Understanding The Value Of Attribution Models

It's a tale as old as time. Sales and marketing are locked in a power struggle trying to answer the eternal question: 'Who gets credit for the sale?' Answering that question is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Most new sales will have interacted with multiple campaigns and channels before making a purchase. Fortunately, your business can implement a strategy leveraging tools that sort out the complicated path through the sales funnel: an attribution model.

December 6, 2021

It's a tale as old as time. Sales and marketing are locked in a power struggle trying to answer the eternal question: 


'Who gets credit for the sale?' 


Answering that question is a lot more complicated than it used to be. Most new sales will have interacted with multiple campaigns and channels before making a purchase. 


As a matter of fact, the average customer can take between 7 and 13 touches to convert.


Many marketers attribute a sale to the last campaign the user clicked on, but that sort of attribution can cause a business to lose site of campaigns that play a very important part in the sales funnel. In worst case scenarios, a business might stop investing in a marketing campaign that’s working, and lose sales as a result!


Fortunately, your business can implement a strategy leveraging tools that sort out the complicated path through the sales funnel: an attribution model.


Have questions about your marketing or advertising strategy? Contact us today! 


What’s an Attribution Model?

Attribution models are ways for marketers to choose how much credit is given to each of the ads on the conversion journey.


Using them in Google Ads is as simple as clicking on the “Tools & Settings” icon in the top right-hand corner and under “Measurement” selecting “Conversions.” From here, you can edit the settings of the conversion of your choice!


But why use attribution models? What value can attribution models provide?


The Conversion Journey 


To explain the value of using attribution models, let us take you on a customer’s conversion journey as he decides to buy an engagement ring from a company that ethically sources diamonds and shares his values. Let’s call them Example Engagement Rings.


As our customer dates his future bride, he begins seeing display ads for Example Engagement Rings advertising that they’re ethically sourced and fit with his values. Our customer clicks on the ad but does not convert. However, the ad brands Example Engagement Rings as a company that fits his values, which is a key in his future buying decision. Then, when things were getting more serious in our customer’s relationship, he searched on Google for engagement rings and showed his future bride. 


A broad match, keyword-targeted search ad for Example Engagement Rings pops up on his search for “engagement rings,” and he remembers their brand. He shows his bride-to-be, and she loves a particular style they provide. This leads our customer deeper down the sales funnel.


Finally, our customer decides to propose and searches “Example Engagement Rings.” He clicks on a branded search ad, and converts, purchasing an engagement ring for thousands of dollars. 


Not sure where to start on your advertising strategy? We can help!



Google AdWords Attribution Models

Let’s go through each Google AdWords attribution model and how they would attribute Example Engagement Rings’ high-value conversion:


  1. Last-click Attribution: Last-click attribution gives all of the credit of the conversion to the final campaign. This is how Google Ads attributes conversions by default in the dashboard and how many marketers measure conversions. 

In this case, that would’ve been the branded search ad that our customer clicked on to make the purchase. 

But should we really give this final search ad all of the credit? Doing so ignores the other campaigns that influenced our customer by drawing brand awareness and drawing him deeper into consideration. So much more goes into a conversion than that final click!

  1. First-click Attribution: First-click attribution attributes the conversion to the first campaign our customer clicks. In the case of our customer, that was the display campaign that first introduced him to Example Engagement Rings.

Now, let’s say the display campaign that our customer clicked on first doesn’t have many last-click conversions but has been drawing brand awareness to create conversions in other campaigns. 

If the marketers at Example Engagement Rings just go by last-click attribution, they would see little value in that display campaign and end it. Then they might be shocked to see a drop in conversions in the other campaigns!

Using first-click attribution, our marketers can understand the value of that display campaign in building brand awareness. 

But what about that keyword-targeted search in the middle of our customer’s conversion funnel? Shouldn’t it get some credit?

  1. Linear Attribution: With linear attribution, each campaign gets the same amount of love. Understanding this attribution model allows marketers to track which campaigns create conversions the most, no matter where they fall in the funnel.

Let’s say the search campaign our customer clicked on in the middle of his customer journey has created several conversions for other campaigns, but hasn’t often been the first click or last click. Linear attribution would ensure our marketers would see the value of that campaign where first and last click attributions would completely ignore it.

Linear attribution ensures all campaigns get equal credit, but not all campaigns are created equal. 

The next three attribution models give credit to all interactions but balance their attribution by different metrics to assign more value to campaigns based on their position and contribution in the conversion journey.

  1. Time Decay Attribution: Time decay attribution assigns credit based on how long ago the interaction occurred. Google distributes credit on a 7-day half-life. This means that a click that happened 8 days before a conversion gets half of the credit that the campaign that received the conversion does. 

To understand the value of this attribution model, let’s introduce another campaign into the mix. Let’s say that our customer clicked on an Example Engagement Rings ad on accident a year ago. 

This campaign had no impact on his decision to convert. However, with linear or first-click attribution, it would get the credit! 

Time decay attribution would ensure that this campaign from long ago gets the least credit, providing a more accurate view of the conversion funnel.

  1. Position-Based Attribution: Position-based attribution grants 40% of the credit to the first campaign, 40% to the last, and  20% to the campaigns in between.

Position-based attribution grants extra weight to top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel campaigns, allowing you to see which campaigns inspire the first-click and which campaigns drive the final conversion decision while also not completely ignoring the campaigns in the middle. 

It’s a very balanced model that shows you which campaigns draw attention, and which campaigns close the deal.

  1. Data-driven Attribution: Finally, data-driven attribution grants credit based on how much the campaign contributed to driving the conversion. This is measured through the data Google collects from the campaign.

This model will give you insight into what campaigns our customer most actively engaged in before his conversion.

 Let’s say that our customer only clicked on that initial top-of-funnel display ad once but clicked the broad-match keyword ad several times. This would ensure that the broad-match keyword campaign would receive the credit it was due.

Google sets heavy requirements for using this model, requiring 15,000 clicks and 600 conversions per month to use it.

Which Attribution Model Is Right for You?

The best attribution model for your company depends heavily on what you’re trying to measure and what you’re trying to achieve. 

If you’re trying to find which ads are the ones that close the deal, last-click attribution works very well. If you’re looking for what ads create brand awareness more successfully, first-click attribution would be a better fit. 

Position-based attribution provides a balance between last-click, first-click, and linear attribution that fits many situations very well. 

If you have a conversion funnel that takes a long time to develop, time-decay attribution would fit your situation perfectly.

Turn Leads Into Customers

By using Google’s attribution models, your business can better understand where your leads are coming from, invest more in those campaigns leading to more conversions, a growing business, and happy customers. 

And how do I know the conversion journey above led to a happy customer? Because I was the customer who bought that engagement ring from the conversion journey described above, and she said, “yes!”

Need digital marketing help? Give us a call at 205-607-2230 or schedule a consultation!

Writer: Michael Kline

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