In today’s world of digital media, the quest is no longer just about how many conversions one is looking for or how long a page view is.  Digital marketers want to know about the process a consumer takes in their path to conversion in hopes of seeing how much each ad, whether it be display, search, social media, or more, contributed to a conversion.  For marketers using attribution modeling, the easiest way was to attribute 100% of the sale to the last clicked ad.  The problem with that, is people hardly convert after seeing one ad.

What is Last-Click Attribution?

Last-Click Attribution is a method of attribution modeling that weighs the last clicked ad before the conversion at 100%.  In terms of compensation, this means only the vendor who provided the space or content for that direct channel will be credited with the sale.  In past years when attribution modeling was a relatively new concept, Last-Click was a popular choice for advertisers.  In fact, it is still the default setting on Google Analytics.  But the truth is that the attribution model discussion has evolved.  As data becomes more and more important in the advertising world, compiled with the growing availability of cross channel monitoring, many types of attribution models have emerged on the scene.  As Digital Evangelist and Google Guru Avinash Kaushik points out on his blog, “Historically, all tools used last click attribution because the one thing they could confidently say is what drove the converting visit. And they did not have the technical horsepower to do Visitor-centric analysis. Both these problems are solved now.”


So Which Attribution Model Should I Be Using?


Excellent question!  The truth is: it depends on goals and the business.  For businesses looking to use the most up-to-date model but don’t have the time to create a custom model, then a Time Decay is most widely recommended.  The theory behind Time Decay is that each touch point is considered and given weight in the overall conversion, but the amount that each touch point weighs increases the closer one gets to the direct channel.  While not perfect, it allows all points to be considered in the conversion, and helps paint a better picture of what it took to make a conversion.  This is important because in terms of a conversion funnel, the first clicked ad is seldom the last time a person will be exposed to a product or service on the web.

If looking at a typical conversion which focuses on sales, the first click ad is only the beginning of the sales process.  You have your first-click ad, which could be driving users to learn more on the website or on social media, then retargeting would be utilized to help reel your consumer back in.  Additionally you need to be considering if an individual has been learning about your product from beyond their desktop, and ensure that mobile plays some type of part in their conversion.  Now you may be asking yourself why this all matters, but the truth is that this attribution model (in fact any modern model) can be used to better understand how effective creative is, how strong your media mix is, and how relevant each touch point is to a conversion.  The goal is to be constantly optimizing and figuring out what touch points are making sense vs, which ones aren’t, which will help save time and money in the long haul.

However!  Though Time Decay is a good choice, if your company has experience in attribution modeling and is willing to get more hands on with the attribution approach, a custom model makes the most sense. The truth about digital advertising is that the process one company has for a conversion is not going to be the same for another.  You need to take into consideration that the number of touch points in a conversion funnel for your business will not be the same for another.  Not only that, but you will also weigh different touch points differently depending on your goals and KPIs.  For one client, the conversion may the most crucial point and so the last channel is important, but for a campaign focusing on brand awareness, maybe that first initial ad is actually the most important for beginning the consumer journey into learning about your brand.  Taking these unique points into consideration will make your model a lot more specified to your business or client, and will help paint an overall more accurate depiction of what your consumers are doing from starting point to conversion.


So shake off the shackles of Last-Click.  The truth is that there is too much data today that is lost with Last-Click that can be utilized if a different model is used.  Whether it is Time Decay, Custom, or the other types that exist (see Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik), go explore and figure out which one is right for you or your client.