What is Attribution?

Simply put, attribution is a way to assign credit for sales or leads back to the initial marketing activities that drove it. It’s one of the most important things you can do when determining your marketing budgets and reporting the effectiveness of campaigns, channels, and content.

Why is Attribution Important?

Back in 2012, Google conducted a study that analyzed 3,000 purchase journeys across the auto, CPG, finance, and tech industries. Their results found that no two journeys were the same! Combine that with other studies showing that it takes up to seven exposures of a brand before a user will buy, and you can see why crediting each of those exposures can be vital.

For example, imagine you’re being asked to give credit for a marketing result, such as a form fill, asset download, or even a purchase. How can you get a holistic picture of what drove that conversion, to better understand how all of your campaigns, channels, and efforts worked together to drive your customer through the funnel? Attribution.

Types of Attribution Models

There are six basic attribution models, each assigning credit to different parts of a user’s journey:

  • Last Touch Attribution: credit goes to the last step in the journey
  • Linear Attribution: credit is distributed equally across all touchpoints
  • First Touch Attribution: credit goes to the first step in the journey
  • U-Shaped Attribution: more credit goes to the first and last step than the middle
  • Ramp Attribution: gives increasing credit as steps near conversion
  • Custom Attribution: credit is distributed based on your specific business and customer journeys

How do you know which attribution model is right for your business? Ideally, you would have a custom machine learning model: that is, an algorithm that looks at your last rolling 30 days worth of sales and makes a value judgment about which channels and touchpoints were most effective. But, the tools capable of a model like that can be expensive.

Fortunately, there are some cost-effective ways to build a custom attribution model in various analytics and social media tools.

What to Do With Attribution Data

Having attribution data is only one piece of the puzzle. Knowing what to do with it is critical. There are loads of different tests you can run to put the data to work for you, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Learn what type of upper-funnel and mid-funnel content gets people serious about buying to your site—and develop more of it.
  • Learn what kinds of social media posts get people who engage with that content back to the site when it’s time to buy, and use that to fuel retargeting campaigns.
  • Learn the true ROI of your paid media campaigns, including assists to other channels; then factor that into your CPA calculation and media budget planning.
  • Learn how much top-of-funnel marketing is required to drive brand engagement and loyalty, and discover what kind of introductory offers drive the highest lifetime customer value.
  • Learn what type of email campaigns are most effective at re-engaging folks with your brand, and use that information to develop more effective communication pieces.

But Wait, I Have More Questions!

We know that what we’ve covered so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The additional resources below contain more information on attribution, the tools to use, and how to apply it across everything you do in digital.

Analytics

Online-To-Offline Attribution Made Simple

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This post is somewhat advanced – I geek out quite a bit. If you don’t know what a server log file is, read about that, first, then come back. Yesterday I explained why, in internet marketing, attribution is a mind-sucking pain in the ass. Not very satisfying, I know, because all I said was “This...

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