Attribution Modeling in Digital Marketing

March 30, 2016   |   Margaret Chialastri

The key to running a successful digital marketing campaign is ensuring ROI. In order to do that effectively, understanding channel touchpoints and conversion rates is critical. The challenge is that consumers interact with your brand across multiple channels and devices. So, how do you attribute a single conversion when a user has interacted with your brand across five channels? While the answer doesn’t come in a one size fits all package lets review a few different types of attribution models.

Last-Touch Attribution

As the name implies, credit for a conversion is given to the last channel the consumer touched prior to completing the conversion. As an example, a user views a display ad for your brand on a website and goes on to visit your brand on Facebook which eventually leads to searching your brand name on Google. The user clicks on the organic listing and completes a conversion on your website. Using Last-Touch Attribution, Organic Search would receive 100% of the credit for that conversion.

First-Touch Attribution

Much like last-touch, first-touch attribution also gives 100% of the credit to a single channel. In this case it is the first channel that the consumer touched. Much like last-touch the problem with this model is that consumers generally interact with your brand on multiple devices and channels. Attributing all of the value for the conversion to a single channel can misguide your future marketing strategies.

Time Decay Attribution

This type of attribution model is part of the larger group of “Multi-Channel Attribution.” This means that credit is given to multiple channels throughout the customer journey. In the time decay model the last-touch is given the most credit for the conversion and each touchpoint prior gets less and less credit. The amount of credit given is based on how long ago the touch happened and not based on what position you are in on the customer journey.

Position Based Attribution

This model is again part of the “Multi-Channel Attribution” group and gives credit to a channel based on the position in the customer journey. The first-touch and the last-touch get the most credit while those in the middle get less. The standard credit is 40% to the first and last touch with the remaining credit spread evenly to the middle channels. As with all of the models the default settings most likely will not work for you and will need to be tweaked.


Choosing the right method for your company can be difficult. Our recommendation is to take a look at multiple attribution models with a look back of 60-90 days and how they affect each channel. Knowing that Paid Search will look like a hero using last-touch whereas Display will likely see a nice boost when you move to a multi-channel model.

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