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What is Attribution?
Technical

In order for an advertiser to attribute the most efficient marketing channel, they must, to the best of their abilities, track the customer’s buying behavior from start to finish.

There are generally two ways an advertiser tracks their customers' activity, either through cookies, small bits of text that are inserted into a user’s computer as they browse the web, or through scoring/mapping, which creates a detailed profile of the user based off of their browsing history. Cookies are less effective within the multi-device world because they can be deleted and fail to transfer through multiple devices. Scoring may be a better option for advertisers looking to get more accurate and transparent data. Another component of attribution advertisers have to take into consideration in order to measure a successful conversion is the Attribution Window. An Attribution Window is a particular time slot in which a channel can claim credit for a conversion. The standard attribution window is usually 30 days after a click. Cost advertisers will also give credit if a video or display ad is viewed within a certain time period. What we have recommended to our clients is to not default to the traditional click and view window, but rather look to understand their average sales cycle and mold their attribution window around this. There are several different Attribution methods that advertisers can use to their advantage depending on their business and who they want to target on the Marketing Funnel. Each method has its pros and cons depending on the business and the parameters that business has set. They must also take into account the amount of investment on a particular channel/touch point they invested in. A downfall of online attribution is that it doesn’t take into account the off-line impressions that may have been left on a consumer, such as radio, print, television, and billboards.

ATTRIBUTION AT A GLANCE

What is Attribution?

Attribution is the process of giving credit to marketing channels for a conversion.

Why is it important?

The purpose of efficient attribution measurement is to align marketing spend across channels with business objectives.

How is it done?

The process in which most companies try to apply attribution is to analyze how efficient each marketing channel/touch point is, as well as to monitor the time of the impression or click leading up to a conversion. This gives credit to the most efficient channels and helps companies sufficiently target the right consumers at the right time.

ATTRIBUTION METHODS

First-Click/First-Touch

  • 100% to first traceable touch point
  • Useful during prospecting
  • When to use it: During Prospecting for a brand that is just starting out because they will be targeting a larger and more general audience pool.
Like its name, First-Click/ First-Touch method gives credit to the first traceable online touch point. This generally gives more focus to the top of the Marketing Funnel, which focuses on prospecting and engages with a larger audience pool. However, this method fails to shine light on middle and bottom funnel, which focus on retargeting and tend to contain the more “loyal” users since they had engaged from top to bottom.

Last-Click/Last-Touch

  • 100% to last traceable touch point
  • Useful during retargeting
  • When to use it: Retargeting - This method is best used for advertisers that are focused on retargeting customers at the bottom of the funnel.
The default method, and like its name, it gives credit to the last traceable online touch point. This gives more focus to the bottom of the funnel, but fails to take into account previous touchpoints in the beginning and middle that may have influenced the conversion. It is the easiest and maximizes efficiency, but it over values retargeting. Brand that already have a loyal customer base and are looking to maximize efficiency get the most from this model.

Time Decay

  • Most credit to last touch point with decreasing amount of credit the closer to first-click
  • Useful during prospecting and retargeting, but emphasis on retargeting
  • When to use it: Prospecting & Retargeting - This model is recommended for people who use a Full Funnel approach and want to spread across multiple touch points while giving most credit to ones closer to conversion.
Gives main credit to the last-clicked touch point, but also gives credit to other touch points leading up to the Last-Click. Less and less credit is given the closer it gets to First-Click. This is helpful because it does give credit to prospecting and First-Click, but puts too much emphasis on retargeting and Last-Click.

Multi-Touch

  • Relies more on key points of a customer’s journey and less on First-Click and Last-Click.
  • Is able to track both online and offline components
  • When to use it: Useful for smaller customer journeys during both prospecting and retargeting
Multi-Touch refers to the method of being able to track both the online and offline components of a customer’s journey. It relies less on the First-Click and Last-Click components of a customer’s journey and more on the key points. This method is very efficient when it comes to understanding the a user's journey because it helps agencies provide better campaigns. However, if the customer’s journey is poorly managed or misunderstood it could cause more harm than good.

Linear

  • Equal credit (about 20-25%) to all touchpoints
  • Useful during prospecting and retargeting
  • When to use it: This method works better with smaller business where following a customer journey is more manageable.
This method refers to giving all touch points within the perimeter of the conversion equal credit, from Top Funnel-Middle Funnel-Bottom Funnel. This is useful for giving all touchpoints credit and including all components of the funnel, but it fails to acknowledge the key touch points that may have influenced the customer’s conversion. This method is best used when there is a longer sale cycle because it doesn’t ignore the middle touchpoints that kept the customer going to the last-click and final conversion. During Prospecting & Retargeting (emphasis on retargeting)

The U-Shaped Model

  • An equal 40% of credit is divided to First-Click and Last-Click , while the other 20% is divided equally in the middle
  • Useful during prospecting and retargeting, but emphasis on final retargeting
  • When to use it: During Prospecting & Retargeting (emphasis on final retargeting) on short sales cycles.
This method divides an equal 40% to both the First-click and Last-click (Top Funnel and Bottom Funnel) and the rest of the touch points in the middle equally divide the remaining 20%. This is good in crediting main touch-points but also ignores possible key touch points in the middle, especially if it is a longer sale cycle.

Raw Attribution

  • 100% credit to all touchpoints
  • Useful during prospecting and retargeting
  • When to use it: During Prospecting & Retargeting for companies tracking their entire customer journey and manage a full approach to their marketing efforts.
This model is used when each touch point is given 100% credit as long as it falls within the advertiser’s time parameter. The default for this parameter is usually 30 days, but again, it depends on the company and a typical user journey. Like the Linear model this model is useful because it includes all touch points from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Unfortunately this method can put too much emphasis on minor touchpoints.

Other Definitions

Full Funnel

Purpose is to engage customers from prospecting phase to final conversion. Starts with large audience engagement and dwindles down the closer it gets to bottom of funnel. (retargeting)

Top Funnel

The largest audience engagement. Purpose is to trigger brand awareness and facilitate consumer awareness. (prospecting)

Bottom Funnel

Represents a narrow audience. The goal is to finalize customer conversion. Customers at the bottom of the funnel are more likely to lead to conversion. (retargeting)

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