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A Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Attribution

Learn the basics of marketing attribution, including the most common models, how to select the best model for your company, and best practices for creating an effective marketing attribution report.

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Chapter 1


Chapter 2

Definition of the Top Marketing Attribution Models

Chapter 3

How to Choose the Correct Marketing Attribution Model for Your Company

Chapter 4

How to Create a Marketing Attribution Report and Examples

Chapter 5

Marketing Attribution Best Practices

Chapter 6

Key Takeaways

Table of Contents

Chapter 1


Marketing attribution is a tricky subject. Consider the following scenario:

  • A prospect clicks on a Facebook Ad
  • They then explore your website
  • They sign up for your email newsletter
  • You send them a targeted email with a special offer that they convert on

Which of those touch points is most responsible for the purchase? 

Answering that question relies on strategic marketing attribution. 

In this post, we’ll share:

  • Definitions of the top marketing attribution models
  • Tips on how to choose the best model for your company
  • Best practices for creating an effective marketing attribution report 

Chapter 2

Definition of the Top Marketing Attribution Models

Different attribution models exist to capture the nuances of a buyer’s journey. Let’s briefly discuss what makes each model unique and consider examples of when you might use it to inform your marketing strategy.

First-Touch Attribution

The first-touch attribution model gives all the credit to the first touchpoint a customer interacts with. For example, if a lead discovers your product through a blog post and then signs up for a free trial, first-touch attribution would credit the blog post for the conversion.

Last-Touch Attribution

With a last-touch attribution model, all the credit goes to the last touchpoint before a conversion. For instance, imagine a customer first learns about your service through a webinar but converts after receiving a targeted email. Last-touch attribution would credit the email as the primary reason for the conversion.

Linear Attribution 

In this model, credit is evenly distributed among all touchpoints, acknowledging that each played a part. For example, if a customer’s journey involves seeing your social media ads, visiting your website, and receiving an email, linear attribution would give each touchpoint equal credit for the conversion.

Lead-Conversion Attribution

This model emphasizes the progression from lead to conversion. It credits touchpoints that contributed to the lead generation process. Suppose a lead goes through a series of email nurturing campaigns before converting. Lead-conversion attribution would recognize the role of these emails in the conversion.

Time Decay Attribution

Timing is what matters most for this attribution model. Touchpoints closer to the conversion receive more credit.

For example, if a lead engages with your company through multiple touchpoints over several weeks before subscribing, time decay attribution would attribute more credit to interactions in the days leading up to the subscription.

Position-Based Attribution

Also known as U-shaped attribution, the position-based model assigns higher credit percentages to the first and last touchpoints and less to those in between.

Imagine a lead discovers your product through a Google ad, engages with your content on LinkedIn, and then converts after a demo. Position-based attribution would give significant credit to the Google ad (first touch) and the demo (last touch).

W-Shaped Attribution

Similar to U-shaped attribution, W-shaped attribution allocates credit to the first, last, and one or more touchpoints in between.

Suppose a prospect discovers your software through a PPC ad, interacts with your blog content, attends a webinar, and finally converts after a personalized email. W-shaped attribution would recognize the importance of all the first and last touchpoints in the conversion journey and whichever touchpoint in between had the most impact on qualifying the lead.

Custom Attribution

Custom attribution allows businesses to create their own model based on their unique needs and objectives.

For example, a SaaS company could create a custom attribution model that places more weight on webinars and free trials. They might do this after discovering these touchpoints have the most significant impact on conversions.

Multi-Channel Attribution

This model considers the impact of marketing efforts across various channels, recognizing that customers often engage with a mix of channels before converting.

Let’s say a customer interacts with your company through social media ads, email campaigns, and direct website visits before subscribing. Multi-channel attribution would evaluate the combined influence of these channels on the conversion.

Weighted Multi-Source Attribution

Weighted multi-source attribution assigns distinct weights to different touchpoints based on their perceived importance, allowing for a more nuanced assessment.

For example, your company might give higher weight to a live demo than to an initial website visit because you know from customer data that demos substantially impact conversions.

Chapter 3

How to Choose the Correct Marketing Attribution Model for Your Company

Choosing the best marketing attribution model requires a deep understanding of your unique position in the market and your customers’ behaviors. Here are some things to consider before deciding: 

Consider the Type of Campaigns and Channels Used

Selecting the appropriate marketing attribution model relies on understanding the diverse campaigns and channels in your growth marketing strategy.

Each element — whether it’s social media, email, paid ads, or content — has a distinct role in guiding customers on their journey.

If a SaaS company heavily relies on webinars to drive conversions, it might lean towards a custom or weighted multi-source attribution model. 

Analyze the Impact of Each Channel on the Customer Journey

How do customers move through your marketing channels before converting? Which channels do they interact with most frequently? Which ones are more often the final stepping stones to conversions?

Knowing the answers to these questions enables you to align your attribution model with the specific dynamics of your customer journey.

For example, if your average customer discovers your company through organic search, engages with your downloadable content, and ultimately converts after a personalized email, you’d want to choose an attribution model that recognizes the significance of each of these touchpoints.

Consider the Customer’s Preferences

It’s essential to consider how your customers tend to engage with your brand across multiple channels before converting. 

If your customers interact with your brand across various touchpoints, a multi-channel or W-shaped attribution model could be good choices. Conversely, a simpler attribution model might be better if your customers typically convert after private consultations with sales reps.

Chapter 4

How to Create a Marketing Attribution Report and Examples

A marketing attribution report allows you to analyze the impact of each marketing channel and decide if the chosen attribution model is appropriate for you.. 

Here’s how you can create one. 

Gather the Data from All Marketing Channels

To create a meaningful marketing attribution report, you first need to gather data from all the marketing channels and touchpoints you’re using, like:

  • Google Analytics data for website interactions.
  • Email marketing performance metrics (e.g., open rates, click-through rates).
  • Data from advertising platforms (e.g., Facebook Ads, Google Ads)
  • CRM data, including lead interactions, conversions, and pipeline progression.

Analyze the Data to Create a Report

Next comes the crucial part: analyzing the data to create your marketing attribution report. 

Step 1 – Identify Conversion Events

Start by defining what a “conversion” means for your company. Is it a product purchase, a newsletter sign-up, or a free trial subscription? Make sure you and your team have a shared definition for accurate reporting. 

Step 2 – Track Customer Journeys

Next, examine how customers move through your various marketing channels. Track their interactions from the first touchpoint to conversion. This might involve using tools like Google Analytics, marketing automation platforms, or a CRM.

Step 3 – Apply Your Chosen Attribution Model

Now, it’s time to apply your selected attribution model and see how well it reflects the reality of your customer journey. Measure its outputs versus actual outcomes.

Step 4 – Analyze Results

With the model in place, you can now dissect the results to pinpoint which touchpoints are responsible for conversions and the extent of their influence.

Step 5 – Create the Report

Now, it’s time to put it all together in a comprehensive report. Your marketing attribution report should provide a clear picture of how different channels and touchpoints contribute to conversions. 

Step 6 – Share and Review

Lastly, share the report with your team and stakeholders for review. Discuss the insights and recommendations that emerge from the attribution analysis. Are there channels that need more investment? Are there areas where the customer journey can be optimized?

Chapter 5

Marketing Attribution Best Practices

Let’s now discuss some best practices to ensure you’re using marketing attribution to its full potential.

Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Decide what you want to achieve with your marketing efforts, whether it’s increasing conversions, boosting ROI, or expanding your customer base. These goals provide direction and purpose to your attribution efforts, guiding you toward meaningful insights.

Use the Right Metrics to Measure Success

Using the right metrics is intrinsic to successful marketing attribution. It ensures that you’re tracking the correct data and interpreting it correctly to allocate credit accurately.

Monitor and Adjust Models as Needed

Regularly check and adjust your attribution models based on new data and changing marketing strategies. Are there new marketing channels or campaigns you’ve launched that must be factored into your attribution model? Has customer behavior shifted, making a different attribution model more relevant?

Use Data to Inform Future Strategies

Leveraging data to inform future strategies is at the core of effective marketing attribution. By identifying which channels and touchpoints are most effective in driving conversions, you can allocate resources wisely and optimize your strategies for maximum impact.

Chapter 6

Key Takeaways

Marketing attribution is a powerful tool for understanding the impact of your marketing efforts and optimizing your strategies. But remember: the goal is to select a model that provides the most accurate picture of how your marketing efforts contribute to conversions. 

Don’t settle for the default or most straightforward option! Instead, take the time to explore and tailor your attribution model to your specific business, customer behaviors, and campaign intricacies.

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