How AdWords Attribution Can Make Your Marketing Budget More Efficient

What is AdWords attribution I hear you ask? Well, essentially AdWords attribution can be understood as which of your AdWords campaigns is responsible for your conversions. The session was hosted by Patrick Eustace who are attribution experts within Google’s Dublin HQ. They started by giving us an overview of what attribution is and why it is important.


Did you know that more than half of web traffic is now concentrated through mobile devices typically on smartphones? As we are sure you are aware, however, conversions are typically lower on smartphones, well the reason for this may not simply be down to what you would typically assume about mobile devices.


Users will regularly go through on average five interactions before they take the final purchasing decision – these means that users don’t only not convert because of your mobile layout, but can also be down to users being at a different stage on the customer journey, perhaps users came to your landing page while in the research stage for example. 75% of adults online will start an activity on one device but finish on another. This means your traditional attribution to conversions model may be out of date – maybe you are just tracking conversion down to the last campaign a user interacts with as opposed to the journey in its totality, this is wrong and may be leading to wasted marketing spend!


This is where AdWords attribution comes into play, there are a variety of options in terms of how you attribute your conversions that can be used to give a clearer picture and using “ last click” or “first click” attribution is to be discouraged if you want to identify which campaign is contributing what value to your final conversions.


Let’s look at an example, think for a moment that you are planning a vacation, exactly where is a little vague, but you know that you want to go on tropical vacation to relax by a beach, what would you do? Would you do it all in one sitting or passively search over time? Let’s look at a typical user journey through a week on how they will make this decision from vague vacation to booking their next holiday.

User journey’s are fragmented, it happens across devices, with different search terms and becoming increasingly refined. Attribution helps join the dots between your campaigns to highlight where your conversions are happening. This makes utilising your marketing budget much more targeted to your user journey, rather than assuming your last campaign is performing exceptionally well and the rest are lagging behind, you can get a much clearer picture.


Customer journeys are typically a process, that can take place over a number of days and involving a number of devices. An effective marketing campaign takes account of this and ensures that across all platforms and devices attribution is being correctly applied to the relevant touchpoints. So let’s look at some examples of an attribution model you can use on your own Adwords campaign.


First Click Model: This looks at where your first click occurs and discounts any other touch point and the role they may have had on driving conversions. This is not to be recommended for your data to be valuable and drive better decision making.


Last Click Model: Exactly the same as the first click model, however, this attribution model only takes account of the last click in a campaign.


Position based attribution model: 40% credit is assigned to each the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions – this focuses more on the position of your channels and the contribution to the final conversion.


Data-driven attribution: This attribution model uses actual data from your Analytics account to generate a custom model for assigning conversion credit to marketing touchpoints throughout the entire customer journey, however, this may not be available to all users, if you can choose data-driven always do as it provides the ability to split test and gain more accurate attribution models.


Time decay:  This attribution model is based on evaluating the proximity or how close the relevant channels are to the final conversion. The channel closest to the conversion gets a larger share of the attribution.


Linear:  Each touch point along the journey is awarded an equal percentage share of the attribution.

This information is well and good, but how can you use it in your AdWords account? Well, the variety of attribution models means there are a variety of options depending on your business. Firstly, if your business can use ‘Data-driven’ attribution model it is recommended you would utilise this model. However if not we’ve prepared a handy graphic below that illustrates some of the key factors in deciding which model will work best for you (don’t use first-click or last click, the data simply won’t say very much that you don’t already know). Position based is typically better for firms that are growth-oriented, however, more established firms would be better served using a time decay approach.

Your customer journey will begin well in advance of when you expect the final conversion to take place. For example, if you are expecting a big bump in Christmas purchases, users begin searching from the beginning of November, as such it’s important to capture how your various campaigns are contributing towards conversions through applying the relevant attribution model.

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