came to your site. Conversion rate is typically used as:

  • The primary measure of success for Product Managers (see more on metrics for a Product Manager here).
  • The primary measure of success of marketing campaigns

Micro conversions are typically used:

  • In funnel analyses to understand where users are dropping off on the path towards a macro conversion
  • As operational metrics for Product Managers to identify where the are opportunities to improve the macro conversion (see more on metrics for a Product Manager here).

Conclusion

Macro and micro conversions are important in understanding and optimizing your site and your marketing strategy so it’s critical to understand them and to carefully select them.