Make Attribution Great Again: 4 Top Tips

What does it take to be a digital marketing winner? That special X factor separating the top performers from the rest can be boiled down to one word; efficiency. Those brands that can get customers to convert with the minimum fuss will always deliver maximum results.

Making that digital journey to conversion as efficient as possible can be a taxing task though. You need to understand how EVERY channel our touch point is performing (or not!) so you can budget, plan and strategise properly. But how?

Attribution is the answer. Whilst the theory makes a pretty big promise – a complete understanding of specifically which channels drive conversions – the reality falls somewhat short. It’s more like attribution sheds some light on the channels that could be given a portion of the credit for conversions.

Why is this? Why does the big promise not play out in reality? There are a handful of reasons.

You’re trampling the snow

Before you apply any sort of attribution model, your data is pure and untouched like freshly fallen snow. As soon as you start to apply any sort of attribution you’re deciding that some data is more important or should be given more credit than others. You start trampling in the snow, making snow men and chucking snow balls, essentially disturbing and ruining what was pure.

There’s also loads of potentially valuable data out there that you won’t even be tracking, and probably can’t ever track no matter which attribution model you use, so you’re always going to be making decisions based on incomplete information. Just because you get a LOT of data and information from an attribution model doesn’t mean you’re getting ALL of it or that it’s any good.

You can be spoiled with information that makes you think you know everything, but attribution still requires a certain leap of faith and an appreciation that you’ll never know it all.

There’s also a huge amount of technology out there that can help but again, it can’t ever give you everything, no matter what you use. Facebook, for example, doesn’t share its impression data with Google, so no matter what expensive piece of tech you’ve got you’ll still need to take a leap of faith when making decisions.

Customers are more than clicks

Away from the technical side of things there’s also the fact that each individual consumer has a unique experience, and trying to simplify that complex, personalised journey down to just clicks, impressions or some other metric can be myopic.

We still need to at least try and understand the shifting behaviour of customers, but in this multi-device world it can be near impossible. The big players like Apple or Amazon, who have consumers logged in with a single profile on multiple devices, can do this but for most of us it’s out of our reach and beyond our attribution prowess.

Metrics that indicate consumer behaviour are clearly still valid for all: Dwell time, page views, shares, and clicks for example, it’s just becoming more difficult to tie them together into a single customer journey – hence attribution falling short.

Doing attribution well

As we’ve not been all that positive about attribution so far, picking holes in it as an endeavour, you may think this is an anti-attribution piece. But its not. Far from it.

Despite its flaws and inaccuracies attribution done well can be an incredibly valuable exercise, and even though it can’t tell you everything it will help you build your understanding of what is or isn’t working so you can budget, plan and strategise better.

So how can you do attribution well? Here are 4 tips to help you on your way.

The first tip is to acknowledge that every attribution model and tech solution has its benefits and flaws. If they didn’t we would have one model and one piece of tech that everyone would use, so it’s more a case of picking what will work best for you and your business and doing the best you can within those parameters rather than aiming for perfection (which doesn’t even exist!).

The second tip is to define your goals and what you’re trying to measure from the outset. It’s most likely going to be conversions, but are you looking at conversions from specific channels, for certain products or from individual campaigns? And is a single conversion the right thing to focus on, why not Life Time Value or some other longer-term measure of success?

The third tip is to keep on testing and refining what you’re doing across digital channels. Attribution helps you assess the value of what you’re doing, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the value of what you’re doing. Use what your attribution modelling tells you to continually tweak and reimagine what you’re doing to increase that value as much as possible

The final, and most important tip is to approach attribution holistically. Attribution definitely shouldn’t be carried out in silos or by one team at a time as you’ll end up focusing too much on one area and leaving the others to rot. Everyone with responsibility for a digital channel within your business needs to get involved. It’ll mean what you’re doing is then transparent and working for the benefit of the organisation as a whole.

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