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Understanding Attribution: Taking the Confusion Out of Attribution
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Original Post:  ASK Enquiro

So we get a number of questions about attribution. What is attribution? Which attribution model should we be using? Is there an ideal attribution model? What is a typical attribution model look like? How accurate is one attribution model vs. another?

Before I go on, I would like to say that I am by no means an expert on attribution. The purpose of this article is to really open up a dialogue and help take some of the confusion out of attribution as it pertains to marketing specifically online marketing.  People have been trying to figure out attribution for years and quite honestly, very few have a good handle on it.  Of course there are different types of attribution and with the digital age there are new types of attribution emerging such as last click attribution, 30, 60 or 90 days back attribution, multi-channel attribution, multi-campaign attribution and the list goes on.  Where to begin?
Let us start by sharing some common definitions of attribution:
  • the process of awarding different marketing events different levels of commission
  • placing value on various marketing efforts that lead to a sale
  • the process of assigning value or credit to marketing sources that result in a conversion
  • a method for assigning a worth to an action, a person or event
Really at the end of the day, attribution is about giving credit where credit is due.  The definitions above are all correct.  Attribution is about assigning a value to a marketing action that results in a reaction from your target audience (i.e. customer).  Again giving credit where credit is due.  Conversely, attribution is also about being accountable for.

The Recipe for Attribution
For attribution to work you need a couple of key ingredients:
  1. Business Objectives – the clearer the better.  You need to know what the end goal of your campaign is.
  2. Accurate Analytics/Tracking – you need to be able to accurately track all of the attributes that are present in your conversion process.
  3. All Touchpoints Identified – if you miss one, and just one, your attribution distribution is negatively impacted and becomes less accurate.
Let’s look at a typical scenario.  This past weekend many of us watched the Super Bowl (congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, on a great season…).  Viewers are tuned into some of the most expensive advertisements ever produced.  So let’s say that you are looking to purchase a new car.  While you were watching the Super Bowl, you happened to the commercial for Hyundai Sonata.  You had previously done some research and Hyundai was one your shortlist as part of your consideration set.  Then you perform a search in Google for “Hyundai Sonata”then happen to click on the top organic listing which is for www.hyundaiusa.com/sonata/.  You bookmark the site.  You do some research and then jump off to another unrelated site.  Then on the weekend you meet with a friend who hands you a magazine with an ad or a review for a Hyundai Sonata.  You go back to the site that you bookmarked.  You then go online that night a perform a search for “Hyundai dealers” in .  You happen to live in Seattle, so you click on a sponsored listing for Hyundai of Kirkland.  You then click back and find that there is a local listing for a Hyundai dealership not 15 minutes from your home.  You visit the dealership and obtain more information.  The deal presents you with a DVD outlining some of the features of the Hyundai Sonata.  You review and a week later you go back to the dealership and purchase a 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

As the marketing in this case, the folks at Hyundai can in fact attribute pieces of the sale to the various items that you were exposed to.  The original Super Bowl ad, your previous organic search tasks, the magazine ad, the sponsored listing(s) that you clicked on etc etc.  While this may be an extreme example, you get the point.  Attribution is complex at the best of times, so taking the time to clearly identify a typical conversion path becomes important for the purposes of attributing a value to each of the marketing efforts.

Something to keep in mind is that attribution may not ever be 100% accurate.  People are different and while there may be some common reasoning as to how or why they make a purchase, things like semantic mapping and experience are not the same for everyone.  As a result, it is hard to determine what influenced a person to make the decision they did at that single point in time.  Having clear business objectives, proper tracking and analytics and being able to accurately assign a value to your marketing efforts can provide a more useful method for attribution.  You will have a better idea of where your marketing dollars are best spent.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, February 11, 2010  
  • At 5:35 AM, Anonymous jintropin said…

    ...well it will take me longer to get into this one as i thought:)

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