A Breakdown Of Digital Marketing Attribution

What is Digital Marketing Attribution?

An attribution model is what marketing firms use to figure out the actual ROI of their digital marketing tools by identifying which channels a user went through on their way to conversion and which one of those channels deserves the most credit. Think of a customer’s journey from start to finish before making a purchase. Companies are interested in what this path looks like, and how many “touches” or “clicks” it takes until they purchase something. An attribution model is basically an explanation of how many customers and how much revenue comes from each channel that a customer might touch, such as social media, social ads, google ads, email, etc.

How is Digital Marketing Attribution Measured?

Many, many ways my friend. It’s last interaction based, right? But you’ve also got last non-direct click, last channel-specific click, then first click and multi-click attribution… lots of clicks going on over here. Most of the time, due to budget, a company might have to pick and choose which channels to market on. Ways of attributing conversions might differ between platforms and so some of what I describe may not be available across each channel.

More often than not, a customer visits your website, and then gets added into your funnel for digital marketing. You send them emails, they see your social media, social ads, and then eventually they go back onto your site and make a purchase. It’s all about building a relationship, and companies are interested in seeing which parts of that ramp to conversion were most impactful. It’s just that there are many ways to differentiate, as a marketing company, the answer to that.

First Touch, Last Touch, and Multi-Touch 

Aren’t you tired of the word click? Me too. There are different terms though, for instance First Touch, Last Touch, and Multi-Touch. Let’s talk about the nuances of each.

First Touch

First-touch attribution is giving the credit to the first touchpoint. Customer clicked on Facebook Ad, signed up for your newsletter, and then through an email with a discount code, wound up purchasing. Facebook Ad gets all credit. This is pretty clear and easy to explain to clients. This gets slippery though if you have varying rates across different channels, as you could undervalue a platform that is producing fewer, yet higher in value leads.

Last Touch

The converted customer in the above first touch example actually purchased because of a discount code in an email correct? Last touch will, instead of attributing the conversion to the initial discovery of the product, give the credit to the email that spurred the actual purchase. This can help you identify which marketing tool is productive aside from advertisements. Last touch is your best bet if the road to purchase is direct, without any turns or signs popping up along the way. Majority of the time though, there are a lot of other places marketing pops up in the customer’s route to purchase. These need to be taken into account, which brings us to multi-touch.


As the term might give away, this is one of the more complex of attribution modeling. This gives credit to multiple touchpoints on the journey of a user from discovery to conversion. There’s almost a zillion ways you could see the outcome through multi-touch attribution, depending on what percentage of credit is given to whom and how many points on the journey there have been. Many people are advocating for this type of attribution model as opposed to first or last touch only, because taking into consideration multiple decision-making points along the way should give you a fuller picture of the efficacy of your digital media: paid, owned, earned.

What is Wrong With Digital Marketing Attribution

The thing that’s wrong with attribution modeling is that it’s too simple, and yet too complicated. It might not take into account everywhere the customer has been before conversion. Google and Facebook don’t share data, so we can’t cross-reference the points. Consumers are seeing ads across tons of channels, and if we can only gather unique individual data points with little to no real information about the user or where they’ve been, then we’re grasping at straws. Looking at numbers and saying, oh this is the highest, guess we’ll go with that. Ah, that’s not always the right move. But then we look at everything and have to know the funnels extremely well in order to be effective with that information.

Yes there are flaws with attribution. But it seems the bigger problem is that a good number of firms today are still trying to take the easy way out. It’s easiest to look at one tool, one touchpoint, give all of the credit to the last click that led to a conversion. But consumers are complex – heck, humans are complex! And our journeys to purchasing products in the digital age is not cut and dry or black and white. It takes real persistence and vigilance to learn about what the typical flow of events shapes out to be with each of your clients marketing campaigns, and how to enhance each step of the way using the entire mass of data you’re collecting.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to take into account engagements as well. Too often we can be hyper-focused on conversions and while they are critical to success, it’s important to remember that relationship building aspect. Brand awareness is just as much a part of a marketing campaign as is driving sales.

How Digital Marketing Attribution is Being Improved

Slowly, we’re learning how to give the correct value to each touchpoint. Yes, each touchpoint. Did I mention how important it is to look at them all? As I mentioned earlier, many marketing firms are still using last-click or first-touch attribution models. There is a push to move past this and enlarge our understanding of a user’s path to a purchase. This can be costly and time-consuming, so new tools are being designed today that decrease the complexity inherent with effective marketing attribution models.

How You Should Hold Your Marketing Firm Accountable

Of course you want to create the highest possible return for your clients using all the digital marketing tools you have in hand. How do you keep your marketing team accountable for high performance?

First, by putting the most well-rounded effort forward, using your attribution model, and then paying close attention. In order to target weak spots in the chain, you must be looking at its entirety along with the individual links. In order to justify spend, you must have the data points to back it up. With a team dedicated to the whole picture of a digital marketing strategy from discovery to conversion and beyond, you can bring more to your clients and therefore strengthen the performance of your team.

Second, being driven by client success is a great way to keep your team accountable. If the client succeeds, your team succeeds. Your firm needs to do all it can using the tools it has to bring success. Simple as that. Get your team in gear with using attribution models to enhance your performance data and be more useful to your clients.


Firon’s Stance on Attribution

We tackle these issues with marketing attribution by mixing all aspects of the business into one. We’re not fighting for attribution for a single vertical, as in email does not have to be the winner, we’re mixing all digital tools together. This means that the overall attribution you measure is taken from all aspects of a user’s journey. Yes, we measure each vertical individually, but in order to improve each one, instead of trying to fake attribution like some companies do if they’re providing only one statistic (sorry, not sorry). We focus on having really honest attribution so we can pick out the laggers and enhance their performance.


Is your current digital marketing team skimping on its attribution model? Come talk to us at Firon and we’ll provide you with something better.

Adrian knows all there is about email marketing.