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What is Marketing Attribution? How to Measure Your Marketing ROI

Written by Cody

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

Do you know what marketing attribution is? If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many business owners and marketers are unsure of what this term means, or how to measure their marketing ROI.

Marketing attribution is simply the process of identifying which marketing channels are driving traffic and leads to your website. Once you know which channels are most effective, you can focus your efforts on those channels and improve your ROI.

Before iOS14.5 many marketers relied on what the ad platforms were reporting. Although never 100% accurate, these platforms were able to give a general idea of where your sales were coming from.

However, since Apple’s new privacy policy changes, reporting and tracking have become more difficult for these platforms. Whether you’re using Facebook, TikTok, or using Amazon PPC software to run campaigns, it can be difficult to track where your sales are truly coming from.

In this article, I’ll delve into what exactly marketing attribution is, the different attribution models that can be used to attribute a conversion to a touchpoint, and which marketing attribution software tools you should look into.

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the process of assigning credit for conversion achievements to the various marketing channels and touchpoints that contributed to the sale. It helps marketers understand which activities are driving the most valuable results so they can allocate their budget and resources accordingly.

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There are a variety of attribution models that can be used, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing is to choose the model that best meets your specific needs and goals.

A few of the most common attribution models include first-touch, last-touch, linear, and time-decay (all of which I’ll talk about in more detail below).

Whichever model you choose, marketing attribution can be a valuable tool for understanding the ROI of your marketing activities and making more informed decisions about where to allocate your resources.

What Are the Benefits of Marketing Attribution?

Before I get into the details of what each marketing attribution model entails, let’s quickly go over some of the benefits of implementing a marketing attribution solution into your business. There are a number of benefits to using marketing attribution, including:

  1. Improved ROI: By understanding which marketing activities are most effective, marketers can allocate their budget more effectively and see a higher return on investment.
  2. More data-driven decisions: Marketing attribution provides hard data that can be used to make decisions about where to allocate resources. This data can also be used to benchmark against past performance and track progress over time.
  3. Increased brand awareness: By tracking which marketing channels are most effective at driving conversions, marketers can focus their efforts on these channels and increase brand awareness.
  4. Improved customer insights: Marketing attribution can help identify patterns in customer behavior and provide valuable insights into customers’ needs and preferences.
  5. Better team collaboration: Marketing attribution requires input from multiple teams, including those responsible for marketing, sales, and analytics. This collaboration can help improve communication and coordination between teams.

4 Different Types of Marketing Attribution Models

In this section, I’ll go into 4 different types of marketing attribution models. There are other types of attribution models you can choose from depending on the tools at your disposal, however, the models discussed below are the most used and in most cases the only ones you’ll need.

1. First-Touch Attribution

First-touch attribution is the process of assigning credit for a conversion to the very first interaction that a customer has with your brand.

This could be a click on an ad, organic search result, or social media post. First-touch attribution is generally used by companies with short sales cycles like e-commerce companies that are selling products that are impulse bought.

With a shorter sales cycle, you don’t need to worry about requiring as many touchpoints to convert a customer. Therefore, there’s less of a chance that your customers required multiple interactions, thus it’s safe to use first-touch attribution.

2. Last-Touch Attribution

Last-touch attribution takes the exact opposite approach of first-touch attribution and attributes a conversion to the final touchpoint. For example, if a customer clicks on an ad, signs up to a newsletter, clicks on a retargeting ad, and then converts, the conversion would be attributed to the retargeting ad.

Last-touch attribution is simple to understand, but it has some limitations. For one thing, it doesn’t give any credit to touchpoints earlier in the journey, even though they may have played a role in influencing the conversion. Additionally, last-touch attribution can be misleading in cases where there are multiple touchpoints close together in time. In such cases, it’s often impossible to know which touchpoint was truly responsible for the conversion.

Like first-touch attribution, this type of attribution method is good for shorter sales cycles. However, if you want to further understand the path to purchase your customers are taking, you’ll need to implement one of the methods below.

3. Linear Attribution

Linear attribution is a great model to use if you want visibility into the entire customer journey. Each touchpoint is assigned an equal weight, so you can see how each channel contributes to the conversion.

In other words, if a customer interacted with 3 touchpoints before converting, each touchpoint would be assigned a 33% credit.

While linear attribution is easy to understand and can provide some valuable insights, it has a number of limitations. First, it does not take into account the different levels of customer engagement at each touchpoint (unless you add a weighted touchpoint model on top to give more credit to particular stages).

Secondly, it does not account for how touchpoints may interact with each other to influence a conversion.

Finally, it fails to identify which touchpoints are most likely to result in a conversion and should therefore be given more emphasis in future campaigns.

4. Time-Decay Attribution

The time-decay attribution models give credit to touchpoints based on how close they are to the point of purchase. In other words, the most recent touchpoints have the most weight.

This is another type of attribution model often used in ecommerce because it reflects the way people shop online. They may start with a general search, click on a couple of ads, and then finally click on a product link and make a purchase.

The last ad they clicked on would get the most credit in a time-decay attribution model.

If you want to collect more insight into which channels are most effective at driving conversions, near the end of a customer journey, this is a good attribution model to use.

How to Choose an Attribution Model

Understanding how customers interact with your marketing campaigns is essential for making informed decisions about where to allocate your resources. The attribution model you choose can greatly impact how you view your digital marketing efforts, so it’s important to select the option that best aligns with your business goals.

If you want to understand which channels are consistent throughout a buyer’s journey then you may want to use linear attribution. On the other hand, if you’re focused on optimizing the very first touchpoint for a product/service that drives impulse purchase decisions then you may want to choose first-touch attribution.

There are a number of other factors to consider, such as the type of product you’re selling and the length of your sales cycle. By taking the time to understand your options and select the attribution model that’s right for you, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are getting the credit they deserve.

Marketing Attribution Software and Tools

With the rising need for more insight and a better understanding of how well your marketing dollars are being spent, marketing attribution software tools have been rising in popularity. For the most part, these tools connect directly to your existing software stack and can start tracking data immediately.

From what I’ve found, here are some of the best marketing attribution software tools around:

To read more about each one individually don’t forget to check out my marketing attribution software post.

Conclusion

There are a number of different approaches to marketing attribution, and the most effective approach will vary depending on the situation.

However, there are some general principles all digital marketers should be following.

First, it is essential to identify the key marketing channels that are driving results.

Second, it is necessary to track conversions and attribute them to the appropriate channels.

Finally, it is important to continuously test and optimize attribution models to ensure that they are accurately reflecting the impact of marketing efforts.

By following these principles, companies can ensure that they are making the most efficient use of their marketing budget and achieving the best possible results.

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