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Marketing Attribution Explained

Four in five organizations are using marketing attribution and for the right reasons. The number of marketing channels and touchpoints has increased significantly in recent times. An average customer uses around 10 channels to communicate and connect with a company (e.g. website, blog, social accounts, customer testimonial, mobile, word of mouth, etc.).

Your customers now have several ways to contact your business. The need for crediting the right marketing touchpoint is essential for clear reporting and to understand what marketing touchpoints are working better – and why.

Let’s see what marketing attribution is, what are its models, and how it can help your business.

What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is defined as the means through which a potential customer finds your company and purchases something. A customer might have seen an ad on Facebook which has led him to your website, or a guest post might lead a customer to one of your landing pages. The contribution of each marketing channel towards leads and sales is identified (and credited) by marketing attribution.

Econsultancy defines marketing attribution as the practice of identifying the exact role of marketing (or sales) channels in informing and influencing a customer’s journey. Here is how a customer journey looks like:

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A potential customer moves through several touchpoints throughout his interaction with your company. And this makes attribution a complex task. A customer doesn’t go directly to your website and ends up buying a product. There is a whole process of several interactions that is spanned over days, weeks, months, or even years.

The process by which you assign sales to the right channel depends on several factors. You can use one of the many marketing attribution models to make reporting, marketing channel effectiveness, and decision-making clear.


Why Marketing Attribution is Important

Let’s take a deep dive and see why marketing attribution is important:

  1. Marketing attribution improves efficiency by 15-30%.
  2. It improves reporting and helps you better understand the buying process. You can view the complete customer journey from start to end.
  3. You can find the most and least profitable marketing channels that eventually improve marketing effectiveness and improving marketing spend.
  4. It improves ROI by identifying revenue attribution.
  5. You get a chance to better understand your customers by analyzing channels they prefer and the path they take to become a customer.
  6. Marketing performance can be measured quantifiably. You know the exact numbers in terms of what marketing campaigns performed in terms of revenue generation.

Marketing Attribution Models

Marketing attribution is all about touchpoints. Your customers can find your company through a wide range of channels and with such a multi-channel experience, it’s a complex task. There are different ways (or models) to track marketing attribution. Using the right marketing attribution model that aligns with your business goals is essential.

The two major marketing attribution models include:

  1. Single-touch attribution models
  2. Multi-touch attribution models

Both these models have several subcategories that you can choose from. Here is an overview:

Single-Touch Attribution Models

Only a single touchpoint is considered in these models irrespective of actual touchpoints that a potential customer has been through. Single touch marketing attribution models are cost-effective, easy-to-implement, and straightforward. They work best for small companies, bloggers, and affiliate marketers who don’t have sales teams or huge marketing/sales budget.

There are two major types of single touch marketing attribution models:

1. First Touch Attribution (First Click Attribution)

All the credit is given to the first touchpoint that leads to a conversion. For example, if a customer clicked your post on Facebook organically and ended up downloading a free PDF, all the credit for this lead will be given to the Facebook post (the first touchpoint or first click).

2. Last Touch Attribution (Last Click Attribution)

All the credit for the conversion is assigned to the last touchpoint. It is exactly the opposite of the first touch attribution model. In the previous example, all the credit will go to the PDF.


Multi-Touch Attribution Models

The problem with single touch marketing attribution models is that they ignore all the other marketing channels that a potential customer interacts with before conversion. This ruins marketing effectiveness.

Enter multi-touch models.

Multi-touch marketing attribution models assign credit to all the marketing channels that a potential customer interacts with before conversion. This is more realistic and suitable for large companies with longer sales cycles and a huge marketing budget.

The most used multi-touch attribution models include:

1. Linear Attribution Model

Equal credit is given to all the touchpoints throughout the customer journey. It is one of the most used multi-touch marketing attribution models as it captures the entire funnel.

Consider the Facebook post example. With a linear attribution model, equal credit will be assigned to the Facebook post and the PDF as both led to the conversion.

However, equal credit is assigned and the impact of a touchpoint in terms of influence is ignored with linear models.

2. Weighted Attribution Model

You can assign unequal credit to different touchpoints. This is more realistic as not all touchpoints contribute equally to a conversion. You never know what clicks your audience and it leads to a conversion.

You have to assign the variable weight to different marketing channels based on what channels and touchpoints you perceive are essential for conversion. In the Facebook post example, you could assign 70% weight to the PDF and 30% weight to the Facebook post since you believe that PDF is more detailed and has a major impact on conversion.

The weighted attribution model is complex and challenging. It requires rigorous data analysis and testing before you can finalize meaningful weights for all the touchpoints.

3. Position-Based Attribution Model

It is an attribution model where 40% of the credit is assigned to both the first and the last touchpoints and the remaining 20% is distributed equally among all the channels in-between. This is because the first and the last touchpoints are more important than others.


The first click is important as it started the journey and the last click is important because it led to the conversion.

4. Time-Decay Attribution Model

The most recent touchpoints are given more credit than the past ones. It is a perfect B2B marketing attribution mode as it is suitable for B2B companies where sales cycles tend to be very long and it takes several interactions for a potential client to finally convert. In such an instance, the most recent touchpoints are weighed more.


What Model to Use?

So what marketing attribution model you should use for your business?

It depends.

However, using a multi-touch attribution model should be your preference. Statistics show that 45% of marketers in the USA and UK use multi-touch attribution models followed by 43% who prefer using first click (or first touch) models:

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If you have a small business with limited resources, stick with the first touch model. If you have a mid-sized or large company and you are using a CRM tool, using multi-touch marketing attribution won’t be an issue for you.