Once upon a time there was a simple conversion to PPC.

It meant that someone had completed some action you wanted – which usually meant a sale.

With the increasing complexity of marketing and the further development of the measurement functions, the term “conversion” became more complex and differentiated.

How have conversions changed?

Instead of tracking a specific conversion, marketers these days focus on many desired user actions.

These "micro-conversions" inform marketers whether or not they are on the right track with their audience.

For example, marketers may have just measured past purchases.

Now they're measuring other actions – like participating in an email newsletter or attending a webinar.

It's a natural evolution as the marketing ecosystem grew.

When paid search was the only tactic in town, you knew where your traffic was coming from.

Users went to search engines and websites. They usually did it on a desktop.


There are tablets, phones, search engines, and social media platforms.

Users interact with everyone.


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Marketers need to figure out which combination of all of these things will bring them the best brand growth.

And conversions are key to that.

Conversion types by goal

Typically, a conversion goal falls into one of these categories.

Lead generation

The conversion goal for this effort is to generate a lead.

This could be in the form of an email, phone call, or similar action indicating that a user is interested in what a company has to offer.

Platforms have even evolved where campaigns and ad formats can achieve this without a user getting to a website.

Campaign goals like lead generation on Facebook make this easy for brands.

What is a paid media conversion?

YouTube recently opened this option to anyone showing ads using the feature that was already available in Google Ads.

What is a paid media conversion?

Getting leads is generally a micro-conversion – meaning that they will ultimately get the lead – to sell something.


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This can be done through email maintenance or a subsequent phone call from the company.

Purchase conversions

Typically in the context of ecommerce, a purchase conversion is exactly what it sounds like – someone has bought something.

However, many accounts also consider other measures to determine the overall value of a campaign.

For example, micro-conversions such as "Add to cart" can also be counted.

Determine the value of a conversion

Here, as marketing matured, things got more nuanced.

At that time there was a single conversion day.

It was placed on a brand's website and only triggered when the action took place.

Usually it was on the side of a successful purchase or after a lead was submitted.

Over time, platforms developed into their own measurement pixels.

This means that the platform is no longer a conversion that triggered a tag loaded on a success page, but can now see everything a user does.

It would keep track of all user activity on a site.

The advertiser can indicate which actions or URLs resulted in a conversion.

This opened up a whole new world of tracking for advertisers as they got deeper insight into user actions.

It made tactics like retargeting more effective because ads that followed users on the internet were more specific to what they were doing on the website.

With all of this, tracking makes it unclear what a conversion is worth.

It varies depending on the purpose of each campaign.

Let's look at some examples.

Conversion value for lead generation

A lead doesn't mean it's going to be sold, and in fact, a lot of information may be missing upfront to determine its total value.

Lead generation is usually done for custom sales processes that cannot be done entirely online.

This can make a wrench easy to see the value of a line.

For example, imagine that you generate leads for $ 0.05 each.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

What if those leads never turn into a sale?


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In this case, the cost per lead doesn't matter as there is no profit!

Lead generation is a delicate balance between paying the right amount for a lead based on the likely sales outcome.

How is that done?

Customer relationship management platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, and others incorporate data that indicates where the user came from when they submitted their information as a lead.

As the sales team works with these leads, the pipeline shows averages of sales performance.

In these situations there are many ways to calculate the ROI.

Ultimately, what you want to achieve is the ideal cost per lead based on your average sales.

This way, you will learn what value a lead has to your company and what you want to pay for a lead.

Purchase conversion value

While it may seem easier to buy, it also has its own nuances.


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In many situations, an advertisement acts as the first way a user can discover a brand or get to a website.

Some may buy right away, and some may not.

Most ecommerce advertisers then use remarketing ads to help follow users and complete the sale.

These retargeting ads usually get the credit for the sale.

The first thing to consider when calculating conversion value is: how much is being spent on both funnel ads and remarketing ads?

If advertisers simply believe that remarketing ads are generating all conversions and clearing the top of the funnel, the remarketing ads will have fewer users to convert to purchase.

Another part of the buying image is a customer's lifetime value.

Let's say you sell a product, it costs $ 25, and it never really needs to be replaced.

This is a different situation than a subscription box, which is charged at $ 25 per month. The average customer stays for 15 months.

In the first example, the advertiser has very tight margins.


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In the second case, more than $ 25 can be spent on a purchase.

On average, it is repaid over the course of the customer's stay.

Conversions with no assignable source

Here's the trick with marketing: it's not all measurable.

We'd like to see it that way, but users get input from so many ads.

It's just not possible to know why every conversion happened.

And even when you're about to find out, things like seasonality, holidays, elections, and competition keep popping up – it's an ever-changing world.

Although there is more data than ever before, it does not create a perfect absolute measurement system.

What about those conversions that you can't attribute like people browsing your brand or coming straight to your website?

This is where good, old-fashioned gut and correlation data comes in.

What if you turn off YouTube ads and brand search dies?

Or when you turn off Facebook ads and see the same thing?


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That could mean these channels give you brand awareness.

Pay attention to these nuances.

Your marketing is a machine with many parts and you can't see them all.

Your expertise plays a role in the money you invest.

And ultimately, what you get out of your conversions.

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Photo credit

All screenshots by the author, October 2020


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