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.


Reporting on Assisted Conversions Through Google Analytics

As analysts and stakeholders, we all know the importance of making sure we’re collecting the right data. However, I’ve found that we spend a disproportionate amount of time in data collection than we do in the analysis process. Further, not every business and especially not every marketing effort should be analyzed the same. When it...


Tracking Multiple Facebook Pixels in GTM

If you find yourself tracking data to multiple Facebook Ads accounts on the same website, you’ll need to customize your scripts to make sure you’re collecting the right information. You might have different Facebook pixels for teams from separate departments or regions. You might also have multiple agencies running campaigns to different sections of your...


Online-To-Offline Attribution Made Simple

Note: If you’re looking for a more comprehensive understanding of attribution, check out our Digital Marketer’s Guide to Attribution for more info. The biggest issue facing most B2B lead-generation organizations today is attributing their best leads—you know, the ones that end up becoming paying customers—back to the marketing activity (or activities) that drove them to...


The Basic Attribution Models Explained

Attribution, simply put, is a way to assign credit for sales or leads back to the initial marketing activities that drove it. An attribution model is a way of assigning more or less credit to a marketing campaign, content, or channel depending on where in a customer’s journey they encountered it. To demonstrate how attribution...


How to Choose the Right Attribution Model

Attribution seems like the deep end of the pool in which no digital marketers want to swim. Mostly because it’s hard to know where to start, and we’ve built our collective lives around analyzing last click data. Luckily, we’ve put together the Digital Marketer’s Guide to Attribution that can help make sense of it all....


ITP2 Wrecks Attribution And Makes Marketing (Even) Worse

Intelligent Tracking Prevention. ITP2. It’s a nightmare for us marketers. Everyone’s talking about how it trashes audience targeting. If you want a primer on ITP2, read this AdAge piece. What sends a chill down my spine, though, is what ITP2 will do to attribution and by extension marketing, which is bad for everyone—not just marketers....


Why Attribution is The Most Important Marketing Argument

Imagine with me for a minute you’re being asked to give credit for a marketing result: A download of a killer asset, a lead form fill, a meaningful sales opportunity. What’s “fair”? First touch? Last touch? Well, I hope one of the two, because that’s what’s being sent to Salesforce by default from your web...

Close search overlay