The Beginner’s Guide to Attribution Models

Written by Heather Mueller on December 16, 2015

Posted in Lead Generation

AdWords can be so tricky. It’s one of the best ways to generate leads, yet one of the most challenging when it comes to determining how efficiently your marketing dollars are being spent.

The busy marketer who’s responsible for a dozen other strategies plus AdWords has it especially rough. There are just so many metrics to plow through.

Sound familiar? If so, you’ll love attribution modeling.

This tool—built right into every AdWords account—can help you decide which keywords are truly worth the cost and which ones are eating away at your budget. Google is releasing additional features that will let you choose a model for each conversion action you measure and even track them across devices.

These are features you don’t want to miss. But if you’re still new to attribution modeling, you’ll first need a primer.


What should you know about attribution models to make the most of this AdWords feature?

Let’s take a look.

What is AdWords Attribution Modeling?

Attribution models track the various paths people take before converting to leads and customers, attributing credit to clicks and other factors along the way.

You can find attribution modeling under Tools > Attribution. Different models help you visualize conversion paths in different ways:

  • Last click gives 100% of conversion credit to the last keyword clicked
  • First click gives 100% of credit to the first keyword clicked
  • Linear evenly distributes credit to all touchpoints in the conversion path
  • Time decay gives the most credit to touchpoints that occur closer to the actual conversion
  • Position based gives 40% each to the first and last touchpoints, then distributes the remaining 20% among all interactions in between

Why should you use it?

Attribution models let you see how different keywords, ad groups and campaigns contribute to form conversions. Once you get the hang of it, attribution modeling is like a crystal ball you can peer into for a better understanding of how users discover your services or products.

How does it work?

Here’s an example to help put attribution modeling in perspective:

Let’s say someone first finds your landing page by clicking on one of your AdWords ads (touchpoint 1).

Formstack Ad on Google

A week later, she returns to your website after clicking over from one of your email campaigns (touchpoint 2). Later that same day, she returns a third time from Facebook (touchpoint 3).

Her final touchpoint happens the very next day when she types your URL directly into her browser to fill out your form and make a purchase.

In this example:

  • Last click would give all credit for the conversion to the Direct channel
  • First click would give 100% credit to Paid Search
  • Linear would give all touchpoints—Paid Search, Social Network, Email and Direct channels—25% credit each
  • Time decay would give the most credit to Direct and the least amount of credit to Paid Search
  • Position based would give 80% of credit to Direct and Paid Search since these were the first and last touchpoints

What should you look for?

Attribution models can be used to learn how your marketing channels are working together and where you’re getting a true return on investment.

For instance:

A first click model might help you decide to keep bidding on a keyword that’s aiding in the conversion process even though it’s not the final click.

Or you might decide to A/B test forms or landing page content after discovering people have to visit it multiple times from paid search before deciding to fill out the form.

Be sure to leverage new cross-device conversion reporting, too. This type of modeling will let you see when someone starts the conversion path on one device and ends it on another—like when you view an ad on your phone but wait to make the purchase until you’re back at a desktop PC.

Looking for more ways to measure your AdWords ROI?

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