Enough With The Attribution Excuses

Just get on with it already.  You’ve thought about it.  You’ve made excuses.  You know it’s time.  As a search marketer, you need to get off last-click attribution.  Ahh… last-click attribution. Like any addictive drug, it gets you hooked and is hard to give up.  But, like any addictive drug, the fun days are over, and now, if you don’t quit, you will only see the negative consequences.

Let’s define terms: attribution, as I refer to it in this piece, means two things.  First, it means multi-click for search terms, knowing top-of-the-funnel clicks that lead to the highly profitable brand clicks further down the funnel.  Second, it means multi-touch beyond paid search, including clicks and views from SEO, performance display, brand display, Facebook, affiliates, and even email. 

But you know this already -- we've all been talking about attribution for a long time now.  The benefits are clear. Marketers should understand how different advertising touch points are affecting conversions and activities, and clearly see the interplay of channels up and down the funnel.  With this knowledge, marketers can accurately value their media investments, enabling them to invest at the top of the funnel in their media. 



The Attribution Boogeyman

So everyone should be using attribution, right?  As it turns out, we, as an industry, are still largely on last-click attribution.  If you are one of the many still using last click, you have chosen the easiest form of attribution to implement and explain -- but the worst (by far) in helping your company achieve its marketing goals.

There are a few obstacles keeping many marketing organizations from moving away from the hold of last-click, but search marketers -- I hate to say it -- are one of the biggest roadblocks.  Search marketers are invested in the status quo.  We have budget and respect within the marketing department.  We are comfortable and worry about disruptive change.  Will attribution take focus away from search? Will other tactics get “my” credit? What will changing my attribution model do to my optimization and spend?

How to stop worrying and learn to love attribution

Proper media attribution is an integrated part of the process.  Marketers need to stop thinking about attribution as a product or an add-on to media management.  On the contrary, it is a central part of your media activity. If you don’t know how your advertising works together to drive your results, you are in the dark.  And if you aren’t leading the charge to figure this out, then someone else will.  Like everything else regarding search, testing is critical here.  If you don’t test different models, you will never know if you can improve your results.  By running different models at the same time, you can see how a new innovative model can help your entire marketing team.

Spread the word

Once you understand how a more sophisticated model can help you and your organization, then you need to educate your team, your boss, your peers, and your management. Maybe you need to better align goals across marketing teams so that together you can achieve greater heights. Attribution, when done right, will show how arbitrary the divisions between teams can be and how sometimes their individual goals can work against each other.

Drive the change

It's time to kick your old habit. Sure, you had good times with last-click, but there are better days ahead. Go on, you can do this.   Start leading the attribution charge within your company. You will be amazed at what good a little change will bring.

2 comments about "Enough With The Attribution Excuses".
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  1. alexander edlund from Caesars Entertainment Inc, May 1, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.

    I think (hope) a lot of companies know that last-click attribution does not show the full picture, or a good picture at that. I'm on board with the importance of proper attribution modeling but would like to see a conversation about what the "perfect model" could be..

    Understand there's not a one-size-fits-all model but some are better than others.. Maybe that's part two of this article?

  2. Lisa Tadje from mediaFORGE, May 4, 2012 at 3:39 p.m.

    Attribution continues to be one of the main pain points expressed by our clients. As a display media company, our approach to helping clients get better insight is providing comprehensive campaign data that shows which of their site conversions can be attributed to interaction with a mediaFORGE ad - we call it Post-Engagement Attribution. In realizing that those conversions were likely touched by other marketing channels, we also provide a tool that allows clients to see that overlap, enabling them to make more educationed decisions about their ad spend.

    You can read more about why we feel strongly about measuring Consumer Engagement in our whitepaper,

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