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The Imperfections of Last Click Attribution

When it comes to digital marketing, there is a heightened focus on analytics to determine success. Many businesses continue to place a heavy reliance on last click attribution models to determine which of their digital marketing tools are driving results. Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit for a conversion or a sale to the last click a visitor made before he or she arrived on the website to complete that action. It's a model that has been used for years, but can be flawed if it's solely used to determine which digital marketing efforts are really driving results.

The Problem with Last Click Attribution

In theory, last click attribution seems to make a lot of sense, giving credit to the last source that drove a new consumer to a convert on a website, but we as consumers are not that simple. Consumers in today’s environment are usually exposed to a number of different sources before they visit a website. There are countless studies that show the synergy between various types media platforms—those that show how TV, newspaper, and radio drive someone online for more information or to purchase. There are even studies that show how display advertising has a direct impact on search activity—in other words, how consumers are more likely to search for a company and its products after seeing a display ad, even if they don’t click on it.

 Solely using a last click attribution model doesn’t account for any of the other sources that assist in getting the consumer to the website and converting.    

This can create a big problem for anyone who buys or sells online and offline marketing, especially when you consider how people consume media. Why? Well, only using a last click attribution model to determine which players within your marketing mix are driving results fails to take into account how your other marketing efforts are assisting in getting that final click and conversion. 

Decision-Making That Relies on Last Click Attribution is Flawed

Making a decision to increase or decrease resources simply based on the last click could have a domino effect on campaign results. You could see a decrease in overall results if you simply increased spend in one source attributed with a high number of last clicks and decreased another with a low number of last clicks.

Let’s use the example of search vs. display advertising. Let’s say that a pay-per-click campaign has a high number of conversions and display is low by comparison when looking at the last click attributed with the conversion. So a decision is then made to decrease spending with display advertising and increase spending in paid search. It is very probable that you could see a decline in conversions because you took away the assist—the component of the campaign that drove the awareness and favorability to get the consumer to search for your product or service in the first place. Or maybe it was the reminder to come back to the website and complete the conversion. 

A Better Way to Measure

So how do you use analytics to really understand how these components work together to drive that final conversion? Here are a few tips:

  • Start by understanding how the components of your campaign will work together to drive results. Know which components of your marketing mix are more likely to assist or be the last click when it comes to a conversion. ThinkwithGoogle.com offers a great Customer Journey tool that can help you better understand that mix.
  • Don’t rely solely on the last click to determine what is working and what is not.
  • If you are using a tool like Google Analytics, make sure that you enable goals and conversions so that you have access to Multi-Channel Funnel reporting. These reports can give you a lot of insight into how all of your online marketing efforts are driving results on a website.

To know what's working and how your marketing mix functions, you need to take a holistic view of your metrics. Doing so will allow you to make better decisions on how to spend your marketing dollars.

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Topics: digital marketing, Sales