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Last-Click and Other Digital Marketing Attribution Models

By Matt Miller on June 11, 2020

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Last-Click attribution is the most popular attribution model and the default for most analytics packages.  Learn about this and other models in this article by Trib Total Media.

The Challenge of Understanding Attribution

One of the biggest challenges in evaluating your marketing is identifying what's working and what is not.  Marketers need to assign credit to channels, but consumers take a varied path to purchase.  It's not as easy as just looking at the click that landed them on your site.  The road to purchase often happens over multiple sessions, various channels, and numerous devices.  Smart marketers are looking at diverse models to understand marketing success.

 

What is Last-Click Attribution?

Most marketers are working to encourage a specific call-to-action from a prospect. We send our prospects email, place display ads, produce videos, promote ads on social, follow people around with display ads once they've visited our site, work hard to show up in organic search, or buy our way into the top spots on search engines. Then the entire value of a new customer is attributed to the last tactic that got the last click and delivered the customer to your site. Placing the full value of the lead on the last click is called last-click attribution.

 

Potential Flaws with Last-Click Attribution

It's pretty easy to understand why we'd want to do this. Measurement is effortless. We know and understand what our prospects did right before they converted.  The problem is that this model is flawed. We are mostly ignoring the path a customer takes, from awareness through the funnel to purchase. All of the tactics listed above could have played a role in that customer finally buying our product or service. Still, with single-source attribution, we're devaluing the role supporting media can perform to optimize our campaigns.

 

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Placing Value on Assisted Conversions

As you can see in the conversion path graph below from one of our campaigns in Google Analytics, a last-click attribution model of campaign evaluation would assign ALL of the credit on line three to Organic Search and on line five to Direct traffic. This approach is flawed. In the instance of line three, 18 users converted (in this case, filled out an online form) by first clicking on a Google Paid Search ad. Those 18 users then later returned to the site via an Organic search engine result and converted the second time through. There should be a significant value placed upon the initial 18 Paid Search visits that came before the Organic visit in this line item. Those Paid Search visits need to be acknowledged as Assisted Conversions, playing a substantial role in acclimating those users to the client's messaging and building the awareness to return later and complete the conversion.

 

A simple way to view this model is like a pass in basketball or hockey from one player to the player who takes the shot and scores. In terms of Line three, the first player who makes that pivotal pass is "Paid Search." The player who receives the pass, takes the shot, and scores is "Organic Search." The same is true in Line five, with the nine users who ultimately "scored" by directly visiting the client's site. They all took the "pass" from Paid Search, thus assisting in building the equity for those nine conversions.

 

Alternative Attribution Models

So, what is the right attribution model, you might ask? Well, that depends. There is not a cookie-cutter answer, and it requires modifications on the part of a marketer. With that said, a weighted or fractional model is the approach most marketers utilize.  A weighted model allocates a percentage of the budget to specific media or tactics.

 

The chart above represents a weighted model with four specific media, each assigned a percentage of the overall budget.

 

The beauty is that it's all trackable. We can try a weighted model, analyze our results, make some adjustments, and try again. Through iterations, we will continue to move closer to a model that's working best for our company.

 

Remember, even though not all media will deliver end-stage leads regularly, they still can add significant value to your campaign. By spreading attribution out to include channels that are assisting along the buyers' journey, you'll likely improve your results and lower your cost per acquisition.

 

A trend is developing as marketers move away from last-click attribution models and embrace a multi-touch approach.  We'd love to hear from you on models you might be successfully employing. Please post below, shoot us an email or connect on LinkedIn.

 

Topics: Google Analytics, Marketing, Attribution Models

Matt Miller

Written by Matt Miller

Chief Revenue Officer | Trib Total Media

mmiller@triblive.com

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