What is attribution modeling? | MarTech (2023)

What is attribution modeling? | MarTech (1)

Understanding the steps a customer takes before converting can be just as valuable to marketers as the sale itself. Attribution models are used to assign credit to touchpoints in the customer journey.

For example, if a consumer bought an item after clicking on an display ad, it’s easy enough to credit that entire sale to that one display ad. But what if a consumer took a more complicated route to purchase? She might have initially clicked on the company’s display, then clicked on a social ad a week later, downloaded the company app, then visited the website from an organic search listing and and converted in-store using a coupon in the mobile app. These days, that’s a relatively simple path to conversion.

Attribution aims to help marketers get a better picture of when and how various marketing channels play contribute to conversion events. That information can then be used to inform future budget allocations.

Attribution models

Following are several of the most common attribution models.

  • Last-click attribution. With this model, all the credit goes to the customer’s last touchpoint before converting. This one-touch model doesn’t take into consideration any other engagements the user may with the company’s marketing efforts leading up to that last engagement.
  • First-click attribution. The other one-touch model, first-click attribution, gives 100 percent of the credit to the first action the customer took on their conversion journey. It ignores any subsequent engagements the customer may have had with other marketing efforts before converting.
  • Linear attribution.This multi-touch attribution model gives equal credit to each touchpoint along the user’s path.
  • Time decay attribution.This model gives the touchpoints that occured closer to the time of the conversion more credit than touchpoints further back in time. The closer in time to the event, the more credit a touchpoint receives.
  • U-shaped attribution. The first and last engagement get the most credit and the rest is assigned equally to the touchpoints that occured in between. In Google Analytics, the first and last engagements are each given 40 percent of the credit and the other 20 percent is distributed equally across the middle interactions.

Algorithmic, or data-driven attribution. When attribution is handled algorithmically, there is no pre-determined set of rules for assigning credits as there is with each of the models listed above. It uses machine learning to analyze each touchpoint and create an attribution model based on that data. Vendors don’t typically share what their algorithms take into consideration when modeling and weighting touchpoints, which means the results can vary by provider. Google’s data-driven attribution is just one example of algorithmic attribution modeling.

Custom attribution. As the name suggests, with a custom option, you can create your own attribution model that uses your own set of rules for assigning credit to touchpoints on the conversion path.

Benefits, limitations of attribution

So is that it? Pick a model and be done? Not quite.

Marketers face the ongoing challenge of being able to stitch all the various touchpoints available to their customers together for a grand view of attribution. There have been improvements, with greater ability to incorporate mobile usage, in-store visitsand telephone calls into models, but perfection is elusive.

“Given the increasing fragmentation of platforms and the types of media that marketers have available to them,attribution has never been more important from a marketing measurement perspective,” says Simon Poulton, senior director of digital intelligence at digital marketing agency Wpromote. “Unfortunately, the nature of attribution is one where the goal posts are constantly being moved and just like an asymptote, we’ll never be able to reach the point of 100 percent attribution.”

Chris Mechanic, CEO and co-founder of digital agency Webmechanix, agreed. “Any attribution model is going to be messy,” Mechanic said. “Find one that makes some degree of sense and stick with it. Whether it’s first touch, last touch or blended, the really important thing is getting everybody [on a team] to buy into it and then stick with that over time.”

As marketers invest in more channels and digital mediums, getting a unified view of a customer’s journey is only getting harder. “This will become ever more complicated by increased investments in influencer marketing and Amazonwhere there are significant challenges in creating unified IDs,” Poulton said. “While many of the major players like Visual IQ and Neustar look to solve for some of these challenges via partnerships, we will still be faced with larger challenges on the horizon for out-of-home (OOH) media as one example.”

“In addition to the customer journey tracking that (Google’s and Facebook’s attribution platforms) provide, we’ll likely see the development of variance analysis solutions within the platforms that will enable marketers to better understand the existing impact of their strategies,” Poulton said. “At an overarching level, the key takeaway here is the convergence of data across platforms and the ability to understand interactions that occur across channels in both an impression and click capacity.”

Marketing attribution and predictive analytics: A snapshot

What it is. Marketing attribution and predictive analytics platforms are software that employ sophisticated statistical modeling and machine learning to evaluate the impact of each marketing touch a buyer encounters along a purchase journey across all channels, with the goal of helping marketers allocate future spending. Platforms with predictive analytics capabilities also use data, statistical algorithms and machine learning to predict future outcomes based on historical data and scenario building.

Why it’s hot today. Many marketers know roughly half their media spend is wasted, but few are aware of which half that is. And with tight budgets due to the economic uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are seeking to rid themselves of waste.

Attribution challenges. Buyers are using more channels and devices in their purchase journeys than ever before. The lack of attributive modeling and analytics makes it even more difficult to help them along the way.

(Video) What Is Attribution Modeling? A Quick Explainer for Marketers

Marketers continuing to use traditional channels find this challenge magnified. The advent of digital privacy regulations has also led to the disappearance of third-party cookies, one of marketers’ most useful data sources.

Marketing attribution and predictive analytics platforms can help marketers tackle these challenges. They give professionals more information about their buyers and help them get a better handle on the issue of budget waste.

Read Next: What do marketing attribution and predictive analytics tools do?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

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About the author

What is attribution modeling? | MarTech (3)

Robin Kurzer

Robin Kurzer started her career as a daily newspaper reporter in Milford, Connecticut. She then made her mark on the advertising and marketing world in Chicago at agencies such as Tribal DDB and Razorfish, creating award-winning work for many major brands. For the past seven years, she’s worked as a freelance writer and communications professional across a variety of business sectors.

Related topics

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Marketing attributionMarketing operations (MOps)Performance marketing


What is an attribution model answer? ›

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. For example, the Last Interaction model in Analytics assigns 100% credit to the final touchpoints (i.e., clicks) that immediately precede sales or conversions.

What question does an attribution answer? ›

What question does an attribution answer? "Why did this occur?"

Which of the following are examples of attribution model? ›

What are the different types of attribution models?
  • Last-Touch Attribution.
  • Last Non-Direct Touch Attribution.
  • Single- vs. Multi-touch Attribution Models.
  • Linear Attribution.
  • Time Decay Attribution.
  • Position-Based Attribution.
  • Algorithmic or Data Driven Attribution.
  • Finding the right model.
Jun 12, 2020

What are the two types of attribution Modelling? ›

Types of Attribution Models
  • first interaction attribution, where the first touchpoint receives the credit for the sale,
  • last interaction attribution, where the last touchpoint gets the credit.

What is an attribution model quizlet? ›

Attribution Theory. The theory that we explain someone's behaviour by crediting either the situation or the person's disposition. Heider's AttributionTheory. Behaviour is determined by a combination of Internal and External Factors.

What is an attribution model hubspot answers? ›

Question 42 – What is an attribution model? A measure of the likelihood that the difference in conversion rates between a given variation and the baseline is not due to random chance.

What is attribution and example? ›

Attribution theory is how we attribute feelings and intentions to people to understand their behaviour. For example, we may unconsciously apply this theory when we see someone shouting on public transport. You may blame their character, assuming they are an angry person.

What are the three 3 factors that influence attribution? ›

Weiner focused his attribution theory on achievement (Weiner, 1974). He identified ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck as the most important factors affecting attributions for achievement. Attributions are classified along three causal dimensions: locus of control, stability, and controllability.

What is the purpose of attribution? ›

The goal of attribution is to determine which channels and messages had the greatest impact on the decision to convert, or take the desired next step. There are several popular attribution models used by marketers today, such as multi-touch attribution, lift studies, time decay, and more.

What is the most common attribution model? ›

Following are several of the most common attribution models.
  • Last-click attribution. With this model, all the credit goes to the customer's last touchpoint before converting. ...
  • First-click attribution. ...
  • Linear attribution. ...
  • Time decay attribution. ...
  • U-shaped attribution.
Jan 11, 2019

What is a good attribution model? ›

W-shaped Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution Model

This model gives the first touch, lead creation, and opportunity creation touchpoints 30 percent credit each. The remaining 10 percent of the credit is divided among other touchpoints. It's a good choice when it's easy to identify the stages that create opportunities.

What are different attribution models? ›

About the different attribution models

Linear: Distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all ad interactions on the path. Time decay: Gives more credit to ad interactions that happened closer in time to the conversion. Credit is distributed using a 7-day half-life.

How would you create an attribution model? ›

Set up a new custom attribution model
  1. In Reporting, click the Attribution tab.
  2. Click Attribution Modeling Tool in the left-hand navigation.
  3. Choose a Floodlight configuration.
  4. Click the first available attribution model, scroll to the bottom of the list of models, and click Create new custom model.

What are the four elements of attribution? ›

The Creative Commons wiki entitled, "Best practices for attribution" tells us that a good way to remember the elements required in an attribution, is to use the acronym TASL, which stands for Title, Author, Source, License.

What is attribution in simple words? ›

: the act of attributing something. especially : the ascribing of a work (as of literature or art) to a particular author or artist. : an ascribed quality, character, or right.

What is the best definition of attribution? ›

Attribution is about "giving credit where credit is due." By acknowledging where information comes from, you show respect for the intellectual work of those who came before. An example of attribution is a citation.

What is an attribution in psychology quizlet? ›

defined Attribution as a process by which people use information to make inferences about the causes of behavior or events. Myers. defined Attribution as how people explain others' behavior by attributing it either to internal dispositions or to external situations . Internal dispositions.

What is an attribution model HubSpot test? ›

Attribution modeling allows you to hone in on the buyer's journey and understand which parts of it are working best for your customers and what needs improvement. It also offers insight into how your marketing channels and touchpoints are working together to convert your target audience.

What is an attribution model HubSpot? ›

Attribution models attribute credit to the interactions that created contacts, deals, and revenue in HubSpot, and will apportion higher credit to key conversion points in the lead conversion journey.

What is attribution Modelling in Google Analytics? ›

Overview of attribution modeling

Attribution is the act of assigning credit for conversions to different ads, clicks, and factors along a user's path to completing a conversion.

What is an attribution model in healthcare? ›

Patient attribution is a method of identifying a patient-provider health care relationship. It is a foundational component of population-based payment (PBP) models, which are based on a simple concept: providers accepting accountability for managing the full continuum of care for their patients.

Which is an example of attribution? ›

Example: Maria's car breaks down on the freeway. If she believes the breakdown happened because of her ignorance about cars, she is making an internal attribution. If she believes that the breakdown happened because her car is old, she is making an external attribution.

What is attribution and why is it important? ›

Attribution is about "giving credit where credit is due." By acknowledging where information comes from, you show respect for the intellectual work of those who came before. An example of attribution is a citation.

Why is attribution important in healthcare? ›

Through patient attribution, payers or other healthcare stakeholders assign patients to a provider. The provider or provider group is then responsible for the quality and costs of the care delivered to that patient for a specific performance period even if the patient seeks care from other doctors.

How do you explain attribution? ›

In social psychology, attribution is the process of inferring the causes of events or behaviors. In real life, attribution is something we all do every day, usually without any awareness of the underlying processes and biases that lead to our inferences.

What does it mean to use attribution? ›

An attribution identifies a source or cause of something — in this case, the person who first said the quote. Attribution often involves identifying the author or source of written material or a work of art.

What are the three 3 ways in attribution theory? ›

Principles. Attribution is a three stage process: (1) behavior is observed, (2) behavior is determined to be deliberate, and (3) behavior is attributed to internal or external causes.

What are the three types of attributions? ›

Applying The 3 Stages Of The Attribution Theory In eLearning
  • Stage 1: Observation. The individual must observe the behavior first-hand. ...
  • Stage 2: Belief. The individual must believe that the behavior or action was performed intentionally, instead of accidentally or involuntarily. ...
  • Stage 3: Cause.
Feb 3, 2016

What are the different attribution models? ›

Generally speaking, there are six main types of attribution models – first-touch, last-touch, linear, time decay, U-shaped, multi-touch, and W-shaped multi-touch.

How can you determine what attribution model to use in Google Analytics? ›

To select an attribution model for a new or existing Google Analytics activity column:
  1. Navigate to a reporting table. ...
  2. Click the Columns button, which appears above the performance summary graph.
  3. In the Available columns list, click ▸Custom conversions, then click Google Analytics.


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