Last-click attribution has been the default mode in AdWords for long enough. Google has announced that you’ll be able to integrate more sophisticated attribution models with your conversion data and bidding. Goodbye, last-click!

The Perils of Last-Click Attribution

I’m not dismissing last-click attribution as totally useless. Knowing the last ad or keyword that led to a conversion is helpful, but it tells a skewed, half story. With last-click attribution, you’re missing information about campaigns that may be great at driving awareness, just not so great at prompting people to take the final step.

Looking at this limited information, you may be tempted to shift your budget to keywords or campaigns driving the last click before while inadvertently cutting off the flow from awareness-building campaigns. So although you’re throwing money at the keyword getting the last click, you may be ignoring the first click that gets the ball rolling.

AdWords advertisers now have more data than ever to help them evaluate the conversion path and make better optimization decisions. While there are still businesses out there that get great results from last-click attribution because their paths to purchase are very direct, there are a lot more businesses with complicated conversion paths that need more data and more a comprehensive attribution model.

Here is an overview of how AdWords’ new attribution options will help take your analytics to the next level.

AdWords Introduces New Attribution Models

The data-driven attribution model was actually launched in 2013 and was available in DoubleClick and Attribution 360 and Analytics 360. It works by using machine learning to assign credit for each interaction along the conversion path, which then allows marketers to analyze the incremental contribution of each touch point.

From a drop-down menu in your Conversion settings, you can now choose from six different attribution models: last click, first click, linear, time decay, position-based, or data driven. Once a new model is selected, credit will then be reassigned across the conversion path. And if you’re using automated bidding for search ads, your new bids will be automatically optimized according to your new attribution model. The only tricky part is deciding which type of attribution model works best for your business.

Types of Attribution Models

Last click: This is the most conservative growth model. It gives all credit for the conversion to the last-clicked keyword.

First click: This is the most growth-oriented strategy and gives all the credit for the conversion to the first-clicked keyword.

Linear: Each touch point on the conversion path gets equal credit. This model has a moderate growth strategy.

Time decay: This model also has a conservative growth strategy and gives more credit to clicks that happen closer to the time of conversion.

Position-based: This model gives 40% of the credit to both the first- and last-clicked keyword. The remaining 20% is spread out across the rest of the clicks on the path.

Data driven (in BETA): This type of attribution gives credit to clicked keywords based on how crucial they were in the conversion process. This option is only available to businesses with enough traffic.

Before committing to a new attribution model, do some testing. See what model gives you the highest volume of high-quality conversions. And consider changing your ads and landing pages to reflect where the customer is along their path to purchase.

The Drawbacks

While this is a step in the right direction, there are still drawbacks and no model is perfect. Google points out, “It’s only available for clicks on Search Network and Shopping Ads on Google.com and is not available for display Network Ads. Only available for website and Google Analytic conversion actions, not for app, phone call or in-store conversions.”

By excluding display ads, incredibly valuable points of engagement are left out of the equation. Studies show that display actually generates more search volume, clicks, and conversions.

The other big flaw is the lack of call attribution. Phone calls have become a common point of conversion, especially from mobile search. In fact, 70% of mobile searchers have used the click to call button. So for businesses that are highly dependent on display ads or phone calls, AdWords still has some work to do. 

While AdWords new attribution models aren’t a perfect solution, it’s a big improvement from the last-click attribution model we’ve been working with for so long. Now we have choices about how the conversion path is tracked and can now gather more relevant information for better budgeting and optimizations.

If you want to learn how Invoca can bring you the call attribution you need, download our eBook, Paid Search for the Mobile Era.

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Cari Thompson

Posted by Cari Thompson

Cari Thompson is a copywriter, online marketer, and blogger. She studied marketing and advertising and - drum roll, please - music at Brigham Young University. Cari started in traditional advertising as a media buyer then transitioned into the online world through buzz marketing, blogging, and copywriting. Her three greatest accomplishments include beating Super Mario 3 in one night without a whistle, drumming for tens of people, and licking an ice sculpture at the Versace Mansion.

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