Website Conversion: How To Measure Your Conversion Rate

Paul Boag

We are all worried about improving our website conversion rate. But to do so, we need to know how to measure website conversion accurately.

Almost every site has some point of website conversion, a thing they wants users to do. That might be to buy an item online, make contact, complete a form or download something. Whatever that thing is, we need to be able to measure it to know whether our sites have been successful or not.

Measuring your conversion rate can appear deceptively simple. However, even the most basic call to action can be harder to track than you might expect.

For example, what should we be measuring and how do we know whether the numbers we get back are good or bad?

In this post, I want to look at three common website conversion points and break down exactly what you should be measuring and how to judge success. These are:

  • An ecommerce transaction.
  • A user making contact.
  • A user initiating a download.

Let us begin with the simplest of the three, a download call to action.

Measuring Your Download Website Conversion Rate

Whether it is downloading a PDF ebook or a piece of software, surely tracking downloads is straightforward? Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.

For a start, just because somebody downloads something doesn’t mean they do anything with it. That ebook may sit unread on a user’s file system until they eventually delete it. Equally, those who download apps, often delete them after trying it for only a few minutes.

Although not always possible, in an ideal world, you want to be tracking usage not just downloads. Perhaps your ebook has a call to action of its own that you can track or maybe you can add monitoring software to your app.

alt=" UX Cam Tracks Website Conversion Through to App Usage.">
Tools like UXCam allow you to track the usage of your downloaded app.

Then there is the question of who is downloading. Is your download getting into the right hands? Are you reaching the right audience? That is why marketers sometimes ask for a little bit of information on a person before they can download. Of course, this creates a usability hurdle, and so a balance has to be struck.

Finally, there is the question of where the users downloading have come from. As I say in my post on key performance indicators, we need to be able to track the referral path a user took to get to the download. For example, if most people downloading have come from a particular Facebook Ad, you want to know that, so you can focus your marketing budget there.

But knowing the referrer doesn’t just need to apply to an outside source like Facebook. It is also useful to know where users who download something have been in the site. That helps you analyse whether some pages are working better than others and help you optimise accordingly.

The same is true for any conversion point. For example, it is just as important to know which referral source lead to users being most likely to contact you.

Tracking Users Who Make Contact

Referral sources are not the only thing to consider when users make contact.

For a start, we need to think about how people are contacting you. Sure, it is easy to track users who contact you through a web form. But what about those who phone or email? These are conversions generated through the website too and so need to be counted.

Fortunately this is easily addressed by using a unique telephone number and email address on the website. However, you do need to keep track of people who use these channels.

We also need to measure not just the quantity of enquiries, but the quality too.

I once worked with a marketing team who were measured on the number of leads they generated. They were so obsessed with this metric that they didn’t notice, or indeed care, that most of the leads they were sending to the sales team were rubbish.

All they succeeded in doing was generating a lot of extra work for the sales team as they had to follow up and qualify all of those leads.

The problem with tracking quality is that it needs human interaction to track successfully. Somebody needs to make a judgement call about the lead and record its quality in a way that can be reported on later.

Some websites try to qualify leads when they are submitted online. However, this almost always results in asking the user additional questions that ultimately reduces the conversion rate or drives people just to pick up the phone instead.

There is no magic solution to this problem, although a good customer relationship management system can help. However, even if you have to manually track a lead through your company it is work worth doing.

alt="Pipedrive being used to track website conversion">
A good CRM system like Pipedrive allows you to track a website lead all the way to the point of conversion.

Without that information, you will never discover whether one referral source attracts better customers than another, or be able to estimate the profitability of online campaigns.

Being able to track a user from initial contact to a signed contract opens up a world of possibilities, not least of which is the ability to calculate a financial value to your conversion rate.

Being able to associate a monetary value to a conversion makes a huge difference because it justifies investment in the website and other digital channels. That is why ecommerce sites typically see higher levels of investment.

Calculating Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate

In some ways tracking ecommerce is the easiest, but the plethora of data available also allows you to dive into much more detail than you would with other types of conversion. That can prove overwhelming.

So let’s take a look at some of the website conversion metrics you could be tracking.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

A common drop off point on any ecommerce site is the shopping cart. User’s add items and yet never progress to purchase. That makes it a useful metrics to track, because it allows you to test various methods of incentivising people to progress to checkout.

If you don’t track shopping cart abandonment you cannot know whether your ‘improvements’ have the desired result.

Checkout Abandonment

Even if people progress beyond the shopping cart, there is no guarantee they will make it to the end of the checkout process. There are numerous reasons why users might bail on the purchase from frustrations over data entry to not having a payment method to hand.

To identify these problems and experiment with possible solutions it is necessary to track behaviour at each step of this process.

alt="Dropoff in ecommerce website conversion flow.">
Knowing where users abandon the checkout process allows you to identify points to optimise

Conversion by Referral Source

Users will reach your website through different channels. Some will be organic such as search engines and back links, while others will be paid such as Facebook Ads or sponsored posts.

Whatever the case it is important to know which of these referral sources have a better chance of conversion. Knowing this will enable you to focus money and time on building these referral sources over those which perform less well.

alt="Website conversion by channel">
One under performing channel can pull down your entire conversion rate

New vs. Returning Visitor Conversion Rate

Not only do different referral sources convert at different rates, so do different types of users. For example, it is good to be able to compare new vs returning customers and how they convert differently.

It could be that discounts for first-time buyers are boosting new user purchases at the cost of suppressing returning visitors. Or maybe loyal, returning customers are masking the fact that your website is inferior at attracting and converting new people.

It is only possible to discover these problems and fix them if you can segment these audiences and compare their conversion rate.

Value per Visitor

Value per visitor allows you to see how much revenue your site generates for every person who visits the website. It is calculated by taking the sites total revenue and dividing it by the number of visitors.

As a website conversion metric it is useful for seeing the overall performance of your website. However, it is particularly useful for calculating how much you can spend on paid acquisition through Facebook or Google advertising.

It can also be useful for judging the quality of visitors coming to your website. A low value per visitor could be a sign that you are targeting the wrong type of people.

Average Order Value

A point will come when your website conversion rate begins to stagnate as you have fixed the glaring issues around conversion. At this point, you can either focus on driving more traffic to the site or encouraging each person who does buy, to spend more money.

By tracking the average order value you can see exactly how much each person is spending and seek to improve this metric through up-selling and cross-selling on your site.

alt="Example of improving website conversion through upselling.">
When you track your average order value you can tell if your attempts to upsell are working.

Lifetime Order Value

The lifetime order value is one of those website conversion metrics that can be hard to calculate but provides a lot of value.

For a start, it will allow you to understand better how much you can afford to pay for customer acquisition. If you know that a customer will spend a considerable amount over their entire purchasing history, you can afford to make a loss on their first transaction by overspending on acquiring them.

Second, tracking your lifetime order value justifies expenditure on customer retention by providing an outstanding customer experience. Customer experience is a major influencing factor in how much customers ultimately spend with a company.

Cost and Profit per Website Conversion

Finally, every ecommerce merchant should be tracking cost per website conversion. It is crucial that organisations know how much it costs to win business.

The cost per website conversion figure should also be more than the obvious costs of advertising. It should also factor in the costs of running the website itself. Admittedly these figures might have to be an estimate, but measuring something is better than measuring nothing.

Also, if you know the cost per conversion, you can guesstimate the profit per conversion. That is the amount of profit made on each order and will be based on the average profit made on a sale, minus the cost of conversion.

Once again this will probably be an educated guess as the margins on a sale will vary wildly based on many different factors. However, thinking about profit per conversion, prevents you over investing in your website and advertising channels.


There is so much more to say about the various metrics you could measure, but there are ample good articles online about how to calculate these values and other alternatives. What is more important to take away is the critical role metrics play in conversion rate optimisation.

However, there is one last question I want to address – how do you know if you are performing well? Against what exactly are you measuring success?

What Should I Be Measuring Against?

A common question I hear is “what is the average conversion rate?” I am sure this is a question that could be answered, but the answer would be meaningless even if you were comparing similar products.

Imagine for a moment you knew the conversion rate of your closest competitors website. It would either leave you feeling despondent because your rate was lower, content because it was on par with yours or overjoyed because you were ahead of the game. But how does any of that help?

You either end up being complacent, or conclude your whole website is rubbish and needs replacing. Neither scenario is helpful.

When it comes to conversion rate optimisation you should always be seeking to incrementally improve things. That means the only person you need to measure yourself against is yourself.

Stop worrying about what the average is or what your competition is doing and instead focus on improving your metrics overtime. You will never be done, but that is the point. You can always improve and you cannot afford to stand still.

Why Website Conversion Metrics Matter

Website conversion metrics matter because without tracking them you will have no motivation to improve. But more than that you will not know whether your improvements are making a difference. We can only improve what we measure and until you realise that, investment in your website will be a stab in the dark and not sustainable.

Stock Photos from Yeti studio/Shutterstock

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