So what exactly is Marketing Attribution and how can it help you?



Marketing Attribution is when you acknowledge (to “credit”) the channels responsible for driving the results that you want (ex: online purchase, email sign-up, etc.). Marketing Attribution Models are the methods used to identify these key channels.


Marketing attribution gives you a better idea of your customer journey and where to concentrate your marketing efforts and… your $$$ for all your campaigns.

If you’re interested to level up your Digital Marketing skills, I invite you to know more about this topic and read the rest of this article. You will understand the most used Marketing Models by professionals for Marketing Attribution. 



Marketing Attribution as Advanced Digital Marketing





I will breakdown key areas for you here so you will have no confusion. I will still refer at the end to an excellent online course (not mine) that covers it all only in about 1 hour! It’s not my course, but I know it will give you a great advantage in the game.

I have taken the course myself, this is why I’m suggesting it to you.  

You might come across definitions of marketing attribution like this one: The process of identifying a set of user actions (“events” or “touchpoints”) that contribute in some manner to a desired outcome, and then assigning a value to each of these events.

Ok, thanks, but what do we mean by touchpoints? 

I will give you 2 examples that will clearly define key terms in Marketing Attribution.

We will cover :

  • Traffic Channels
  • Touchpoints
  • Attribution Models

Then we will look at the application of the most common marketing models. 



1st Example (Simple Marketing Attribution)

Ok, suppose you have a t-shirt online shop.

Now imagine someone called Sarah wants to buy a t-shirt. She goes on Google and types in the search bar “Black T-shirt”.

On the search results, Sarah sees different links and ads. One ad catches her attention, so she clicks on it and it leads her to a website that sells a black colored t-shirt. She buys it. End of story.

Who should we “credit”, or more simply, which traffic channel helped to get that sale? Is it Facebook? Yahoo or an email Newsletter? No. It’s Google Ads.

Sarah clicked on the Google Ad, so it is the google paid ad that is responsible for that purchase. Get it? That makes sense.

It’s easy to understand because there was only 1 channel (Google paid Ad) in this example.



2nd Example: the tricky part

Since Sarah is very satisfied she shares the website’s link with her friend Jessica. Jessica then goes on Google types the same words Sarah did:  “Black t-shirt”.

But she takes her time. She gets excited and starts looking at different items but she has to stop because she was invited to eat out.
Days go by and she forgets about the website until she is reminded of it by seeing a friend posting a picture on Instagram wearing 
the same black t-shirt that store. Her friend shares a link to the website on her IG post. 

Jessica decides to click on the link and finally buys the famous black t-shirt.

So, what channel do you think contributed to that purchase? You see, the answer to this tricky question can affect your ROI and your marketing strategy.

Let me quickly explain to you why.


Let’s say that you have to decide which channel you should invest in more.

You end up choosing the Social Media channel because Jessica clicked on the Instagram link before she bought the t-shirt.

But do you think it’s fair to forget the role of Google? she found the t-shirt store the first time after her Google search remember? Maybe the only reason why she clicked on her friend’s link was because she already had a positive feeling about the store after her initial google search.

So, if you decided to put all your efforts and money on Social Media, you might see a decrease in sales later on.

The methods you use to chose which channels are responsible for your customer’s purchase are called attribution models.

This is very important.

Marketing Attribution models help you to decide how to better allocate your marketing budget. It is important for your marketing strategy.

Now we’re going to look at the most used models available with explanations and tips. 

Any kind of communication between your brand and your customers are touchpoints. For example, a website is a touchpoint. A flyer is a touchpoint. Even a hat with your brand or a menu at a restaurant is a touchpoint. Sometimes touchpoints are not controlled by you such as reviews for example. 


Marketing Attribution Models

Now, let’s cover the popular attribution models used by the pros. 
These are: 

  1. First Touch
  2. Last Touch
  3. Position Based 
  4. Linear
  5. Time Decay


To get a better idea, I’ll throw in another example following our 2 previous ones.


3rd Example

Remember our example with Jessica who had to stop her online search because she was invited somewhere ? Ok. 

Let’s pretend for this example that she didn’t buy anything after seeing the Google Ads, and her friend’s Instagram post. A few days later, she wants to buy the t-shirt but she can’t remember the website’s address. So she goes back to google organic search and types the name of the store. Like so: 






She sees the results, finds it, goes to the site and FINALLY buys the black t-shirt. 

You can see that her journey to a final action can consist of multiple paths.

Now with this in mind, let’s see common models used to find which paths (channels) were mostly responsible for the sale. Then let’s apply them to our examples. The models are divided into 2 categories: Single-Touch Models and Multi-Touch Models.
Single-Touch models only focus on one aspect of the customer journey and Multi-Touch looks at multiple aspects of the customer journey. Follow through, you will get it.





First-Touch Attribution 


First-Touch Attribution model only gives credit to the touchpoint that leads a visitor to your website the very 1st time. This model disregards all the other touchpoints that may have come after the first interaction.

Remember our 2nd example with Jessica?

So with a First-Touch Model,Instagram will get no credit all.

This can be very problematic because as you probably know, you interact often with a brand through a lot of back and forth between different channels in the beginning, or maybe you prefer one platform over the other sometimes. The entire customer journey is credited to the 1st contact with this model. Even if it didn’t lead to the sale. It’s not very truthful in explaining what drove your customer to buy, because it focuses only on 1 aspect of the customer’s path.

Despite the big cons, some businesses only interested in generating awareness use it. 


Last-Touch Attribution

last-touch-attribution-model-erictechwinThis is the opposite of the First-Touch model.

Here, we give all the credit to the last touch before the sale. 

Take our 3rd example, after going around a few channels, Jessica typed in the google search bar (organic search) and then went to the website to buy the item.

So here, the last touch would be Google search (Organic Search). It is the last touch that leads her to the website where your store is.


Note: If she had typed in the exact URL of the website like then the last touch would be your website (we call this “Direct Search”). Since she didn’t know the site’s URL, she searched for words related to the company on Google then clicked on a link in the search results. So the site itself doesn’t count. 

For example, if she had seen a Facebook Ads that leads to your website. The last touch would be the FB ad.

Just remember, that the Last-Touch focuses only at the end of the customer journey.


Just like the previous model, it’s also problematic because it dismisses all the other channels: the 1st ad (like in our first example) that made her aware of the store or the other social media channels that maybe got her also interested. Google Analytics uses the last-touch model by default because it’s easy to understand and track. 

This is why it is better to opt for models that include different touchpoints.

This leads us to our next segment: Multi-Touch Attribution Models. 



Multi-Touch Attribution Models


Linear Attribution


In the Linear Attribution Model, each touchpoint receives the same amount of credit.
All get the same reward. Like a team of NBA basketball players who all get a ring…even the benchwarmers…


Let’s imagine you have 100% of credit to distribute among 10 channels, well, in this case, each channel will receive 10%. None is better or worse than in the other. It’s good in the sense that it acknowledges the role of each channel. The problem is performing channels are underestimated and the ones that contributed less are overestimated. 


Time Decay


In the Time Decay Model, as its name suggests, time is the essential factor of this model.

So basically, it looks at all the channels, the touchpoints, that are the closest to the conversion. For example, the further away a touchpoint is in terms of time, the less credit it receives. So, the last touch gets the most credit, then the one before that gets the next biggest share of credit, and so on in that order based on time.

So if a lot of time has passed between that touch and a specific sale then it gets less credit. 

It is a very good model, but it ignores the First-Touch. It forgets that channel that brought your customer to your website the first time. 


Positioned-Based Model


The Positioned-Based Model assigns most of the credits to the First-Touch and the Last-Touch. The rest of the credits
are distributed to the channels in between


Usually, this model gives 40% to the First-Touch and  40% the Last-Touch.

The 20% left is distributed to the touchpoints in between. 

That’s the standard approach. It can be customized however. 

For example, you may want to completely ignore the in-between touches and give attribute 0% credit to them and keep 50% for both First Touch and Last-Touch. 
Or you can also have different numbers for the First Touch and Last Touch.

This model is appropriate for businesses whose goals are awareness and conversions at the same time. So if you need your brand to be introduced to more people but still want to get sales, then this model is appropriate. 

Do not worry if you don’t have a website yet. There is a demo account of Google Analytics where you can practice the real thing. 

I know this is a long post. But I did my best to give your the clearest explanations. 

Now, remember that most of these models have their pros and cons. 

Sometimes you might change your preferred model. 


This is why it is best practice to compare different models, compare them between each other with the Google Analytics comparison tool and see which ones give you accurate data.

What you should remember is that you should pick a model that reflects your goals and types of campaigns you’re running. A Positioned-based model is a good way to go if your company is interested in creating awareness and conversion. 

I’ve linked a 1.5-hour course at the bottom of the article that does an amazing job at explaining all this visually and practically. 
Relax, I’m make no money affiliations with it. I took the course myself, recognized its value and decided to share it with you. 

One info you may not find in the course, is that Google Analytics is not the only platform for model attribution. In fact, in case you still can’t uncover the data you need, a great alternative that provides even more accuracy and customization (without having an expert doing it for you) is Hubspot CRM


Hubspot CRM details all sources and the role they played behind a purchase, going as far as blogs and specific links. 

Hubspot CRM can connect to your Google Analytics. 


I know there is a lot of information to process.

But hang on, go through the course and materials I suggested you. Keep in mind that the effort you’re making in understanding this will give you an edge in the digital marketing game, increasing your professional and company’s value. 

Let me know if I can be of assistance. And thank you for taking the time to read this.

It means a lot to me and I’ll do my best to help you achieve your goals! 

You can find more interesting topics here.


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