Everything You Need To Know About Marketing Attribution Models

Go Beyond Last-Click Attribution To Understand The Value Of Your Full Funnel Marketing

An attribution model is the set of rules that determine which marketing channels get credit for your conversions. Pretty important stuff.

But as eMarketer’s stats show, not many companies are committing to marketing attribution modelling yet:

But here’s the rub: even if you don’t think you’re carrying out marketing attribution modelling, you are. You’re just using a Last-Click Attribution model. This is a problem.

Why? Because Last-Click Attribution is just one of many different attribution models and they all give you a different perspective on how your marketing is performing. No one model in particular is correct (or incorrect), as no single one will paint a full picture of your marketing performance. The key is to understand which models tell you what information and when you should be using each one.

Read this blog to move past Last-Click Attribution and discover:

  • Common mistakes marketers make with attribution modelling
  • Examples of how these mistakes affect campaign analysis
  • The key attribution models you need to be aware of and when to use them
  • Quick tips for marketers using Google Analytics

What’s the problem?

As the above statistics demonstrate, many organisations aren’t currently using attribution models.

But research from Teradata shows that the average online purchase is preceded by as many as 5 to 10 interactions.

So, what happens when you don’t use attribution modelling and what are the key problems facing marketers?

MULTI-CHANNEL ATTRIBUTION

Simply put, without multi-channel attribution models, you’re likely misunderstanding the role many of your marketing channels play on the road to a conversion.

Why? Because if you don’t actively use multi-channel attribution models, you’ll be using a Last-Click Attribution model by default. This means all of the credit for your conversions will be assigned to the final channel a customer used to navigate to your website or app before conversion and, by default, you’ll be ignoring all the other marketing channels which played a role in driving your customer to a conversion.

This means your bottom of funnel marketing channels will be getting more credit than may be necessary and your top of funnel marketing channels will not be getting the credit they’re due.

The result? Misinterpreting how your multi-channel marketing efforts are working, allocating budgets based on misunderstood information and, likely, driving up your cost per conversion in the long-term.

Let’s have a look at an example to demonstrate the above.

CROSS-DEVICE ATTRIBUTION

In addition to considering the multi-channel attribution problem, there is another scenario we need to touch on: the case where a customer uses multiple devices on their journey to conversion.

This is a lot more difficult to tackle than simple multi-channel attribution. The reality is that it takes enterprise software systems to try and solve this for your full stack digital efforts (we’ll touch on these later) and free Google Analytics alone cannot solve this. In addition, an advertising system such as Facebook—which is only accessed by logged in users—does account for cross-device conversions within its own Ads Manager data.

Here’s a quick example to demonstrate the above.

So, now that the problems have been laid out, what are the key attribution models and how can they help you resolve these issues?

Common Attribution Models

LAST-CLICK

What is it?

The Last-Click Attribution model gives all of the credit for a conversion to the last source that a person touched before they converted. This places the emphasis on finding your most effective bottom of the funnel marketing channels. Last-Click Attribution is the default model that systems such as Google Analytics display in their standard reports.

When should you use it?

This attribution model is useful when you want to determine which of your marketing channels are the “closers” and give people the final push they need to convert.

FIRST-CLICK

What is it?

The First-Click Attribution model gives all of the credit for a conversion to the first source that a person touched in their journey to a conversion. This places the emphasis on finding your most effective top of the funnel marketing channels.

When should you use it?

This attribution model is useful for understanding which of your prospecting and brand awareness marketing channels are the most effective at finding people that will eventually convert.

LINEAR

What is it?

The Linear Attribution model gives equal credit to every marketing channel that a person touched on their way to conversion, regardless of how many touch points there were.

When should you use it?

This attribution model is useful for getting a full picture of how all your marketing channels contribute towards a conversion and what percentage or weight they have in this process. If you’re thinking of removing a channel from your marketing mix, a Linear model is helpful for understanding whether it has influence at any point in your customer lifecycle.

TIME-DECAY

What is it?

The Time Decay model gives credit to every marketing channel that a person touched on their way to conversion, but places more value on those channels that played a role closer to the conversion.

When should you use it?

This attribution model is useful if you want to place more emphasis on those channels that gradually push customers through the lifecycle to conversion. This is helpful if you have a particularly long sales process and you want to know which of your lead nurture campaigns are pulling people to the finish line.

POSITION-BASED

What is it?

The Position-Based model gives more credit to the first and last interaction (typically 40% each) and spreads the remaining credit (typically 20%) among the other marketing channels in the customer’s journey to conversion.

Many platforms (Google Analytics included) will also allow you to create your own custom Position-Based models, where you can allocate the percentages to each touchpoint yourself.

When should you use it?

This attribution model is useful if you want to understand which of your prospecting and conversion campaigns are working most effectively, but don’t want to completely ignore your middle of funnel campaigns that are edging people along the sales cycle to conversion.

The Solution

As we alluded to at the start of this article, no one model can lay claim to being completely correct. Therefore settling on one model to analyse all your campaigns is a mistake, as you won’t be getting the full picture of your marketing performance.

The key is flexibility and understanding. Understand what you’re trying to figure out before you carry out your analysis and select the most appropriate attribution model for that goal.

  1. Need to understand which prospecting channels are working? Use First-Click.
  2. Want to know which of your channels are closing leads to sales? Use Last-Click.
  3. Fancy a top-level view of campaign performance? Use one of the multi-touch models.

Don’t merge data from these reports together, use them separately, create multiple reports if necessary and understand the story each separate one is telling you.

Quick Tips

If you have conversion tracking correctly set up within Google Analytics, you can quickly compare the results of the various attribution models covered above. Simply navigate to the Attribution section via the left hand menu:

Once on the Model Comparison Tool, you can select multiple attribution models and compare them alongside one another:

Note that this won’t take into account cross-device attribution, which needs an enterprise level piece of software that has access to Data Management Platforms and its own modelling algorithms. You can read up on some of the major vendors here.

Conclusion

Hopefully by reading this blog you have a better understanding of what marketing attribution is and why utilizing it properly is so vital to correctly analysing the results of your marketing campaigns. Without it you are likely misunderstanding how your multi-channel marketing efforts are impacting your bottom line and making decisions on future campaigns without proper insights.