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What is Marketing Attribution? Hint: it’s not just a number! The context behind the data - Review.

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

If you have been following along this Growth Marketing journey, you may have noticed a couple strong themes that dictates a company’s success:

  1. Data is everything: it is the future and the now, and EVERYTHING.

  2. Pretend your consumers are your best friends: Don’t assume you know them, I mean get to know everything about them - know what makes them tick, what their interests are, get into their mind. The creepier it feels the better (but of course staying within legal limits).

Attribution takes marketing analytics to the next, and next, and next, and next level (and next and next….you get it). It takes a deeper dive into truly getting to know your consumers, their behavior, and their journey.

It is not just another number to add to your spreadsheet - it is so much more. Attribution allows you to understand the performance of your consumer and more importantly, how many times does your consumer interact with you in a lifetime?

While Attribution can be used for B2B and B2C, B2B can pose a bit more of a challenge. This post will primarily focus on Attribution for B2C.

Do I Need Attribution?

Yes, yes you do, and here’s why - Google Analytics gives you analytics, but it doesn’t give you insights to what your consumer thinks. Attribution gives you the psychology behind really getting to know your people. The key factor here is about how many times a consumer interacts with you in a lifetime, not just in the past 30 days, or for an event, or a campaign - but their lifetime.

You want that lifetime value, it’s not always about ONLY acquiring new customers, it’s about becoming that go-to brand, that brand that your consumers are loyal to, where they keep coming back to, and adding value through many touch points throughout their life.

People and resources are the most important thing. Attribution means nothing unless you have the right people and resources to take action, and utilize the insights.

Did you know on average a consumer will make 4 visits before purchasing or taking action with you? With Attribution, you can see the full journey - where they came from and the value of consumers engagement with your brand. That data is essential to comprehend which is why choosing the right model for your company is so important, and quite frankly, not the easiest thing to do. The most important question to ask yourself when setting up a model that works for your company is “Are we able to get the data we need to do attribution properly?" You can have data, but to use attribution in the best possible way, you need the skillset to build, distribute, and create action outputs within your organization.

Let’s Talk Attribution Models

Here’s an overview of different models based on 4 levels of interaction from the first part being awareness, to the last part being conversion:

  • Last Non Direct Click Attribution: This gives all the credit to the interaction before the last click. This is the basis for Google Analytics and their conversions. It is communicated as last click but it actually is not. If a consumer comes to your site through PPC, shops around, and leaves. Then the next day comes back directly to your site by typing in your URL and purchases something, the credit will not go to direct. Oh and here’s a fun fact - with Google Analytics, if there is less than 30 days between the last non direct click or visit before that direct visit where the conversion was driven, then the sales credit goes to the last non direct click. This happens all the time in PPC. Isn’t that strange?

  • Last Interaction/Last Click Attribution: This is the most common model and the most criticized. It weighs all the credit to the last interaction a user has with your site, and doesn’t attribute anything you did beforehand to get them there. So if the last interaction was direct, or social, it will completely ignore all those efforts you put in.

  • Linear Attribution: This model applies the same amount of credit to every touchpoint and channel. I personally don’t understand the benefit of that. Do you really think all your channels are creating the same conversion for your business? That e-mail, social, paid ads, etc, are all equivalent?

  • Time Decay Attribution: This model is basically saying when the conversion happens, let's redistribute the value of that conversion back through previous historic visits. Which makes sense to me. Give the weight to the location where the consumer converts, but also credit those channels that brought their awareness. However, the weight obviously will not be distributed equally like the linear model discussed above.

  • Position Based Attribution: This model gives the first interaction and the last interaction the most credit, and is commonly referred to as “the bathtub model.” This is the best portrayal of how consumers actually behave.

The above models are the baseline attribution models for Google Analytics to help you get a grasp on your conversions. However the accuracy of the data is not always the exact truth, but instead gives you an overall idea. Attribution is meant to inform marketers to make wiser, backed by data decisions. Please note, there are many more models to choose from than those listed above. You can even customize Attribution Models, and create ones from scratch. It's all dependent on what your goals, ROI, abilities, and resources are.

In Conclusion

Data is meant to always be questioned. Never trust it blindly. But do try to set up a model so you are getting what you need. Are you able to get the granularity for what you want? Are you able to get event level data to the level you need? Think of it as another tool in your tool box of analytics and optimization. Essentially you are getting information on what marketing channels, and campaigns to invest in. You will gain insight from CRO, to PPC, to SEO, to affiliates, e-mail, TV, and beyond. Get organized and put some serious thought into what you want, before getting your feet wet. From there, start to explore and just know, not all models are going to work for you. But the only way to know, is think, try and do.


Need help with Digital Marketing? Here at McMillan & Phillips we have a team of experts to make all your brand growth a reality. Reach out todayand let’s start optimizing your website and ultimately, your brand!

All graph images sourced from Avinash Kaushik

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