Attribution Models

Image courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at

Image courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at

       When a customer interacts with more than one marketing channel how should the credit for the sale be assigned? In order to measure the overall effect of online marketing campaigns, the marketer should be able to determine the true value of each marketing channel: natural and paid search, affiliate marketing, banner advertising, email marketing, direct website visits. An Internet user usually interacts with a website in a number of different ways using a combination of these channels over the certain period of time. It is very challenging to identify which channels bring the majority of visitors to the website to make a purchase and which have a little or no impact on the user. 


       For example, a user surfing Internet finds your company’s website in the Google search results. Excited by the product/service that you are offering, the user does some additional search for similar products over the Internet, clicking on a number of pages from both your company’s and your competitors. A few times the user comes across some websites that include your company’s banner ads and he/she clicks through to view the offer in more detail. He/she is not 100% certain that he/she is willing to buy the product right this second, closes out the web browser and two days later receives an email to purchase your company’s product and finally buys it. To which channel do we attribute this sale? Natural Search? Comparison shopping? Banner advertising? Email? Or any other source that may have influenced the buyer’s decision? There is no correct answer to the questions listed above. In fact, all touchpoints played a role in the sale occurrence with varying level of contribution therefore each one should receive a credit.


       Multitouch attribution analysis helps to accurately measure the campaigns’ performance as a critical component of the process of return on investment improvement. One of the challenges is to determine the model by which the company is most comfortable attributing success.


       Typically there are 4 options for campaign attribution which are being discussed using the example described above:


1. Last Touch (most recent campaign). 100% of the conversion gets attributed to the last click. Email is the last touchpoint that had the greatest impact on the sale. This attribution model may be appropriate for a small company that utilizes one or two channels.


2. First Touch (original campaign). 100% of the conversion gets attributed to the first click. Natural search is the first touchpoint that had the greatest impact on the sale. This attribution model is applicable for the social media marketers since social media is a strong channel for motivating action.


3. Equal weighting attribution. Every touchpoint leading to a conversion gets an equal percentage of the credit. 25% of the credit goes to the Natural Search, 25% – Comparison Shopping, 25% – Banner ad, 25% – Email.


4. Custom credit attribution. Multiple factors are taken into account to determine the proper credit share to attribute to each touchpoint:


-        Engagement factor. Did the user simply click on the ad or simply view it? Did he/she see an in-video banner?


-        Media factor. Did the user see a standard or animated banner? What was the size of the banner?


-        Time factor. How long was it between the touchpoints? How long was it from the specific touchpoint to the conversion?


So, the company should make an important decision of choosing the right attribution model which better fits company’s type of business as well as the goals. By the way, what attribution approach are you currently using?


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