Rumors about Google killing last-click attribution in AdWords have been circulating for months. While the ad giant hasn’t officially said that it’s going away, its new Google Attribution platform is in beta, indicating that change is indeed afoot. The ability to get last-click data won’t likely disappear, so the question remains—is last-click attribution the best way to gauge the performance of your marketing strategy and tactics? In many cases, it isn’t.

The Last Click is Only Part of the Buyer Journey

According to Google, most advertisers currently measure the success of their online advertising on a “last click” basis. Its widespread use is more of a matter of convenience and lack of practical alternatives than anything else.

For many marketing organizations, last click is the most efficient way to simplify the results they’re getting from their marketing efforts. The last thing the customer clicked on before buying gets the attribution because that ad or keyword must have done the trick, right? That’s part of the story, but we all know that the buyer journey is more than one click – or call – long. If it wasn’t, we’d all be out of work.

When your customer is considering a purchase, they might meet you at dozens of different touchpoints, across multiple devices, online, offline, in the store and on the phone. While last-click attribution will help you optimize for keywords that help close deals, it misses everything else that happens along the way.

If you are only paying attention to last click data, you’re missing attribution for other pieces of a campaign that are driving awareness, educating, and getting customers closer to purchase. You can even end up hurting your campaign performance by killing ads that don’t impact last click performance, but may still be attracting the interest of your customers.

This is not to mention that last-click data might not even matter to marketers who are focused on driving prospects into the top of the funnel and building brand awareness. No matter what your goals are, your marketing organization at large needs to see a bigger picture than last-click attribution alone can provide.

Alternative Attribution Models

Last-click attribution is the default in Google AdWords (for now), but there are several other models available that can help you get a more holistic view of your buyer’s journey and get attribution where attribution is due.

Google Attribution Beta

Google is now rolling out a free version of Google Attribution, its new multi-attribution modeling platform, to a growing beta audience. When it becomes generally available in the coming months, all users will have access to new features that allow marketers to measure the impact of their efforts across devices and across channels, giving a more complete view of performance throughout the buyer journey. A pay-to-play enterprise version called Attribution 360 is also available for businesses with more advanced attribution needs.

Data-Driven Attribution

Along with the new platform, Google is offering a new data-driven, machine learning-powered attribution model, fittingly called data driven attribution. According to Google, this model distributes credit for the conversion based on observed data for this conversion action. It’s different from the other models, in that it uses your account’s data to calculate the actual contribution of each keyword across the conversion path.

Google data driven attribution won’t work for everyone, though. You must meet some fairly robust data thresholds to use it—your account needs at least 15,000 clicks and a conversion action must have at least 600 conversions within 30 days to qualify.

Position-Based Attribution

This model gives 40 percent of credit to both the first- and last-clicked ads and corresponding keyword, with the remaining 20 percent spread out across the other clicks on the path. Position-based modeling gives you insight into non-brand search conversion data that can help you dial in keywords that boost top-of-funnel performance.

Time Decay Attribution

Time Decay gives more credit to clicks that happened closer in time to the conversion. Credit is distributed using a 7-day half-life. In other words, a click 8 days before a conversion gets half as much credit as a click 1 day before a conversion. This model is well-suited to short sales cycles. Enterprise sales or considered purchase categories like financial services can’t make much use of this short data window.

Linear Attribution

Linear is just that: all clicks that lead to conversion are getting equal credit for the sale and you get a broader view of clicks and keywords that contributed.

First-Click Attribution

First Click is for the brand builders and pipeline fillers trying to find out what gets prospects into the funnel. The first click and keyword get all the attribution.

Getting Accurate Attribution from Phone Calls

While Google has some pretty impressive tools that, for example, use its mapping technology and advanced machine learning to track store visits and other offline events, it can’t attribute everything. A big blind spot marketers frequently run into pops up when consumers jump from paid search to the phone. While Google analytics and bid management tools have no problem tracking clicks, they weren’t built to understand what happens once someone picks up the phone.

The action really starts when someone calls—appointments are set, decisions are made, and conversions happen. You need to know what happened on the call to optimize your marketing strategy, and Google can’t give you the full picture.

When it comes to attributing conversions that happen on the phone, you’ll need a call intelligence solution like Invoca for AdWords. This allows you to see why your search efforts are driving people to call, so you can spend more effectively, drive higher search conversions, and increase performance across other channels. Without complete call data, you’re just guessing.

Using artificial intelligence, Invoca is able to identify the types of callers and the outcomes from the conversation. Whether the outcome is a quote, sale, or an existing customer calling about a question, these insights give a clear picture of why a customer entered a certain keyword and what they might be looking for next.

As attribution models become more advanced, so does Invoca. We’ve introduced new attribution capabilities that can tie data to phone calls and conversation outcomes based on unique, first, last, and multi-touch visitor interactions on the site. Invoca customers will be able to specify attribution for the dynamic data captured and associated with phone calls. This powerful new capability focuses a panoramic lens on all the things that are leading customers to call your business. This means you can duplicate the efforts that work, end the ones that don’t, and trigger the next best action in any other channel.

The End of Last Click is Only the Beginning

Digital marketing will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace in the coming years as AI and machine learning are commoditized. Like many martech advancement and algorithm changes, the (possible) death of last click attribution may be frustrating for a minute, but in the end it will make you better at what you do.

Owen Ray

Posted by Owen Ray

Owen Ray is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Invoca. Prior to that, he worked with SaaS companies like Aria Systems, Glassdoor, and Mindjet. Owen sharpened his writing tools at San Francisco State University and Bay Area newspapers before working his way into the Silicon Valley creative services set. He hails from Petaluma, California and definitely does not leave work early on Wednesdays to go drag racing at Sonoma Raceway.

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