AdWords Attribution: Who Is Gonna Be Google’s Next Top Model?
Attribution Modeling is a broad and complex topic. But, as it changed the way of how we see the customer journey behind the conversions, it is a very important topic, too. That’s why I thought it is worth to explain attribution in my own words; as easy as possible for every marketer.
First of all: No, an attribution model doesn’t have anything to do with Germany’s next top model, but there are some similarities between the TV show and Google’s way of modeling conversions. In the TV Show, different types of models are competing against each other and at the end, only one contestant wins and becomes the top model. There are different types of models, some are good on the catwalk, some are better on photo shootings and others might be acting well in front of the camera. So when a client books one of the models, he decides which one might be the best model for him – same goes for attribution models. You have to decide which attribution is best performing for your business. There is no bad or good attribution, each business has to find out which model is best performing for them.
But What Actually Is Attribution Modeling And Why Is It So Important For AdWords?
Attribution modeling is how Google assigns conversions to channels, campaigns or keywords. It’s all about how conversions on your website are attributed to your marketing activities.
Let me give you an example:
Let's say someone is searching for ‘party dresses’ on Google and then sees your AdWords ad and clicks. She browses your website but leaves without doing a purchase. One day later, she clicks on a Facebook Retargeting banner and, again, comes to your website. Then another day passes before she clicks-through from one of your email campaigns. This time, she is doing a purchase.
The question is – which of these campaigns should get the credit for the purchase? AdWords, Facebook or your newsletter campaign? As I always favor Google, I would say that without Google, the customer would never have landed on the website and afterwards never have come on the retargeting list of Facebook, so the conversion most probably never have happened. But on the other side, clicking the newsletter was crucial for the conversion to happen.
Google Adwords and Analytics always count the last click the ‘conversion’. So, in this case, Analytics will say that the conversion credit goes to the newsletter, and in the AdWords campaigns we wouldn’t see any conversion for the keyword ‘party dresses’ – most probably we would delete this keyword too, because of low (or even zero) ROI. Think about how many keywords you already have paused, just because they didn’t convert on the last click? This is not fair, isn’t it?
The same example with Adwords:
Someone searches ‘party dresses’, clicks on your ad; no conversion. Second click occurs from the search ‘red party dress’, but again, no conversion. Finally the user knows your brand or your products, and knows exactly what she wants to have. With the third search, which is a brand search, the final purchase happens.
These examples show that the Last Click attribution just gives you misleading information. Your brand keywords are usually getting all the conversion credits whereas your generic keywords suck. Brand searches are usually the last touchpoint of a customer when they have already decided what they want and which brand they wanna go for. Yet, till they come to that point, they do various searches; generic, product or even competitor searches, or they use different channels to finally decide on your brand. So, all the other search queries or channels contribute to the conversion, too, and therefore needs to be mentioned in the conversion data as well.
By setting up a proper attribution we can prioritize our optimization efforts and allocate a budget on what’s working well – as with attribution, we are able to see all the conversion touchpoints and eventually evaluate the whole customer journey.
Which Attribution Model Options Do You Have?
1. Last Click Attribution Model
As I’ve mentioned above, with the Last Click attribution model, Google assigns 100% of the credit to the very last touchpoint – this usually is your brand keyword, as these keywords often have the last click/conversion touchpoint. All other keywords used prior the brand searches are not included and therefore the conversion data is misleading. But, as Last Click attribution is set as default, it is the most used one and advertisers, or even agencies, are not aware of the fact that they are able to change this.
2. First Click Attribution Model
As you can guess from the name, First Click attribution is the opposite of Last Click attribution. This time, it gives 100% credit to the very first touchpoint. The problem with First Click attribution is that in this case, all your broad and generic keywords will get the conversion credits but it will be uncertain how many steps are in between until the final conversion happens. So I would say this attribution is the most vague one.
3. Linear Attribution Model
With the Linear attribution model, all touch points are credited equally. So; party dresses, red party dress and brand keywords all have the same value for Google. This is quite handy as you don’t have to worry about which keyword deserves more attention. But is it ok in this case to give the same credit to the red party dress and the brand keyword?
4. Time Decay Attribution Model
With the Time Decay attribution enabled, the biggest conversion value is given to the last click conversion. However, all other touchpoints before count exponentially. So the older the click, the less credit it gets.
For people who still favor the last click attribution, this might be a good alternative as it is straightforward and all touchpoints are somehow considered.
5. Position Based Attribution Model
This attribution is also called the U-Shape Model: the first and the last click are favored most, and the rest inbetween still counts, but less than the edge clicks. In the Position based attribution, the first and the last click each get 40% of the conversion credit. The remaining, so 20%, is given to the rest inbetween.
This seems to be a fair distribution, but might not be relevant for some user intents. In our case for example, the search for ‘red party dress’ might have been the initiator for the purchase as the user probably saw the dress she was looking for on the website. But, with this attribution used, this keyword would only get 20% of the conversion credit or even less.
6. Data Driven Attribution Model
The last but not least attribution type is the king among all attributions, I would say. This attribution type has been evolved in the new era of Google’s AI technology, so there is no real rule and it is working for each advertiser in a different way. But nevertheless, each touchpoint is considered for the conversion credit. How much each touchpoint is getting and how Google is calculating it, is not transparent and really depends on the individual conversion path.
The bad news, this attribution is not enabled for everyone. You have to generate at least 15,000 clicks and 600 conversion within 30 days – not always easy to achieve for small size advertisers. Google needs this high number to be able to get an understanding of the data and apply the conversion credit fairly to each single touchpoint. Once you are eligible to use this attribution and the system has enough insights from your data, you can be sure that you can allocate your campaign and keyword budgets properly and do an efficient optimization work.
Attribution Modelling Sounds Really Fancy, But Which One Is Best For Me?
Sorry, I can’t answer this. This is something you have to find out by analyzing your traffic and the conversion path and other metrics like CPC, Cost per Conversion, and so on. Each business has its own dynamics and its individual customer journey – only you can find out which one is the best attribution for you.
If you ask Google, they would probably say; use anything, except Last Click attribution. Google’s aim is to make advertisers happy, but of course, they also want to earn money. As I already mentioned in the beginning, with Last Click attribution being enabled, the broad keywords which generally were used to start the research, get less conversion credit and advertisers tend to think that these keywords are not working and finally pause them.
Now, Let’s Have A Look At The Google AdWords Attribution Window And The Attribution Reports
Now you know all six attribution models and also learned why you should care about them. But, where actually can you change the settings within AdWords? Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- If you want to change the attribution setting, you first have to go to your Ads account settings and choose conversions under the measurement tab. If you still use the old AdWords IF, you will find the conversions tab in the tools section, located in the header menu of your AdWords account.
- Here you choose the conversion you want to edit. Each conversion type has to be edited separately and also has to be evaluated individually. For example, you are tracking two conversions, one is ‘sign up’, and the other one is ‘purchase’; each conversion type will have its own dynamics. The sign up conversion might have a shorter conversion path, whereas the final purchase conversion might have a longer customer journey.
- Once you choose the conversion, click the edit setting link. On the very last row of the setting list you will see the attribution model which should be set up to ‘last click by default’.
- Before changing the attribution, be aware of how the change will affect your conversion data in your account. Before making the decision you already might have checked your Analytics data and analyzed the multi-channel funnel reports. If not: please go to the multi-channel reports within the conversions section and analyze your conversion paths data – look at how long it takes for your customers to make a conversion within the time lag report and also check the path length to see how many touchpoints your customers actually are making.
- After analyzing your Analytics data, you probably want to see how your data changes when you change the modeling. Luckily, AdWords has a report that will let you compare two different models and gives you the conversion data for the comparison. To access the tool, just click on the link below the attribution model dropdown. When you are using the new Google Ads Interface, you have to go back to the measurement tab and click on ‘search attribution’ and then ‘attribution modeling’.
- From here you can now choose between different attribution types and check how the conversions for each attribution models are changing. But, don’t forget to choose a specific conversion in the conversion action window in the left corner, first.
Changing your AdWords Attribution from Last Click to another attribution will change the way you optimize your campaigns and keywords. Campaigns and keywords which were not performing well before, might now come to the spotlight and vice versa, and this is only the part for AdWords Attribution. The attribution world is getting more complex when you deep dive into attributions between different marketing channels. The model comparison tool in Google Analytics gives you the opportunity to tap into the attribution modeling between different channels, but this is something we want to share with you in another blog post.
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