I was on a great panel at the OMMA Behavioral conference in New York on Tuesday titled "Is Display the New Search?" During the wide-ranging conversation, a recurring theme from the display folks in the room was that search marketers have long taken too much credit for an online sale just because paid search clicks are usually the last click of the purchase cycle.
Why isn't attribution more widely adopted?
The biggest factor inhibiting multi-exposure attribution is that last-click attribution is just so much easier. It's easier to manage, easier to measure, and easier to explain. It is also much easier to implement. Conversely, cross-channel multi-exposure attribution requires that all media be tied together at the user level for full path analysis and optimization. This requires technical data integration, internal education, and internal negotiation on how exposure sequencing will be allocated. But the effort is almost always worth it. For digital performance-based marketers, cross-channel attribution is critical to success -- and it is becoming even more so as consumer online purchase behavior continues to mature.
Another factor inhibiting growth of advanced attribution is the elephant in the room. Search marketers are usually the most hostile constituents in the marketing process to implementing advanced attribution because they feel they have the most to lose, since their budgets are the highest in the performance marketing pie. Most search marketers fear that attribution won't help -- and could significantly injure -- the perception of their search ROI.
Embracing Attribution - NOW!
The truth is that when our clients fully utilize cross-channel attribution, we don't see a decline in their paid search spend, but an increase in spend on top-of-the-funnel search terms and all of display. Search terms that fall at the bottom of the funnel will always be the most important pieces of the media mix, since they are the gatekeepers to a purchase. Proper attribution helps get more people in the funnel to drive incremental volume at the same CPAs. Why don't more clients utilize attribution if it usually helps all forms of digital media?
Attribution is good for paid search marketers. And frankly, the digital world is evolving. If we, as paid search marketers, stay in our silo, we will die in our silo. If we embrace the fact that search marketing is intertwined with all forms of digital media, search marketers can lead the way in this new world. If we keep our head in the sand, we will give our budgets to someone else.
For many years, display suffered from "last-click syndrome," as last click credit went to search and affiliates. In order for marketers to truly maximize efficiency of their digital activity and spend, consumer activity needs to be tracked at all stages of the purchase funnel. This obviously helps display, but also paid search. How you analyze, use and attribute data is key to managing and optimizing digital spend. What's more, how you use your data and understand the user is pivotal for display audience targeting and effective retargeting.
Search marketers have an opportunity to lead. By embracing attribution as the central pivot to everything that consumers do online, search marketers can help their companies make smarter marketing decisions. By focusing less on the size of their piece of the pie, they can help create a larger pie.