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What do these expressions mean in general: first-level, second-level, ... ? For example,

Response rates provide a first-level indicator of advertisement effectiveness. Conversion rates offer a second-level indicator of advertisement effectiveness.

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There's no way to know without context. Are first-degree burns worse than third-degree burns? Is a first-rate hotel better than a third-rate hotel? Are one-star restaurants better than three-star restaurants? Is a first-level company executive higher than a second-level company executive? Is a first-level dressage horse more advanced than a second-level dressage horse? (These are rhetorical questions you can find the answer to by Googling; you don't need to tell me the answer.) –  Peter Shor Jun 17 '12 at 14:45
    
@PeterShor Thanks. So do you mean that there is no pattern (even partial pattern) in using this constructs? –  PHPst Jun 18 '12 at 3:34
    
First is either highest or lowest, clearly, but if there's a pattern to when it's one or the other, I can't see it. –  Peter Shor Jun 18 '12 at 4:02
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2 Answers

As comments have indicated, this is a specialised use and "first-level", "second-level" etc mean different things in different contexts. In this particular case, second-level is a better indicator than first-level.

If an advert is not effective, no-one will even respond to get more details of the product, let alone buy it.

Counting the number of responses to the advert will provide a measure of effectiveness. Counting the number of conversions — the number of actual purchases — will provide a better measure of effectiveness.

A more effective advertisement will have a higher number of conversions than a less effective one, although both might have around the same number of enquiry responses.

Because the quotation is ambiguous, I would phrase it

Response rates provide an approximate indicator of advertisement effectiveness. Conversion rates offer a better indicator of advertisement effectiveness.

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Perhaps you could think it this way:

first-level = top-level

second-level = sub-level

However, without the context, it's not easy to give a very definitive explanation here.

My guess: first-level indicator perhaps is a main/major indicator while second-level refers to subordinate/minor indicator.

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Except when I Google "first-level indicator of", in around half of the hits it seems to mean a quick but not very accurate indicator. There are very few hits for "second-level indicator of", though, so maybe it means something else in this case. –  Peter Shor Jun 17 '12 at 18:24
    
I believe that for OP's example, it is more along the lines of first aid, second aid, &c, but it is merely a guess. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 17 '12 at 19:25
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