If you work in digital marketing, you have more than likely heard the term Attribution thrown about the place at one meeting or another but what does it actually mean and why should you pay close attention to developing an attribution?

Attribution, in simple terms, is a means of determining what media are driving purchases. Think about it in football terms. Whilst it may be the striker that scores the goal, there would have likely been assists from other team members to put the striker into a goal scoring position and credit must be given to these players also.

So, similarly to the striker scoring a goal, in marketing terms, it is important not just to give all of the credit to the last click but to look the other touchpoints that eventually lead to the conversion which may be a test drive request for example. So, a user might click on a display ad, then later revisit through a Facebook retargeting ad and then later watch a YouTube video followed by another pay per click ad. In this scenario, who gets the credit and how much value should we attribute to each touchpoint?

You might ask, do I really need to be bothered with this whole attribution thing? If a significant percent of your conversions have a greater than one path length, then the answer is most definitely yes as you could be wasting money on channels that simply may not be performing (you will find this under conversions, multi-channel funnels & overview).

"An attribution model is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths"


The Challenges

Of course, when it comes to attribution, it is not that easy just to give credit to a particular set of digital touchpoints and herein lies the challenge in creating a multi-channel attribution model. For example, in most cases the offline marketing activity will drive the online search, e.g. that TV ad or billboard ad. Avinash Kaushik goes into the challenges in a lot more detail on this link.


Choosing an Attribution Model

Below are some of the popular attribution models available today. If you have Google Analytics and conversion tracking setup, you will be able to switch between the various attribution models and pick one that works best for your organisation.


1. The Last Click Attribution Model

This is the default attribution model on all analytics platforms. Going back to the stiker scoring a goal analogy, if gives all credit to the striker and ignores everything else. Needless to say, this approach should be avoided. The only reason why such an approach is so widely used is because historically, it was only technically possible to report in this way, but things have move on a lot since then!


2. Last Non-Direct Click Attribution Model

This model gives credit to every touchpoint to anything but direct traffic, so the likes of organic, email, referral website, display etc. So, if an offline brand ad or high impact display ad was responsible for me remembering your website URL and I typed it directly into the address bar, it would not get the credit!


3. Last Adwords Click Attribution Model 

This model you will really only find on Google platforms such as Analytics & Adwords, mainly because it makes Adwords look good! It is basically saying if a user clicked on an Adwords ad, then later on a social or display ad, it would give the credit to Adwords, hardly fair eh?!


4. First Interaction/First Click Attribution Model

This is effectively the first model flipped on its head. So, the first click is responsible for the conversion. However, in the case where there was suqsequent clicks, you would argue that if the first click was that good in the first place!

5. Linear Attribution Model

This is a model we use with many of our clients, although some consider it an “everyone wins” approach where all touchpoints get credit!


6. Time Decay Attribution Model

This one gives most credit to the touchpoint that is closest to the conversion in terms of time and the touch point(s) before this get less credit. Should credit be given to a touchpoint five steps ago where if it was that good of a touchpoint, it should have converted? Or should we take into account that the information search/evaluation phase that a prospect goes through will take time no matter how good the call to action is. Another thing that should be considered is the industry. For example, a prospect looking for a new car may take up to four months from information search to the final purchase. One of the positive things about this model is that you can change the half-life of decay and insert your own data/thoughts into the attribution process


7. Position Based Attribution Model

By default, the position based model will assign 40% of the credit to the first and the last interaction and the remaining 20% is distributed evenly to all the interactions in between.

There is one more thing you can do after you are done with the first step, playing with and experimenting with the results of the Time Decay model. You can create a customized attribution model.


8. Customised Attribution Model

This really should only be used after you have had a play around with the other models as one of them may work just fine for you. The customised model was initially only available for Google Analytics Premium users but is now available on the free version.

With the custom model, you can use the linear, first, last, time decay and position based models as your starting point, and then add in other factors you consider to be important for your business to create your very own attribution model!



Understanding and creating an attribution model that works for your organisation is not easy, simply because it is complicated. The traditional approach of focusing on clicks, cost per click & click through rates as a reporting metric is not an accurate measure of digital performance anymore. Of course, there is always the ‘isn’t it a great branding exercise’ argument when something doesn’t deliver conversions, and there is arguably some merit in this argument.

For example, a homepage takeover on a premium news website may generate over one million impressions, thousands of clicks, and only a handful of conversions, but it may be a useful exercise for brand consideration/awareness. Nevertheless, attribution warrants some serious attention and if you are serious about your digital marketing, you should have one!

If you would like to learn a little more about attribution, why not get in touch with Eyefall today & see how our Insights team can generate profitable leads for your business?