Before jumping into why your attribution model is killing your digital marketing performance, let's do a quick recap on what an attribution model is and what the most common ones are.
Who Gets The Credit?
An attribution model is the method used to determine which tactics get credit for online conversions. The most common models are:
- Last Click
- First Click
- Time Decay
Last Click Attribution Model
If you don't know what kind of model you're using, it's a safe bet you're on Last Click, which is the default setting in Google AdWords. This model gives full credit for all conversions to whatever produced the last click before the conversion.
The major flaw in the Last Click attribution model is that it ignores any other activities that led up the last click. In many cases, the last click came from a search using a branded term. It usually takes quite a bit of effort to get a customer down the funnel to the point where they are ready to convert and this model gives no credit for that effort.
For example, a customer may have started with a general search term like "women's snowboards." After learning more about the styles available the customer may have done additional searches like "women's freestyle snowboards" then "women's freestyle snowboards for channel bindings" and finally "Burton women's freestyle snowboards for channel bindings." Since the last term contained "Burton," that search may have resulted in an ad from a trademark or branded term campaign.
A novice digital marketer for Burton, using Last Click Attribution, may have assumed the campaigns that served ads before the branded term search, with few conversions and a subsequently high CPA, were ineffective and may have either turned them off or restricted their budgets. Either decision could have taken the customer's journey to another brand, ultimately giving the sale to a competitor. Using this model might be influencing you to budget starve campaigns that perform a vital role in assisting conversions for your business.
First Click Attribution Model
As you probably guessed, First Click Attribution gives all of the credit for your conversion to the very first search the customer made. This model would help an advertiser get their ads in front of searching customers at the beginning of their journey, however, since it ignores the rest of the journey, it's flawed like Last Click.
Linear Attribution Model
Linear Attribution gives equal credit to all clicks along the path to conversion. Now we're getting somewhere! Using a model like this helps prevent budget starving those clicks that happen in the middle of the funnel.
Time Decay Attribution Model
For businesses that have longer sales funnels, a Time Decay Attribution might be appropriate. This model gives more credit to more recent clicks, decreasing that credit for clicks that happened earlier on in the journey.
Position-Based Attribution Model
This model was created to give greater weight to the first and last clicks along the conversion path. In AdWords this model gives both the first and last clicks 40% of the credit for each conversion, while clicks that happened between get 20%.
Which Attribution Model Should I Be Using?
In our opinion, you should be using either the Linear, Time Decay or Position-Based Attribution Model. Each of these models give some credit to every campaign that produces clicks, that lead to conversions. Whichever way you go, make sure you keep your model in mind when making budgeting decisions!
So there you have it. Attribution can make a major difference in the performance of your digital advertising, so make sure you're using the one that makes the most sense for your business. If you're not happy with these options, hang tight. Google is testing some other attribution models that may be added as options to AdWords in the future.