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attribution modelling: are you still using last click?

When was the last time you searched for a product or service, clicked an ad and made an immediate purchase? Rarely? We thought so.

Today, it’s rare for users to convert in one session and on one device, resulting in a complicated buying journey. The attribution model you use is key to understanding the why, how and when people convert through your paid ads as choosing the wrong one could lead to inaccurate data that jeopardises the future success of your campaigns. This blog discusses the different attribution models, highlighting why ‘Last Click’ is almost never the answer and exploring instead which may be the best for your goals.

what is attribution modelling?

Google defines attribution modelling as:

…the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.

Understanding the steps a user takes before they convert is just as valuable as the conversion itself. With attribution modelling, you can assign credit to multiple touchpoints in the customer journey. For example, if a customer bought an item after clicking a display ad, you could credit that entire sale to that one display ad, but in reality, more than this one ad will have supported their conversion.

The journey is likely to be much more complex. A user may click a display ad, view the product, leave the website, click a link within your email campaign, engage with a social ad a few days later, visit the website again - this time via an organic search - and then they may even convert in-store using a voucher! With a journey as complicated as this, a more sophisticated attribution model is essential to get a clear picture of when and how your various marketing channels contribute to a conversion.

why is attribution modelling important?

Given the increasing number of platforms and media outlets you can now reach consumers through, understanding attribution has never been more important. By attributing conversions to the right channels, you have a better understanding of how effective each channel is. This insight can inform future marketing strategies including which channels to target and budget allocation. Being able to properly measure the monetary impact your channels have on business goals such as sales, customer retention, revenue, and profit, can provide a competitive edge.

the different types of attribution models

Currently, there are six Google Ads attribution models. These are:

  • Last click: This gives all the credit for a conversion to the last-clicked ad and corresponding keyword. This is widely used, but frequently underreports key information on how the customer initially found and was gradually drawn to convert with your brand.

  • First click: This gives all credit for the conversion to the first-clicked ad and corresponding keyword. Similar to last click, this model gives incomplete data on your customer’s conversion journey and can paint a false picture.

  • Linear: Distributes the credit for conversion equally across all clicks on the path. Where previous models deem one part of the customer journey solely responsible for conversion, this model states that every step is equally responsible.

  • Time decay: Gives more credit to clicks that happened closer to the conversion. Credit is distributed using a seven-day half-life, meaning a click eight days prior to conversion gets half as much credit as a click one day before a conversion.

  • Position-based: Combining aspects of first click, last click and linear, positional credits 40 percent to both the first and last-clicked ads and corresponding keyword. The remaining 20 percent is spread equally across the other clicks along the journey.

  • Data-driven: This distributes credit for the conversion based on past data for the conversion action and is only available to accounts with enough data.

should you stop using last click attribution modelling?

The majority of advertisers and marketers are still using last click models to inform strategic account decisions. If you have never tweaked your attribution settings when setting up a campaign on Google Ads, you will be running the last-click attribution model. The problem with this model is that it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Digital is ever-evolving and it’s time to reconsider your approach to actually reflect your customer’s journey to conversion.

Digital marketing is so effective because it can take the guesswork out of what users do. We can determine exactly how users interact with your ads and websites. But, to gain a holistic understanding of the impact of online ads, every moment needs to be tracked. The key to unlocking future conversion opportunities is to make sure you understand where each touchpoint occurred. By distributing credit across multiple touchpoints as accurately as possible, you can arm yourself with the most reliable data, to optimise your budgets, bidding and targeting.

Using attribution modelling to understand the impact of each touchpoint will shed light on the entire user journey, providing valuable and actionable insight. That’s not to say last click attribution is completely void. It’s important to determine how important looking back beyond the last click is for your business. If the path to purchase for your users is short and direct, with only one or two touchpoints, then a last-click approach may be the right choice for you.

The primary objective of attribution modelling is to get accurate information on the financial return of your paid ads. Choose an attribution model that best fits your needs and act on the insight it provides to deliver more value to both your customers and business. Unsure where to start with attribution modelling, or of which model is right for your business? Reach out to our paid media experts at equation.

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