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What is a website conversion?

First things first. Let’s define this beast in the simplest terms:

A website conversion is an action a user takes on your website to reach a goal. This goal can be their own, one set out for them by your company, or a mutual goal of both parties.

Examples of website conversions

These actions can be simple and very tangible, e.g. sending a message via a contact form or purchasing a product.

But if you look back at my definition of website conversion, it can get more complex – and even abstract.

The article you’re reading right now aims to answer your question. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure, I may direct you to other valuable resources on our website, and perhaps even encourage you to take action.

But you and I share the same, primary goal. You need to figure out what the hell is a website conversion. In that sense, it’s an abstract conversion. I can measure it by asking you to leave feedback in the comments if you’ve learned something new. But not everyone will, even if they appreciate the article.

In that sense, if you’re 100% satisfied with this article and don’t need to go elsewhere to read up on the definition of conversion, you’ve reached your goal and hence converted. We both win!

What is a conversion rate?

Conversion rate is a term that closely follows your first introduction to website conversion.

This one is straightforward – it’s the percentage of visitors that reached their/your goal.

As mentioned, there will be abstract conversions that can’t be measured as such. Going back to my example, I cannot know the accurate conversion rate of this article.

I can only gauge it by using related metrics, such as how long people spend reading the article, whether they click any links to learn more, etc. Spoiler alert: at the end of this article, I’ll also give you a chance to download our explainer of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) for free.

The ratio of people that are eager to learn more will be a good indicator of the quality of this article. Your goal is still to just learn about the definitions of conversions so a download is not a direct conversion.

Are these definitions easy to follow?

Please rate them on a scale of 1-4, with 1 meaning “I still have no clue what a conversion is” and 4 being a perfect definition. Leave them in the comments of this article.

Why the conversion rate is a measure, not a target

Maybe you’ve noticed the theme in this article. The only definition of a conversion I stand by is one that revolves around you. I’m here for you, to explain things, not the other way around. You’re not here to download our PDF, or to leave a comment. You might if you appreciate it, and that’s awesome. But that’s it.

With that said, here’s an important thing to note, known as Goodhart’s Law:

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

See, my target is to help you learn about conversions. We’ve already talked about how that’s not measurable. Great! My target is not a measure, so I’m not breaking the law. Phew!

And this is precisely why the cult of optimising for conversions is dangerous. If your conversion rate is a measure, it can’t be a target at the same time.

I’ll be the first to admit – we’re guilty of this. We used to (and maybe still do) “optimise for conversions”. We’ve had targets of reaching X%, and we’ve measured them by… checking if we’ve reached X%.


The best way to illustrate Goodhart’s Law is this: you are working to make your website easier to use (target), which can be validated by observing an increase in the conversion rate (measure).

If your target is “double my conversion rate”, measured by the very same metric, you have a conflict on your hands.

The importance of offline conversions

Not all business is concluded online. There is no ecommerce part to our website, so our ultimate conversion happens “offline”. (Or at the very least, outside of the website.)

This is illustrated in the advanced version of our conversion value calculator, where you have to take into account metrics from your website and from your sales team.

Whether that’s a video call where you close the deal or an in-person purchase at a brick-and-mortar store – you won’t know the exact conversion rate purely from your website. At that point, your website only has micro conversions.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments. And if you’d like to learn more about Conversion Rate Optimisation, check out our free PDF below.

Why CRO Will More than Double Your Sales

Discover the value of optimising your conversions compared to building more landing pages or designing a new website.

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Originally published Jan 29, 2023 8:21:51 PM, updated May 8 2024.

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