Busting The Myth of Attribution

Although attribution is a hot topic in the realm of marketing, it’s usually presented as a panacea for marketers dilemmas, which allows others to make heads and tails of how different advertisements in a purchase funnel work together.  Generally, the typical description will first show the way conversions attributable to various channel channels change if you are going from last click to even-distribution, or U-distribution.

The reasoning behind this claims that multi click attribution is needed in order to optimize your search campaign properly. There are Attribution vendors saying that actually be shin can solve the media mix problem. As an example, this would mean finding the correct budget allocation to help of to maximize your overall impact of a marketing campaign.

Last Click.  It Isn’t Always Bad

Normally, about 50 to 70 percent of all marketing is offline. This would include TV, print and public relations.  10 to 15 percent of a marketers marketing strategy goes towards search, as does the same amount goes towards display.  There are attributes in vendors who will tell you that attribution can solve the media mix problem, such as getting the right budget allocation to help optimize the overall impact of your marketing campaign.

Attribution can show big synergies when ooking at multi channel data. But, when looking at search alone, the impact is actually pretty small. Here is a couple of examples:

Multichannel 1

In this dataset, several advertisers were analyzed for search only purchase finals.  Funnels were categorized into three main buckets. These buckets are single click, self assist (those searches were when the same word was typed multiple times), and true multi-click or assist finals. If you were to look only at search, 90 percent of all conversions happened either with one click or when the same keyword was typed.  Only 10 percent of the time were multi-click search conversions happening.

By looking at the pie chart below, you can see that when looking at multiple channels, the picture changes. By looking at online marketing channels only, 27 percent of finals involve multiple channels. The number of this will go up even further if you include email marketing as part of the mix.

Multichannel 2

Basically, if you are primarily doing just search, changing the attribution rules doesn’t really change all that much. Normally, you would see a 10 to 20 percent assist funnel and 5 to 10 percent non brand to type funnels.  In the end, you are fine working with the last click. Although, by taking a look at multi-channel data, when search takes the shape of a small portion of the overall picture, multi-channel attribution can actually mean quite a lot.

Attribution Isn’t A Media Mix

Let’s pretend we have a multi channel advertiser. In this example, he has deployed in multi-event and attribution system. Below, the chart shows the conversions attributable to each channel by even- and last-distribution methodologies.  Based on the graphic below, it seems to show that display and social are having a positive assist effect on search.

Multichannel 3

Here is a question that you would have to ask yourself in this situation. How would your budget change across the three channels based on this information? In short, it doesn’t. You may come up with a heuristic to shift budgets, but there’s no proof or guarantee that your performance would actually improve. This is because:

  1. Attribution is a look back in time. Attribution might help tell you what channels gave you conversions, but it won’t be able to tell the future.

  2. You cannot assume causality.A channel might seem to do well when you base it on a heuristic Attribution method, but this doesn’t mean that there’s a guarantee this will happen if you change the mix. As an example, just because you have a paid advertisement that does well on TV doesn’t mean it will do well as a paid search on a search engine. Paid search would collapse, simply because TV and paid search are synergistic.

Is Multi-Channel Event Attribution Useless?

To answer the above question, the answer would be no period if deployed correctly, Attribution can form the backbone of bottom-up media makes models that can tell you where to spend the media.

Also, did you know that multi TV and after beautician is relevant to multi-channel marketing with substantial budget in two or more media?

But, what you have to keep in mind is the value the attribution can provide is very dependent on what type of technology you’re deploying it on.  You can use a channel tagging+rules base attribution system, which would give you insightful reports.  As for that, that’s where it would end.  If you use an algorithmic attribution platform with advanced econometric models, you would end up with bottoms-up media mix models.  This would help you predict different marketing outcomes with different marketing outcomes with a high degree of accuracy.


Although attribution is very important to several large businesses today, it is still misrepresented and oversold in terms of what it can actually do. Rules-based attributions are actually limited in their capabilities as they are descriptive, and aren’t predictive.  A last click attribution might be just fine if you are a small marketer with limited budgets.  This can also be applied to any marketer who is focused on search as his or her primary marketing channel.

Although every marketer will probably see different cross-channel interactions, it’s important to know the limitations and capabilities of and I ask of you should technologies before you take the time and money to invest in them. This can provide you with valuable business insights recommendations when done correctly. But, if done wrong, it can be a huge waste of time, money and effort.