Mapping Out The Best Attribution Path

Marketers want to find an attribution model that considers all of the channels they use to gain the highest return for advertising dollars spent. It may seem easy, but it's not. Here's why.

Each channel has a position in the funnel from which it can produce the highest return on investment. To determine their place, NetElixir analyzed 89,000 conversion paths that ranged from single-step paths to paths with more than 300 steps and found 61% of the $58 million in conversions resulted from those with more than one step, as well as 59% of all transactions.

The study also found that not one of the eight industry sectors mapped out for the study had more than 50% of their conversions come from any one-step conversion path. The average number of site visits per conversion was 4.5. The range by sector goes from a low 2.4 for B2B sites to a high of 7.3 for fashion.

The study identified that organic traffic is 4.35-times more likely to become the top of funnel, compared with the bottom.



The study shows that branded paid search is 1.8-times more likely to become the top of funnel vs. anywhere else. Considering the outcome, retailers should think twice about cutting back on trademark search campaigns. 

Bob Daberkow, director of marketing at Kansas City Steaks, admits the company now sees 25% in paid search growth year over year, up from 11% in 2011. In 2014, Kansas City Steaks grew paid search campaigns from 30% to 34%, as a percentage of their site revenue. The results earned the brand a spot in the sixth annual Google Economic Impact Report for May 2015.

Although Kansas City Steaks' non-brand ads required a 27% higher spend, they generated 32% higher revenue. Non-brand ads assisted conversions to rise by 108%, with bidding on keywords like "filet minion," and "rib eye," he said. The family-run company moved more than 50% of its business online around the early 1990s.

In the Apparel and Fashion sectors, Google Shopping campaigns are significantly better avenues for bringing customers into the conversion funnel than non-branded terms and branded terms on Bing.

Display's impact is small and influences mostly the middle of the funnel. CSEs, another small contributor and perhaps a dying channel, garnered most of that contribution through first click interactions. These channels are a good way to fill the top of your conversion funnel. Affiliates are 3.5-times more likely to become the last click vs. the first click, an example of the impact of coupon sites. This channel outperformed non-trademark or non-brand campaigns combined in Google and Bing.

3 comments about "Mapping Out The Best Attribution Path".
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  1. Ushma Patel from Contracting, July 29, 2015 at 2:46 p.m.

    how does TV and Print play a role in attribution?  do you have studies you can share?

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, July 29, 2015 at 3:08 p.m.

    Perhaps the guys from NetElixir can provide some insight?

  3. don rodriguez from NetElixir replied, August 19, 2015 at 11:42 a.m.

    Offline marketing is equally important to consider in attribution as online marketing, especially for firms that spend significantly on avenues like broadcast media, direct mail, print ads, etc.  In our paper, we talked about the fact that using multi-touch attribution for your online marketing is a first step on the evolutionary path to the holy grail of attribution.  The holy grail is to be able to account and track for every touchpoint a person receives from your firm so that you can aggregate that data across your entire audience.  

    That said, in our dataset we had a few examples of firms that incorporated offline data like call center call volume into their analytics account but the amount of data was small. Google Analytics allows you to import that kind of data into custom variables you define.  For example, a tv or radio advertiser could create a dimension to track "impressions" by day for their ad campaigns and layer that into your traffic reports to easily see lifts in traffic levels that might be caused by those campaigns. 

    If interested, our paper can be downloaded at

    Also, there are vendors that do multi-touch attribution modeling that integrates offline and online data using techniques like econometric modeling.  At the recent etail east, there was one breakout session dedicated to a process for vetting those vendors.  The ones I am aware of tend to be aimed at companies who can afford to pay $10,000's for modeling support. 

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