The Importance of Attribution In Your Marketing Campaigns

Jodie King

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

In simpler terms, attribution captures the pinpoint moments when people interact with your brand. To be able to measure them you need to recognise them. Once you can you will have a clearer understanding of how people interact with your marketing material and product. These attribution touch points occur throughout the customer journey which is separated into three stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

To make it easier for you to relate to these touch points here is an example of the customer journey and attribution in context.
The awareness stage occurs when someone is searching for a particular product and comes across your store or product listing ad (Google Shopping).
A brown haired, blue-eyed, 24-year-old young man who is relatively athletic sits down at his computer because he needs a new pair of trainers. He has recently started Crossfit and has been talking to his instructors about the best trainers to buy so that he can develop further. The instructor gave him some recommendations but, let’s call him Chris, wanted to back that up with his own research. So he starts his hunt by typing into Google – ‘best CrossFit trainers’.
What Chris sees first are the Ads, both text ads and PLAs:
attribution trainers
Chris instantly sees the ‘Men’s Vibram Five Fingers Cross Fit Trainers’ in those top PLA ads (third), which are the ones his instructor recommended and falls in love with them. For example’s sake, imagine that Millet Sports is your eCommerce store. Chris clicks on that Ad to taker a closer look at those trainers, momentarily distracted from his research.

That’s attribution touchpoint NUMBER 1. The first time he interacts with your store is via that Ad.

£71.00 is just a little higher than Chris intended to pay and he lets his head rule his heart and clicks the back button. He returns to his initial research and scrolls past the ads to the organic search section.
attribution organic
The best next step here would be an article my Millet Sports (your store for the purposes of this article) on the best Crossfit trainers you can buy and why. But Chris goes with Men’s Fitness, as many would, as it is a trusted authority and he believes will give him honest reviews. There are eight recommendations in the article and Chris narrows down his search now to the ‘Inov-8 F-Lite 250’ and the ‘Men’s Vibram Five Fingers KSO’. What he does next is what just about every shopper now does before purchasing – he shops around and looks at reviews, price and delivery. He chases a bargain.
He puts ‘Inov-8 F-Lite 250’ into Google. Your store (Millet Sports) pops up twice at the top of the page with PLAs and Chris likes the blue design. He clicks on the Ad to see more – they are on sale for £60.

That is attribution touchpoint Number 2. Chris again goes straight to the product he is interested in via an Ad. Chris notes free delivery and works out that yours are the cheapest available according to that top row of Ads.

Chris then does something else lots of shoppers now do during the consideration stage. He checks out Amazon because he has an account with them and it’s just so easy.
attribution trainers alone
Amazon is dearer but Chris does read the review which is five stars and very positive. He is leaning towards this design now. But what about the other ones?
Another Google search – this time for the Men’s Vibram Five Fingers KSO’. This time Millet Sports does not appear and Chris notes that these are much cheaper – but that actually makes him think they might not be as good. He tags on the word reviews to his search and finds them difficult to find. There are a lot of sites adding ‘running trainers’ to the description and that is not what he wants.
Chris’ next step pushes him towards the decision phase. He types Millet Sports into Google. He skips the text ad and goes straight to the organic listing.

This is attribution Number 3 – a direct entry to the website he has become familiar with and trusts.

The first banner up is a 70% off sale so Chris goes to that page. He filters the search for “Mens”. He scrolls through and decides there isn’t much relevant to his search. Then he sees side by side the two trainers he has checked out on the site under the ‘recently viewed’ tab. He clicks on the ‘Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 250 Fitness Shoe’ and wrestles with whether he likes them in blue or would prefer black.
He returns to Google Search and typed in ‘black Inov-8 Men’s F-Lite 250’. Miller Sports are there again so he clicks on the text Ad to see if they actually have the black model. They do have it but it is an earlier model and he is sold on the latest state of the art version because he is serious about Crossfit.

That was attribution touchpoint Number 4 and Chris is nearing his decision.

What he does next doesn’t really matter and comes down to personal taste as so many of these decisions do. He may go to and buy the black model for £62.99 which has free shipping. Or he may return to Miller Sports and buy the blue model for £60 with free shipping. The question is what has your marketing learnt from one shopper’s attribution journey?
This is what we now know about Chris:

  • He likes Ads. The attribution data shows 3 Ad clicks in total so you will know what he was searching for each time.
  • He was impressed enough by the site to go direct.
  • He was very clear about what he wanted – you will have the exact search terms he used from your Adwords account as that will tell you what triggered which Ad.

That is one customer journey. Let’s explore what data you might get from measuring other touch points and analysing the data you already have sat in Google Analytics and your Adwords account.

  • Social Media may be a first touch point. What is the click-through like and do social media visitors come back via other channels?
  • Are people more likely to click on your Ads or organic listings to access your site when you appear for both?
  • Do people buy instantly or are you seeing multiple clicks to the site before they convert?
  • Is there a big drop off from one Ad – are you not satisfying user experience? Is the text of the Ad misleading or out of date?
  • Are you spending money on Adwords when you would be getting the sale through Organic anyway?
  • Are you wasting money on SEO when people buy solely through your PLAs?

There are lots of different attribution models, most importantly is which of Chris’s touch points you would attribute more value to. Which one mattered most or did they all matter equally? Was it the first time he came to your site and saw what he wanted? Or the last time he clicked on that Ad before purchase or did each touchpoint play a part?
The first click and last click attribution models are the ones widely used because it is easier to get acquire and analyse that data. Marketing equates to numerous interactions, the gentle nudges, the hard sells, the informative articles, the bold reviews and the consistent message across all marketing channels that ultimately leads to that conversion.
Attribution isn’t simple and analysing it takes time and patience. If you can narrow down the customer journey then you find two vital truths:

  • What people want to see and engage with?
  • What do people not want to see and do not engage with?

7 Marketing Metrics
Attribution is just one metrics that you should be aware of and track in 2017. To understand more marketing metrics that are essential for your marketing to grow, download our blog on 7 Marketing Metrics that matter in 2017. If you have any questions about attribution or any of the marketing metrics drop us a comment and we will get back to you.  

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