Introducing Google Attribution

Attribution is an increasingly hot topic in the world of PPC at the moment, and Google is the driving force behind the recent changes. In this blog post we’ll briefly explain what attribution is, explore the different models, and their potential effect on your marketing.

What is attribution?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines attribution as:
“the act of saying or thinking that something is the result or work of a particular person or thing.”

Essentially for marketing, and more specifically PPC, it’s how we quantify the impact a specific campaign has in generating a conversion.

The main objective of attribution modelling is to provide accurate data on the success of specific activities in order to refine or improve those activities and, ultimately, deliver more value to your business.

The ‘old’ attribution model

A chart illustrating the last click attribution model

For the last 15+ years, since the early years of AdWords, the Last Click attribution model has not only been the default but also the industry standard. In short, it attributes 100% of the result to the work of the last user touchpoint before the conversion. The last keyword that is clicked gets all the credit for the resulting lead or transaction.

As technology and, more importantly, user habits have evolved this model has become less and less relevant.

Let’s consider a simple journey relating to cooking an evening meal, as pictured below, where the cooked meal is the ultimate conversion and there are four steps to get to that point.

An image showing that first you do the grocery shopping online, second the shopping is delivered, third you prepare the meal and finally the oven cooks the meal.

An image illustrating the oven getting all of the credit despite the previous steps

Using a Last Click attribution model, the oven is given 100% of the credit for cooking the meal. Though without the earlier steps in the journey, the meal wouldn’t have been possible.

Using a Last Click attribution model you’re disregarding all the earlier, and in many cases vital, touchpoints that contribute to a conversion. By not giving these touchpoints due credit you’re not able to understand their value and, therefore, not able to optimise or improve their performance.

The new attribution models

In AdWords you are now able to choose which attribution model best suits your business and its goals. Below is a brief overview of the models open to all AdWords advertisers.

A chart illustrating the first click attribution model

First Click – This model is essentially the complete opposite of Last Click in that it attributes 100% of the credit for each conversion to the first user touchpoint. This model can help you understand which campaigns generated the initial awareness for your brand or services and can be good for aggressive growth strategies as well as for businesses looking to prioritise the first touchpoint a converting user had with their brand. Though it tends to favour highly competitive terms and can be inefficient.

A chart illustrating the position-based attribution model

Position-based – A Position-based attribution model assigns 40% of the credit to the first and last touchpoints. This model emphasises the key touchpoints whilst still giving some credit to early efforts, though it can undervalue middle touchpoints for longer purchase cycles.

A chart illustrating the linear attribution model

Linear – This model evenly distributes value across all touchpoints, favouring all equally. This is essentially the middle ground as every touchpoint is considered, however, it can overvalue minor touchpoints and undervalue key touchpoints.

A chart illustrating the time decay attribution model

Time Decay – With the Time Decay model the majority of credit is assigned to the last touchpoint with slightly less value progressively assigned to earlier touchpoints. This model can be very efficient as it still assigns some value to higher funnel activity, though it can overvalue the final touchpoints.

How will it affect your marketing?

Changing models will not instantly generate more conversions in AdWords. What it will do, however, is give you a better view of the bigger picture and enable you to optimise your activity, as well as prioritise spends with a much more complete picture of how your campaigns are performing.

By valuing all touchpoints rather than just the final one, advertisers have a fantastic opportunity to better understand the value of these earlier interactions and more effectively factor them into their strategies.

In the first few days and weeks following your switchover from the Last Click model your conversions may show a small, temporary drop which could make it seem as though performance is dropping. This should quickly revert back to normal soon after AdWords adjusts to the new way of attributing conversions.

Which model is right for you?

Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question. This short answer would be; “it depends”.

There is one thing we can say for certain, and that is the Last Click model is not the most effective. Thinking back to cooking your dinner, would you want to give all the credit to the oven?

Different models will suit different businesses and which one best fits yours depends on a number of factors, including the length of your sales cycle, your average conversion path length and whether you’re looking for efficiency or growth.

If you’re unsure which attribution model is right for you, give us a call. Our PPC specialists would be more than happy to help work with you to choose the model that best fits your business.

Written by Rich Martin

Head of PPC

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