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Attribution 101 – A Complete Guide to Attribution Modeling

Attribution 101 – A Complete Guide to Attribution Modeling

Savvy marketers understand that you don’t capture your audience with just one message, just one picture, or just one perfectly placed advertisement. It’s a complex process of planting the seed, nurturing it, and finally harvesting the fruits of your marketing efforts. Before your customers buy or convert, they may see many different parts of your online marketing campaign – including paid and organic search, email, affiliate marketing, display ads, mobile placements, and more. Each of these elements has an impact on your results. With marketing attribution modeling, you can assign value to all of the factors that contributed to a sale. When done well, it can help you to make better decisions about the future. Yet how do you know which models to use, or how much credit to assign?.

In this playbook, we’ll explore common attribution models and share some thoughts on how to get started with Attribution Modeling in Google Analytics. You’ll learn how to quickly build, customize, and compare models, so you can get the most out of your marketing programs

Plan your approach to Attribution

1. Start by identifying your marketing goals. Are you focused on branding and awareness, lead generation, developing new business, or repeat business? Are your current campaigns meeting these objectives?
2. Develop a basic outline for your customer journey, including path length, time to conversion, and the relevant marketing channels. You can find this information in the Multi-Channel Funnels reports in Google Analytics. Look for key details: does the path differ based on the first touchpoint? Does it differ by order size or product category?
3. Think about how you assign credit to these interactions today – even if you’re new to attribution modeling, you surely have some sort of intuitive model. What would happen if you valued interactions in the path differently?
4. Define the role and expected impact of each campaign element. When you start modeling, check whether the models match or contradict your expectations.
5. Plan your next steps. If you learn that a certain campaign, source, or interaction is performing differently than expected, will you be able to take action to change it?
Once you’ve identified your analysis questions, you should explore different attribution models and determine which are best suited to your marketing goals. It’s important to compare multiple models to learn about different aspects of your marketing program.

Select your attribution models

Start with these commonly used models, then compare and customize to best reflect your campaign goals

Last Interaction

The Last Interaction model attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last channel with which the customer interacted before buying or converting. This model is extremely common – most likely you’re already using some version of it – so it’s a great baseline for comparison with other models.


Time Decay

The Time Decay model assigns the most credit to touchpoints that occurred nearest to the time of conversion. If the sales cycle involves only a short consideration phase – for example if you’re running a one or two-day promotion – then interactions that occurred a week earlier would have less value than those during the promotion window.

Position Based

The Position Based model allows you to assign credit based on position in the customer journey. The first position highlights campaigns that introduce customers, while the last emphasizes those that close conversions. This model can be used to give more credit to those interactions, or to assign customized weights according to position.


The Linear model gives equal credit to each channel interaction on the way to conversion. This model might be used if your campaigns are designed to maintain contact and awareness with the customer throughout the entire sales cycle. In this case, each touchpoint is equally important during the consideration process.

Apply what you’ve learned

For example, attribution modeling might lead you to: • Reallocate Budget: Strengthen campaigns along the most profitable position in the purchase funnel.

• Adjust Affiliate Payments: Consider building affiliate programs that compensate partners for the value that their referral provides to your business. For instance, some advertisers give more credit to affiliates that bring in new customers and provide awareness in the upper-funnel vs. those that simply offer coupon codes to customers who are ready to purchase. • Revise CPA (cost-per-acquisition) figures: Better reflect the true contribution of your marketing activities to the whole consumer journey.

• Reduce Time-to-Conversion: Look for opportunities to improve the efficiency of your conversion path and reduce the number of paid clicks required to drive a purchase. For example, provide price guarantees so customers don’t have to price shop, quick coupon codes, or more detailed product information so they don’t have to look elsewhere. • Reschedule campaigns: Change the timing of particular campaign types, such as email promotions.

• Update Landing Pages: Customers coming in through various channels and keywords are often at different points in their purchase decision-making. If you learn that particular keywords have lower-than-expected conversion value, you can design landing pages that will better reflect their stage in the purchase process.

• Keep Testing: Experiment with new keywords or campaigns to compensate for weak spots in your purchase funnel.

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