Measuring Marketing Attribution

by , Jul 1, 2022Blog

The average customer uses 10 channels or touchpoints to interact with companies before making a transaction, which creates a unique challenge when trying to measure the impact of individual channels on an entire campaign. Omni channel attribution is one of the tools pro-level marketers use, and a good marketing attribution model that works for the business goes a long way. This way the marketer can show up to every meeting prepared with meaningful data.

Here is the classic problem a proper marketing attribution solves: If someone comes from a Google ad (for example) to our website, then pokes around and eventually converts on a form somewhere on-site, the website is getting credit, not the ad. The goal is to collect more granular attribution tracking so we can see which channels are helping most with the acquisition.

Using marketing attribution can help understand which marketing tactics and channels are contributing to sales, conversions, and leads. This can include planning marketing spending based on past performance and identifying channels that create the highest quality leads and most valuable customers. It also provides insights based on campaign data and analytics and helps with understanding both the offline and online customer buying journey.

As shown in the graph above, it’s clear that the customer journey is non-linear. People will often convert after two or more interactions, meaning that finding a meaningful way to consolidate this information is more important than ever. 

This article is one in a series of deep-dive blogs that are educational content. These longer-form articles inform our readers about not only essential marketing information but also our personal feelings and values that we hold as a business. Make sure to read our last blog in the series after this, “Email Marketing.”

What is marketing attribution?

Simply put, marketing attribution is assigning credit where credit is due. It is measuring and assigning credit to each channel that impacts the complex customer journey, weighted based on the impact on the customer’s decision to convert or take the next desired step. We should add a note that attribution is a sticky subject and the way we measure things will change as we move into a cookieless world. Attribution models — whether it’s last-click or a more sophisticated data-driven multitouch affair — rely on cookies to function. Being able to identify and follow a user across sites and media channels is central to their functionality. Without cookies, they can’t provide the insight that many advertisers have come to view as standard. So Follow us and stay on top of this critical topic as we continue to publish blogs on this and other important topics that will affect your marketing decisions. 

The basis of marketing attribution is all about who should get credit for the conversion – when someone interacts with your ad or free product listing (for example, clicks a text ad or views a video ad) and then takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or a call to your business from a mobile phone. Examples of conversions that you might not think about are submitting a form, creating an account, watching a video, opening an email, starting a product trial, app installs, etc. As a business owner, you are already tracking those purchases in your own way, and marketing attribution is a tool that will help you better understand what led up to that conversion. With marketing attribution in place, you can now tell if your online ad led to them purchasing vs. reading your blog.  It is these conversions that are given value in marketing attribution, and how you give value to them will change the way data is collected and interpreted. 

Attribution modeling like last-click or position-based (as mentioned in our example scenario at the top), relies on static ROI metrics, which can lead to false assumptions and incorrect credit since we live in a dynamic digital marketing environment. Meanwhile, dynamic digital attribution modeling provides insights into how, where, and when a customer interacts with a brand, which can improve marketing ROI. The dynamic model takes into account the nonlinear characteristic of the modern customer journey since each interaction and experience contributes differently.

Why is marketing attribution important?

To optimize campaign channel performance, understanding marketing attribution can help marketers understand which touchpoints are the most effective in driving conversions. Only when marketers understand the weight of each interaction or channel, can they then devote more resources to better-targeted campaigns. 

There is an increased demand to prove the effectiveness of ad campaigns. After all, no one wants to hire a marketing company that can’t prove their efforts. In fact, in 2018, nearly 30% of marketers reported wasting about a third of their marketing budget. Using marketing attribution can help marketers prove the value of their work, and prove to you that their services weren’t wasting your time.

Here are some things that proper marketing attribution can help:

Firstly, it can tell you what channels you should pay more attention to, and which channels have less value. 

Secondly, it can help you optimize your marketing spend by showing which touchpoints earn the most engagements.

Next, it will help you to make better decisions about your budget and your time.

Also, it will evaluate the customer journey holistically, instead of focusing on one touchpoint. 

A big one is that it will help you make real-time adjustments to your marketing approach.

Related, it will help you improve creative elements to hone the messaging and visual elements when communicating with users. 

Continually, you will know how to reach the right customer at the right time, leading to increased marketing ROI.

Additionally, you will improve personalization by understanding the most effective messaging strategies based on channels.

Lastly, you will understand the needs of the customers and in turn, can improve product development.

What are some marketing attribution models?

Firstly, what are marketing attribution models as a whole? Well, it is a strategy that allows marketers to analyze and assign credit to marketing touchpoints at the specific steps of the customer journey, from searching for a product online to making a purchase, and every action in between. This person-centric approach to attribution is typically applied to digital campaigns rather than campaigns conducted offline. Each attribution model relies on different analytical techniques, meaning different actions are emphasized differently. 

There are several types of marketing attribution models that are important to understand. Here at marketANDgrow, since we specialize in Google Ads, we will use some of their marketing attribution models as examples. 

  • Last interaction: The last touchpoint receives 100% of the credit for the conversion.
  • First click: The first touchpoint receives 100% of the credit for the conversion.
  • Position-based/U-Shaped: 40% credit is assigned to both the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions.
  • Time decay: A multi-touch model that gives more credit to the touchpoints closest to the conversion.
  • Linear: Credit is distributed evenly to every single touch in the buyer’s journey. 
  • Data-driven: Machine learning determines the best way to distribute credit for your conversions. Be aware, that there is a pre-requisite. You need at least 300 conversions and 3,000 ad interactions in supported networks within 30 days to be eligible.

To learn more about the details of each type of model, read our blog post.

How do I choose a suitable attribution model?

There are many considerations you need to make when deciding on which attribution model to rely on. Start by defining the goals and metrics that you want to measure with the attribution model. Then, consider which models will measure them more easily. Remember, you are not tied to any specific attribution model. Speak with an expert about different attribution models and see what works best for you. We recommend not using last-click or first-click attribution since it gives you the least amount of meaningful data. Position-based and time decay attribution models offer much more insight, even a linear model is better if you’re just starting. Of course, if you meet the criteria for data-driven attribution, then that is the best usually. If you’re unsure or need clarification on what would work best for your business, schedule a no-obligation discovery call

Some things to consider are the type of the sales cycle of the business, how long it is, and whether it is done online, offline, or both. Organizations that focus a lot of efforts on offline methods, such as print, will need to choose an attribution model that can correlate and normalize both online and offline efforts together. 

The graphic below is a summary of the goals and what is usually measured with each type of attribution model. Feel free to save this graphic.

When selecting tools or software to use for marketing attribution, such as Google Ads or Google Analytics, be sure to consider whether it has the following features:

  • Supports both online and offline channels if you need that.
  • Offers a “big picture” analysis by ingesting data from a variety of campaigns and platforms.
  • Supports statistical modeling to create more meaningful information.
  • Uses a variety of attribution models to support your business and offer different perspectives. 
  • Employs predictive analytics to help marketers plan campaigns with more accurate data.

Fits seamlessly with your current tech stack to help with a seamless transition.

Where should I go to find a marketing attribution service?

There exist digital marketing attribution service providers such as Hyros. However, if you are just getting started or do not have a deep budget then Google Analytics & Google Ads will do just fine. Especially if you are only leveraging Google Marketing (Google Ads, YouTube Ads, Display Ads, SEO and/or Retargeting). Here at marketANDgrow, we believe that if you are just starting, Google Ads and Google Analytics are two great places to begin marketing attribution. Since Google Ads is our sweet spot, we know a lot about how their marketing attribution can work for you. If you’re interested in hearing more about how we can help, book a consultation call with us. 

Before you begin with these services, however, you need to know that they synthesize data differently, and there may be discrepancies between the same data in these two different places just because they do things differently.

Google Ads: By default, if a customer’s journey to purchase involves a Google Ad, Google Ads will always give conversion credit to the last Google ad the customer saw or clicked (unless you change to other attribution models). 

VS.

Google Analytics: Gives conversion credit to whatever engagement was the last one in the customer’s journey.

Google Ads: Conversion tracking reports on conversions a bit sooner. Google Ads reports on conversions every three hours. However, if you’re using a non-last click attribution model, conversions can be delayed by up to 15 hours. 

VS.

Google Analytics: Goals are imported from Google Ads and are reported every nine hours.

How important is marketing attribution to us?

At marketANDgrow, we use marketing attribution to know which channels are working for us and which channels should receive the credit. It’s so important to us that it’s the first thing we look at or set up when we first take on a client. Before you scale your marketing, i.e increase your spending on any channel, you must get your attribution in place and right, or else you may end up investing in the wrong channel. Before you look at attribution, you need to find and decide on a good conversion metric. If it is a lead, then what action qualifies as a lead, and so forth. Measurement is everything in marketing. Without good, valuable measurement, there is no way to know where improvement is needed and where you have the potential to optimize. 

Marketing attribution can help marketers succeed, by justifying budgets and planning more effective strategies in a dynamic environment. Although marketing attribution relies heavily on data, it also requires the knowledge and informed decision-making of us marketers to act upon the campaign performance data. By connecting the dots across the entire buying journey, you can position your business to respond to changes in the market and consumer behavior. 

Need help implementing or improving your attribution modeling? Book a discovery call with us today.

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