First, Last and Linear Attribution – Defining the three major attributions type

Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]

Every website would ideally want a visitor to click an ad, blog post, landing page or other touch point, and immediately convert. Unfortunately, the reality is a little more complex. Visitors are unlikely to land on your web page and immediately initiate a purchase. It often takes visitors multiple touch points and multiple visits before they eventually buy. Whereas the average number of touch points varies by product and industry type, what is certain across the board is your customers will hardly convert at touch point

Understanding the different attribution models is important if you are to accurately assess your marketing campaigns performance. By choosing an attribution model that’s best for your bottom-line, you can establish what impact your sales and marketing efforts are having on your revenues. We’ll take a look at the three major attribution models as well as the strengths of each. But first, let’s get the definition of an attribution model of the way.

Definition of Attribution Model 

An attribution model is a set of rules that determines how an analytics platform applies credits for clicks, form completions and lead conversions. Attribution modeling is a fairly old practice but continues to be difficult to grasp for marketers. The fact that new attribution models are emerging is certainly not helping make the landscape any easier to navigate. Yet, without an attribution model, it would be extremely difficult to evaluate the impact of your marketing activities. 

There is no such thing as the perfect attribution model. Each has merits and demerits which you have to weigh before determining its suitability. Ultimately, choice of attribution model comes down to what the end goal of your marketing is and which attribution model will be most accurate at measuring your progress toward this goal.

Types of Attribution

To understand how the different types of attribution work, we’ll use a sample journey of a movie ticket buyer that goes as follows.

  1. An anonymous visitor clicks on a Google ad and lands on your movie ticket site
  2. They use a movie search in Google and visit a movie review where they subscribe to your newsletter.
  3. One week later, they click through to a blog post on your page via the newsletter.
  4. After one month, they visit your movie tickets page and convert by purchasing the tickets.

First Click Attribution

First click attribution together with last click attribution are by far the two most popular attribution models. In first click attribution, the revenue generated from the movie ticket purchase example will be attributed to the Google ad which is the first marketing campaign they interacted with. 

First click attribution is great at showing which campaign is most effective at generating traffic and awareness.  However, first click attribution falls short in ascribing value to the other touchpoints the customer went through on their way to eventually making the purchase. While the Google ad in our example was pivotal, it certainly wasn’t the only campaign that drove the movie ticket purchase.

Last Click Attribution

Last click attribution is the polar opposite of first click attribution. All revenue from the conversion is ascribed to the last channel the buyer interacted with. In our example, the revenue would be attributed to the direct visit. 

Last click attribution will show you what is the last stage in the purchasing journey and what channels are more likely to turn an anonymous visitor into a lead. But like first click attribution, it disregards the contribution of all the marketing campaigns and touchpoints the buyer interacted with previously.

Linear Attribution

In linear attribution, the revenue from a conversion is distributed equally across all the touchpoints the buyer went through before they made the purchase. In our example, all 4 touch points would be credited with an equal share of the revenue. Unlike last click and first click attribution, the linear model ensures every channel and campaign that influenced the journey is credited for the conversions. 

While this seems like a good thing, it also means linear attribution fails to recognize the channels that were the most influential in driving conversion. This runs contrary to the basic principle of attribution which is to find out which channel or campaign is the most significant for conversion.

Find the Best Model

When you first choose an attribution model, you must recognise that you might not get it right the first time. Test the different attribution models and examine the results to see which one will work best for your campaigns.

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