Last Click Attribution…A Thing of the Past!

by Adam Nelson • October 30, 2017

Image of sales attribution funnel.It doesn’t take much looking around to realize that we are living in a world of multi-channel marketing with vast amounts of available information at hand.  Along with that information comes nearly limitless opportunities to reach your target audience.  In addition, advertisers have the ability to see exactly how customers are interacting with their website through their digital marketing mix before ultimately making that purchase. Now more than ever, it’s becoming more and more critical for advertisers to adopt a data-driven model instead of last-click attribution.

Google Leading the Charge

Each year, Google hosts Google Marketing Next, an event designed to promote the company’s plans for all their various ad products, including Google Analytics, AdWords, etc. This is also where Google provides updates on trends they are seeing in digital advertising.  This year their message was straightforward; last-click attribution must go!  Typically, advertisers are looking solely at what channel was the last touch point for a customer prior to them making a purchase on their site.  By relying on this methodology, they are ignoring the impact other aspects of their marketing program contribute to overall revenue. Most often it is channels which are engaged early in the funnel that are disregarded.

The fact is, in most cases, users are browsing across multiple devices and interacting with your marketing efforts from social media posts, to emails, to reviews multiple times before buying.  To help emphasize the importance of these various channels, Google introduced Google Attribution. Assuming an advertiser has the appropriate tracking in place across all their digital efforts, Google will record all clicks and use machine learning to evaluate the relative impact that each interaction had with the final purchase, or conversion.  This means, that targeted banner ad that a user saw while browsing their favorite site, which initially brought them to your site doesn’t go unnoticed, even though they ultimately came back and made their first purchase through a paid search (PPC) ad a week later.

Nothing New

You might be thinking that you have heard all of this before, and you are probably right.  There are a number of third-party platforms in the digital arena that have been developing smarter attribution models for a few years now.  Google Analytics also has a handful of different models that advertisers can use to assign credit across different touch points in the buying cycle. Google Analytics also offers the ability to create a custom model, which is based on insights from their unique customers’ behavior. These still do require occasional manual tweaks based on accumulated data or seasonality.  In AdWords, for advertisers who meet a certain click and conversion volume, data-driven conversion attribution is already available.  Although, it is limited in that it only provides better attribution across unique AdWords campaigns.

Despite their relative limitations, both options are still light-years ahead of last-touch models and can provide advertisers with the valuable insights necessary to better optimize their marketing efforts.

As Google Attribution beta expands availability to more advertisers, it will become ever more critical for businesses to adopt it or some sort of similar approach to viewing their digital marketing results.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to revenue and the bottom line.  Those utilizing all of their available data effectively and allocating their advertising budgets most efficiently will be those staying ahead of their competition.