Step aside, last-click attribution. There’s a new attribution model in town. Beginning this month, Google will be rolling out a new default model, called data-driven attribution, to all Google Ads advertisers, expecting it to be available on all accounts by early 2022. What is data-driven attribution, and how does it differ from last-click? We’ll explain all of that, and more, below.
What is Last-Click Attribution?
The previous default model, called last-click, attributed conversions entirely to the last link in the marketing funnel. In other words, whichever search term or ad placement was clicked before a purchase was made got all the credit for the conversion.
While this model can give great insights into which ad placements are converting, it doesn’t tell the entire conversion story, leaving out other ad interactions that may have taken place. And, facing mounting data-privacy changes, it’s a model that likely won’t stay accurate for long. Data-driven attribution is Google’s response to an increasingly changing privacy landscape.
What is Data-Driven Attribution?
This attribution model strives to distribute the conversion credit more equally across the conversion pipeline via machine learning. It allows more wiggle room for conversions even if they happen without a click: a consumer who sees a search term ad, for instance, and does not click but several days later visits the website on their own could count as a conversion towards the ad placements that helped get them there. The result is a broader definition of attribution, with Google distributing a portion of conversion credit to each touchpoint that led to a conversion. Google also hopes this new model will provide more accurate data for advertising managers as privacy protections veer away from revealing individual, user-level data.
The exact way it will work isn’t completely known, but Zach Coelius shared his theory on This Week in Startups (you can listen to the entire podcast episode here.)
Based on what we know so far, there are a few pros and cons to consider:
Pros of Data-Driven Attribution
- Spreading credit among the numerous touchpoints required to convert a consumer could tell a more complete conversion story
- According to Google, this model will provide more information about which specific keywords, ads, ad groups and campaigns are contributing the most to conversions, helping direct future ad spend more effectively
Cons of Data-Driven Attribution
- Might give inflated or deflated numbers, especially at first while the program is still learning. Conversions could go up while revenue is unchanging, cost per lead could go up (or down) for a while, leading to inaccurate information
- Bots or fraudulent activity could negatively impact the machine learning system and skew results
- Unclear how long advertisers will need to wait for the machine learning system to get its footing before seeing the most accurate data
Is Last-Click Attribution Gone Forever?
Nope! Data-driven attribution will become the new default (it currently supports Search, Shopping, Display and YouTube ads), but if you’re still a little uncertain or are not a fan of your results after a time, you can still manually swap over to one of Google’s five other attribution models: Last-Click, First-Click, Linear, Time Decay and Position-Based.
The Bottom Line:
As this new attribution model takes effect, be patient and don’t rush to any judgments. Your data may look a little wonky for a while, so don't automatically direct more money at Google ads because you see an uptick in conversions (unless there's an uptick in revenue to back it up). You may also wish to communicate these changes and how they could affect your data to your stakeholders and anyone involved in your brand’s advertising efforts.
Now that big advertisers like Google are placing less emphasis on clicks and more importance on the journey it took to produce a conversion, it’s also a great time to spice up your marketing mix.
We’re big fans of increasing the number of quality marketing touchpoints in your funnel with things like user-generated content, product reviews and influencer content to improve your brand’s reach, increase brand awareness and build purchase confidence. Not sure where to start? Our team of influencer marketing experts are pros at working with content creators, and would love to take your influencer campaigns off your plate so you can focus on the rest of your marketing strategy (like getting the hang of this new attribution model). Shoot us a message today to see how our team can help you round out your marketing mix.