The inspiration for this article came from an invitation to appear on Rogue Marketing‘s podcast While You Were Working (LIVE).  Our topic: “What's the deal with last click attribution?  Is this still a thing?”

What is last click attribution?  And how has it become detrimental to the bigger picture of marketing performance?

An attribution model decides which traffic source gets credit for a conversion along your website’s conversion path.  Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last click just before the person converted.

But before you can make use of last click attribution, you must decide what counts as a conversion and how you’re going to track it.  Many businesses don’t have the infrastructure in place to track conversions.

Start Smart Now does this for businesses of all sizes.  If you’re not sure what you are or aren’t tracking, we recommend starting with a Google Analytics Audit.

Assuming you’ve defined a conversion and you’ve got tracking in place, last click attribution answers this question: where was the person and what did they click before converting?

That’s an important question to answer, but it’s only one part of a bigger marketing and analytics picture.

When we use last click attribution as the only data point to answer broader questions–e.g. “Which traffic sources are generating the most leads?  What’s the conversion rate?  What’s the ROI?”–we get ourselves into trouble.  Last click attribution alone can’t answer those questions.

And that’s why it's detrimental to the bigger picture of marketing performance.

Google Forces Your Business to Think Differently About Attribution

If you use Google Analytics, you're beholden to how Google processes your conversion data.

The rumor that Google will stop supporting last click attribution indicates an evolution of thought: Google wants businesses to understand that people interact with brands through multiple touchpoints across multiple devices before converting.

This coincides with Google’s move on March 26, 2018 to roll out mobile first indexing.  This forces businesses to make sure the mobile versions of their web pages are as robust as their desktop web pages.

This doesn’t mean that last click isn’t important anymore.  It just means that last click will be part of a more holistic approach to attribution modeling.  It is one touchpoint on a multi-touchpoint conversion path.

Therein lies the root of the problem: the concept of credit.  Specifically, the insistence on only using attribution modeling to assign credit to a traffic source.

Instead of “credit,” we prefer to use the word “influence.” 

It’s easier to understand how interactions with your brand on different channels and on different devices influence a person to convert.

One of our first recommendations for Dr.EricZ.com was to implement a proprietary technology called Analytics Connect.  It works with Google Analytics and Infusionsoft to offer unparalleled conversion path tracking.

Businesses typically nurture leads before they sell: recent studies show that most people interact with your brand 3 to 4 times before buying.  It’s imperative to understand the influence of each traffic source on user behavior for your business.

Dr.EricZ.com has many nurture-to-buy marketing funnels; it's our job to understand which channels drive awareness, consideration, etc.

Case Study: Suzy Could Be Your Customer

Take “Suzy,” a typical Dr. Z customer.

Suzy is on her mobile device and searches for uses of lavender essential oil on YouTube.  She comes across one of our infographic videos, watches it, and clicks our call-to-action for the Essential Oils for Abundant Living Masterclass.  She leaves the opt-in landing page without registering.

Thankfully, analytics tracking system Analytics Connect sets a cookie on her browser and stores this data in its cookie vault database.

A few days later, she sees our Facebook retargeting ad for the masterclass and clicks again.  This time, she registers!  Analytics Connect captures her contactID from Infusionsoft, finds her in the cookie vault database, and gives credit for the lead conversion to her first click (YouTube).

However, credit is tallied differently in our Facebook business manager (where we measure ad campaign performance).  Our Facebook conversion pixel gives credit for the conversion to the Facebook ad she clicked.

Also, Assisted Conversions will credit both YouTube and the Facebook ad on the lead conversion path.

So far, credit has been assigned three different ways.  But it gets better!

Eight days later, Suzy decides to buy the masterclass.  Each day she receives an email with special access links to watch the masterclass.  When she buys on Day 8 after clicking the link in her email, Analytics Connect finds her in the cookie vault database and gives credit to YouTube (her first click) for the $77 sale.

But viewing Assisted Conversions for ecommerce, the Infusionsoft Email has been added as a traffic source to the ecommerce conversion path along with YouTube and Facebook.

Again, different tools assign credit differently.  But it gets better!

Let’s pretend Suzy didn’t convert after 17 days in our funnel.  But six days later, she sees a retargeting Facebook ad to get the masterclass at a discount.  These ads are only shown to people who finished the funnel and didn’t buy.  She clicks on that ad and finally converts.

To summarize:

  1. Our Analytics Connect cookie vault system will credit YouTube using first click attribution.
  2. Additionally, we’ll see that our “Didn’t Buy Post-Funnel Campaign” worked because the Facebook pixel will credit the ad for the sale.
  3. Then, Google Analytics multi-path attribution model will show YouTube, Facebook “Lead Generation” Ad, Infusionsoft Campaign Email, and Facebook “Didn’t Buy Post-Funnel” Ad in the ecommerce conversion path.

With this many factors influencing one customer, it's easy to see how complicated tracking one conversion can get.

Often there are gaps in conversion path tracking when users visit your site on different devices.  However, the Analytics Connect cookie vault can track the user’s entire conversion path after they sign up for anything, even a newsletter.

We gain an enormous insight into which channels are working and what kind of influence each channel has on the customer’s journey.

If Suzy was one of your customers, would you have all this data?  Would you be able to understand Suzy’s customer journey?

Start Smart Now can help.  We always recommend starting with a Google Analytics Audit.

What Does This Mean for You?

All businesses should understand how today’s multi-channel, multi-device consumers traverse the digital landscape.

If your business has already made the transition to multi-path attribution modeling, Google’s rumored move away from last click attribution modeling is welcome news.  If not, you could find yourself behind the curve of Google’s more holistic approach.

The fact is, last click attribution as the default method for analyzing marketing performance will soon be a thing of the past.

What I’ve experienced from business owners and/or executive leadership teams is an unwillingness to consider any approach to attribution modeling other than last click.

When trying to explain other models (e.g. first-click, linear, time decay, position-based, or an assisted conversion approach) confusion sets in, followed by pushback, and ultimately an unwillingness to have a conversation about holistic approaches.

Don’t wait.  Start the conversation now.  Talk to us.  We can help your business understand attribution modeling and pick the model that will answer your important business questions.