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attribution modelling: what is it and which model is right for your business?

Customer insight is a must-have for effective marketing. You need to understand what got your customer’s attention and what made them convert. 

Google’s marketing attribution models were designed to do just this, helping you understand the path a customer took to conversion. With this insight, you can recognise which channels are contributing to success, allowing informed decisions to be made based on data. 

There are currently six different Google Ads attribution models. Based on which you choose, credit will be given to different keywords, touchpoints and channels. Choosing the wrong attribution model for your objectives can result in inaccurate data which, when applied to future campaigns, could impact performance. 

But if you choose the right model it can unlock a whole world of insight that can be applied to your campaigns. 

What are the six different marketing attribution models? Which one is best suited to your business and objectives? We’re answering these frequently asked questions to help you make the right choice. 

what is an attribution model?

According to Google, attribution modelling refers to: 

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

Using attribution modelling you can gain clearer, more accurate data on which channels play the most important roles in conversion. 

This is hugely important as it’s very rare for users to convert in one session and they often follow a complex journey. A user could have engaged with your Facebook ad, Instagram story, PPC landing page, email and remarketing ad in the space of just a few weeks. In many cases, it would be wrong to attribute all the success to just the last click they made and give your remarketing ad all the glory when it was in fact a combination of multiple channels that led to the conversion. 

Attribution models in digital marketing are extremely important to get right. Let’s consider the six Google Ads attribution models available and how you can choose the right one for your campaigns. 

what are the different attribution models? 

There are currently six Google Ads attribution models including:

last click

Last click is the Google default and the most conservative attribution model, giving 100 percent of the conversion credit to the last-clicked ad and keyword. Although a common model which is used widely by businesses, it can inaccurately reflect the true path to conversion. 

is last click right for your campaigns? 

Last click is a simple attribution model. If your campaigns are simple and you want to keep them operating just as they are, this model should suit you fine.

is last click wrong for your campaigns?

Last click doesn’t take into account the role other touchpoints and channels play in a user converting. For many, this model isn’t useful for understanding the performance of their paid channels. If you want a deeper understanding of how each element of the campaign helped to build awareness and lead to a conversion, last click probably isn’t for you.

first click 

The last click model flipped on its head, first click gives all the conversion credit to the first clicked ad and keyword. Again, this model can report inaccurate data and paint a false picture of the real user journey. It is, however, considered a growth-orientated approach.

is first click right for your campaigns?

First click is appropriate for certain types of campaigns, particularly those that are focused on top of the funnel engagement and building awareness. Using this model, you can gain an understanding of whether you targeted an effective audience, if your CTA was engaging, if your keywords were correct and how much awareness your campaign drove. 

is first click wrong for your campaigns? 

First click may have got your audience’s attention but it didn’t make them convert. That means that the first keyword drove engagement, but it wasn’t high intent so, depending on your campaign objectives, it wasn’t necessarily effective. 


Last click and first click deem just one part of the journey responsible for the conversion while linear distributes the conversion credit equally across all touchpoints. Linear is a practical approach to attribution and takes into account each step of the conversion journey.

is linear right for your campaigns?

Linear modelling gives a realistic understanding of which channels and keywords work and which don’t. Ideal for complex paid media campaigns with longer consideration periods, this model allows you to better understand the full journey to craft a more holistic funnel. 

is linear wrong for your campaigns?

Although helpful to understand each stage of the journey, linear crediting equally across each channel won’t help you when it comes to making decisions on where to invest more budget. 

time decay

Giving more credit to interactions that happen closer to the conversion, this model uses a seven-day half-life cycle. That means an ad click eight days before the conversion gets half as much credit as a click the day before conversion.

is time decay right for your campaigns? 

This model is perfect for long and complex campaigns. Effective at determining which channels drive regular conversions, it can empower you to focus your efforts more efficiently. 

is time decay wrong for your campaigns?

In the case of shorter or more simplistic campaigns, the time delay model will be far more than you need. 


A more growth-orientated model, position-based attribution brings together elements of first click, last click and linear attribution. Position-based credits 40 percent to both the first and last clicked ads and keywords, with the remaining 20 percent then equally distributed across the other clicks within the user journey.

is position-based right for your campaigns? 

Effective for collecting data and providing insight, with position-based attribution you can understand what keyword first engaged a user, what triggered the final conversion and the multiple touchpoints in between. This can help you find the right combination of awareness and closing by gathering more concrete data to base decisions on.

is position-based wrong for your campaigns?

Generally speaking, position-based attribution is well suited to campaigns with multiple touchpoints. As a result, it can be overkill for simpler campaigns.


This model is the newest addition from Google Ads based entirely on your account performance. Using Google’s machine learning technology, credit is given for conversions based on how many people engaged with your ads and corresponding keywords. This is different from the other models as your account’s data is used to calculate the actual contribution of each touchpoint across the conversion journey. 

is data-driven right for your campaigns?

Fully automated, data-driven attribution modelling is designed to remove the guesswork. Based on real data rather than assumptions, you are working with an accurate picture of how your campaigns are performing. With a clear understanding of exactly how channels are contributing, you’ll be able to allocate budget more effectively.

is data-driven wrong for your campaigns?

This model requires a significant amount of data and is only available to those Google Ads accounts with sufficient data for it to run. To use it you need a minimum of 15,000 clicks and 600 conversions in 30 days and to be able to sustain 10,000 clicks and 400 conversions for 30 consecutive days after.

comparing attribution models

If you’re still unsure which attribution model is right for your campaigns, you can compare them directly in Google Ads. Seeing exactly how your campaign performance looks for each attribution model is an effective way to help you decide which model is right for your campaign goals and business needs.

which attribution model should you use?

The answer depends on numerous factors including your campaign goals, your business offering and the structure of your website to name just a few.

Last click and first click can provide limiting views of how your paid media efforts are performing but they could be enough if your campaigns are simplistic or awareness is your goal. On the other hand, if you’re focusing on bottom of the funnel marketing tactics, a position-based model may be better suited which will place more importance on the start and end of the buying journey. Whatever your choice, be sure to place your campaign objectives at the core of your decision. 

Struggling to select the attribution model that’s right for your campaigns? We have plenty of experience using attribution modelling across our client’s campaigns and can help you make your decision. Get in touch with our paid media specialists for more advice. 

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