Bringing Clarity to “Conversions”

Laptop graph

Lincoln Digital Group’s CEO on Defining the Omnipresent Digital Marketing Term

Since I first became involved with digital marketing in 2010, “conversion” is a term that’s been used by almost every digital marketer and marketing decision-maker under the Sun. And since you’re reading this, chances are you’re aware this custom continues to this day.

Of course, depending on your industry or viewpoint, there was — and always will be — one critical question: What is a conversion, anyway?

In other words, what are we actually talking about? More importantly, are we even speaking the same language?

Lincoln Digital Group’s Viewpoint and Definition 

The fact that this need for a consistent definition of the term “conversion” still exists is what inspired me to write this blog. Because frankly, I’m tired of the confusion, lack of clarity and sometimes outright misleading intent that has come to be associated with this critical measurement term.

So, here’s how we at Lincoln Digital Group define the term conversion: A direct buying action.

In other words, the express intent to consume your product or service.

Nothing more, nothing less.

After, the creation of more online buying actions is what we’re all here for, isn’t it?

Examples of Conversions in Digital Marketing

Using our definition, here are some common examples of conversions:

  • Phone calls
  • Text message inquiries
  • Email inquiries
  • Form completions
  • Products added to a shopping cart (eCommerce)
  • Purchases (eCommerce)

All of the above are direct buying actions. And you can see their ability to impact your campaign’s success in another blog post on digital marketing reports.

I’ve seen conversions defined — by large, nationwide organizations, mind you — as everything from hard leads, to people merely looking at your store hours or location. I’ve also seen it defined as views of a product detail page that the campaign merely assists.

The latter parts of this attempted definition are nonsense.

A user knowing what time you open and close has nothing to do with their intent to buy from you. Nor does one consuming specs about your product. That is how you define research, and research is not equivalent to a buying action.

Lincoln Digital Group’s Experience with Customizing Conversions

We acknowledge that different business and industries can have different goals associated with their marketing, and therefore, their own understanding of how to settle on a conversion may differ. In fact, we’ve been experiencing this first-hand since the Spring with a client in South America.

In the beginning, it was important for them to know how many people were viewing where to buy their products. This resulted in us configuring goals to measure viewership of distributor contact information, as well as which big box stores carried their products. While we hadn’t before setup conversion goals like this, it was useful to do so in this case, because the client is a multi-national Brand that doesn’t retail directly. So, a consumer seeking out all the different places to buy their product and how to contact their points of purchase is a direct buying action, in their view.

Tailoring Conversions to Work for You

There are myriad other examples across different aspects of the business eco-system (eg. manufacturer, retailer, franchise, Brand) of how the term “conversion” can be tailored to meet a businesses needs, while still remaining strictly focused to buying actions.

And therein lies the key for bringing both clarity and usefulness to the term: A conversion goal can (and should) be customized for your specific business needs.

So long as it continues to measure direct buying actions of express intent — regardless of if you’re  tracking form leads, purchases or distributor views — a strict definition and understanding of what a conversion is in your own business will be a very useful metric for your digital marketing health.