Attribution Models for Marketers: The Definitive Guide

Table of Contents

    Attribution in marketing means a set of activities by users that affects the desired outcome, such as a conversion and the allocation of values to the events. These activities can later be assessed with the help of marketing campaign reporting software.

    Attribution models can enable you to gain an understanding of event combinations is some specific order and their influences on how customers pursue an expected behavior.

    It is a strategy that proves the effectiveness of your content. Marketing can align with sales, know their budgets, and enhance the quality of their content.

    But what’s the relevance of attribution models to digital marketing

    They define how successful your marketing campaign will be as several touchpoints (interactions of clients with your brand) occur online. These touchpoints take place when people read your e-book, blog post, infographic, or view your video.

    Attribution Models in marketing helps content marketing specialists to accurately track the influence of the content on their buyers while getting full credit for the effort.

    Nevertheless, this topic has been a subject of discussion among marketers.

    Do you assign credit to that content that initially brought the lead? Do you assign credit to content that leads responded to prior to the time the lead turns out as an opportunity? Or do you assign credit to a content that influenced leads prior to the time the deal was secured?

    It is like assigning credit for your college degree to your kindergarten teacher, high-school, or college teacher. You will discover they all deserve to be credited, but that wouldn’t help. Should they be credited equally? 

    Several marketers are also figuring out the answer to similar questions as far as marketing attribution techniques.

    Bizible confirmed that about 74.6 percent of marketers possess an attribution model.

    Out of that percentage, 55.2 percent of them utilize a single-touch model, while 72.4% go for a model based on how easy the option is, or they don’t have a clue why they chose it.

    This definitive guide provides a holistic idea of what attribution models are in marketing and the type of models that we have, which one stands out, and what tools can enhance marketing attribution.

    What is marketing attribution?

    We can trace its root to a theory on attribution propounded by Fritz Heider. The emergence of the digital age has paved the way for a notable surge in marketing attribution.

    Marketers are now monitoring their success via metrics like click-through rates, page views, and others as digital marketing becomes mainstream.

    The advancement of technology has also brought about variation, complexity, and accuracy to attribution models.

    Allocating attribution in the market remains dicey and one of the most contested aspects of marketing philosophically.

    Marketing Attribution Models

    Attribution in marketing factors in all the touchpoints a customer connects with marketing before making a purchase.

    We can divide the models into two types- Single Touch and Multi-Touch.

    A single-touch model assigns credit to a specific example. It is easy to implement but with low accuracy. Multi-touch models, on the other hand, share the credit, among many instances. They have higher efficiency but more challenging to implement. 

    Let’s examine those two models in detail with their advantages and disadvantages.

    Single-touch attribution models

    They are the best options for smaller enterprises with simplified sales and marketing systems. If you have a shorter sales cycle ( or lack a sales team, you possess a smaller budget or employ not more than two marketing platforms, then a better option will be a single-touch model.

    1st Touch

    Every credit of a particular lead is allocated to the first Touch a lead takes in the first-touch attribution. For instance, consider this -you have generated a lead subsequent to downloading an e-book, the complete credit for sale will be attributed to the e-book.

    Marketing Attributions Ebooks


    You can implement it easily


    It does not factor in subsequent interactions by that buyer.

    The appropriate time to use

    You can use the first Touch in a sales cycle that is extremely short with single client interaction. 

    Last Touch

    Every credit, as far as the sale is concerned, goes to the webinar.

    Marketing Attributions Webinar


    You can quickly implement it


    It doesn’t factor in previous interactions; it cannot uncover contents or platforms generating interest or leads.

    Appropriate Time to Use It

    Assess the impact of the bottom-of-the-funnel content on a decision.

    Uncommon single-touch models

    Every attribution is assigned to the content responsible for the lead conversion. The last non-direct Touch would usually ignore direct traffic to the content in the previous touch attribution.

    Multi-Touch Attribution Models

    These suit enterprises that use over three marketing platforms possess a longer sales cycle and a huge marketing budget. Peradventure, you are utilizing a CRM tool that enables you to automate multi-touch attribution, then you’ve got the best option.

    Linear Attribution Model

    In this model, credit is allotted to every interaction as well as touchpoints of the customer all through the sales cycle. In this case, badge scans during trade shows, the e-book newsletter, as well as the webinar, will equally be attributed.

    Marketing Linear Attribution Model


    It perfectly captures every form of interaction


    It is complicated and trickier to implement as it demands advanced campaign monitoring configuration (both manual and automated), difficult to analyze as it is not easy to comprehend as to what item should be assigned credit for the sale.

    An appropriate time to use it

    It is perfect for expanded sales processes that include different interactions, most time connected to a research process performed by a buyer.

    Weighted model

    A marketer can allocate weights to several interactions instead of assigned credits to all of them equally. In this case, the marketer has allocated a greater credit to both first and the last touch, with less credit given to the middle points.

    A marketer can allocate weights to several interactions instead of assigned credits to all of them equally. In this case, the marketer has allocated a greater credit to both first and the last touch, with less credit given to the middle points.


    It captures every interaction but values attributions proportionately


    It is challenging to value every Touch adequately, tedious during implementation, and demands custom software configuration. It could be confusing in case touches are not weighted properly. It is harder to interpret outcomes as it offers fractional outcomes, not whole figures.

    An appropriate time to use

    Expanded sales process; need to cover elements of both first Touch and last touch models.

    Uncommon multi-touch models

    A weighted model that allocates little attribution depending on time away from making a buy decision is called the time decay model.

    U-shaped or position-based models allocate more credit to lead conversion than other approaches. The W-shaped model assigns more credit to lead not only conversion but also the first Touch and opportunity creation.

    Account-based attribution

    How can marketers utilize attribution when a single account generates multiple leads?

    The account-based attribution model provides this answer.

    In case the content is being consumed simultaneously by multiple leads, we would count all of the interactions towards the sale. Distinctive weight will also be credited to each Touch based on the function it assumes in the purchase.

    What is the best attribution model?

    The sales cycle defines which model is the perfect one.

    More detailed attribution models are challenging when it comes to execution. Notwithstanding, with the advancement in technology, we would have a winner.

    Marketers have rated an algorithmic model as the best. These types of models leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence in the computation of conversion probability over several marketing touchpoints.

    The most accurate and difficult model might not be the best fit for everyone.

    For example, enterprises that have a short sales cycle may not derive benefit from the optimized accuracy of an algorithmic attribution. Therefore, a one-touch model will fit.

    For companies that require an accurate model and have the money to back up their desire, the right option may be an algorithmic attribution.

    Estimating attribution in content marketing.

    Despite all the advantages, one challenge in marketing attribution is the fact that you can hardly measure content-consumption touchpoints. Not only that, but it is also difficult to measure the most notable content viewed prior to the time an individual fills the form for gated content and turns to a lead.

    Analyst firms have reached a consensus that the majority of the buyer’s decision occurs prior to the time the form is filled or before meeting the salesperson.

    How Do You Find Reports On Attribution Model In Google Analytics

    Google Analytics leverages the last interaction attribution. This has been set to default.

    Nevertheless, you can juxtapose several attribution models in your dashboard. You can locate this tool below ‘Conversion‘ > ‘Attribution‘ in your Google Analytics account.

    The comparison of each model will enable you to view the value each channel generates, given several attribution models. You can make use of Google Analytics default channel arrangement or click ‘Source‘ to view the value allocated to the respective source you’re tracking if you want to customize your links using UTM codes.

    This will help you know the value of several marketing channels and their impact on traffic and conversions.

    Several factors affect the ability to give credits to conversions:

    1. Absence of cross-device tracking
    2. ITP regulation of browsers such as blocking and deleting of cookies, which are the fuel of marketing software
    3. Broken tracking
    4. GDPR like opt-in only tracking
    5. Tracking of different attribution model such as Adwords to Google Analytics

    It becomes trickier when you have to analyze utilizing another model, such as linear, first click, or others. Nevertheless 

    Design The Foundation of Your Model

    Step 1: Know the phase of your business

    The growth phase usually defines KPIs for marketing assessment, which consequently impacts how you divide credit among touch points before purchase. Here are three phases(not limited to three) you need to define:

    • Budding & High Growth
    • Estimated Growth And Consolidation
    • Renewed Growth By Adapting Changes

    Step 2: Are you a retailer or a brand?

    You can provide a simple yes or no to this question. However, it can redefine your marketing processes and how the attribution operates.

    Some retailers produce lines of products that are branded. Notwithstanding, they would have to fall under ‘Retailers’ for this question.

    Step 3. Are you proactive with prospecting?

    You must factor in active prospecting in your model. If your organization is focusing on acquisitions, you will need first to weigh the first touch attribution model.

    This is because locating the right buyer as well as the channel fi is crucial to controlling the cost per acquisition.

    • You channel your focus and invest ad spend on new customer acquisition
    • You possess a balanced strategy of acquiring and retaining customers
    • You have a large base of existing clients that generate revenue

    Step 4: What metric is most crucial to you

    This is another significant factor in determining the weights of the interactions that play out at every point in the buyer cycle.

    • We value awareness and traffic
    • We don’t underestimate the cost of acquiring a new-to-file client
    • It is a priority to showcase growth in our top-line revenue
    • We have to generate an outstanding ROAS/ROI on what we spend on the ad

    About the author

    Mindaugas Skurvydas is an SEO specialist at Whatagraph, a digital marketing reporting tool for agencies. The content produced is a result of copious amounts of coffee, and a laptop that should’ve been retired by now.