The complex topic of attribution drew attendees from throughout the U.S. and beyond for the August virtual event. Chris Hofmann, SeQuel Response, Inc., shared insights about how to assign credit more accurately to touchpoints along a consumer’s conversion path. 

Sequel Response is a direct response agency based in Minneapolis, Minn. with an office in Madison.

More than 100 attendees signed in from locations ranging from New York to Houston, and Washington, D.C. to Portland, Oregon. Others live in international locations, such as New Zealand, Israel and Barcelona, Spain.

Chris shared that he never stops learning about attribution. There are many touchpoints, which vary by product. The more expensive the product or service, the longer it takes for a prospect to decide to buy. 

The Holy Grail of Marketing

For decades, prospects have wondered what part of their ad budget is working and what’s wasted. Attribution offers the following benefits:

  • Helps you understand what works
  • Informs efficient marketing budget allocation
  • Improves understanding of the customer journey

 According to an Adroll State of the Industry study, 91 percent of marketers recognize the importance of attribution. Here’s the breakdown of how they rank its importance:

  • Critical, 35%
  • Somewhat important, 56%
  • Not that important, 5%
  • Unimportant, 1%
  • We don’t track attribution, 3%

Check out the presentation for more details.

Roles of Multiple Touchpoints

During the customer journey, channels serve different goals, Chris explained. Some assist with interaction, such as Facebook Prospecting and Facebook Retargeting. With paid search, organic search and direct mail, decisions are made.

If you only give credit to the last interactions, “then you miss out on the tremendous opportunity to build revenue, audience and customers,” Chris said. “The channels all work together.”

Attribution Method Challenges

Which attribution method should you use?

Chris noted that only large organizations typically use expensive marketing mix modeling. But two other models could be considered by most other firms:

  • Multi-touch attribution for day-to-day insights and optimization
  • Experiments for validating and implementing findings

Our multi-device, multi-browser world adds to the challenge of conversion credit. 

Chris gave the example of someone who searches on Chrome and clicks a paid search ad on the laptop. That individual doesn’t purchase. But then, this prospect uses an iPhone to search for the product, clicks on the organic result and purchases the item. 

“The conversion credit goes to the organic search,” he said. Google Ads loses track of the prospect. Google Analytics views these visits as two separate users, even though they’re related.

Chris also notes that Apple iPhone and Safari are the “enemy” of marketers. Apple blocks third-party cookies to protect privacy.  

Android, Chrome and Google, however, are invested in the ad business. There’s some talk of phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome in two years.

The death of cookies would be a “threat to digital marketing,” Chris said.

He shared an article from MarTech Today that said, “The demise of third-party cookies could disrupt targeted advertising, but marketers are determined not to let that happen.”

The good news is Google’s Jerry Dischler, VP and GM of ads, predicts cookies won’t be eliminated unless there are solutions that work for everyone, while also protecting user privacy. 

Golden Rule of Attribution

When it comes to attribution, Chris said, marketers should “learn to be less wrong over time.”

Attribution offers many challenges. Search Engine Land describes models that assist with attribution. They include the following:

  • First touch: Assigns 100% of the credit to the first AdWords touchpoint
  • U-shaped (Position-based): Assigns 40% of the credit to the first + last touchpoint and evenly distributes the remaining 20% 
  • Linear: Every touchpoint is assigned equal credit
  • Time Decay: Bulk of credit is assigned to the last touch, diminishing value assigned to earlier points
  • Last Click: The worst

If you only consider the last click, “you’re missing the early touchpoints assisting the last click,” Chris emphasized.

When considering attribution, “accuracy depends on the types of data you have available and the model you choose to use.”

Conversion Settings

Chris reviewed conversion settings for Google Ads. Marketers can determine the maximum amount of time after an ad interaction that can be counted as a conversion. Marketers also can select an attribution model that determines how much credit each click gets for conversions.  

 Chris warned about some attribution traps, one of which is seen prominently in the programmatic ad space. There are some bad actors in this space who sell “snake oil conversions” with the claim, “Clickers aren’t converters,” Chris emphasized.

When working with a programmatic ad provider, Chris suggested asking the following questions:

  • What does impression mean in your reporting?
  • What does conversion mean?
  • How long is the look-back window?
  • Is the look-back window configurable?

Chris then turned to Facebook attribution and shared a  few scenarios that can give an inflated impression of actual results: 

  • Example 1: A person clicks an ad but doesn’t purchase. Twenty-seven days later, the individual receives an email campaign and purchases. Facebook records the credit for that conversion.
  • Example 2: A customer sees an ad but doesn’t click. They somehow get to the site within 24 hours. Facebook records the credit for this conversion.

What led to the purchase? Results can be misleading.

Google Analytics allows users to set up multi-channel funnel reports. They enable users to analyze multi-touch paths. “You can take a deeper look at what’s happening,” Chris said.

Experiment

When analyzing attribution, Chris suggested conducting experiments. “Focus on what you can control,” he said. See how channels are working together.

For example, he cited a case study where SeQuel Response didn’t place Facebook ads in designated states to see how this move would impact sales. As a result, states where Facebook ads were used saw bigger increases in transactions and revenue than holdout states.

Facebook Status Transactions Revenue
Holdout Facebook States 31.94% 10.13%
46 Facebook States 37.6% 49.12%

 

Even though it’s never going to be perfect, gaining a deeper understanding of your marketing attribution is “well worth pursuing,” Chris said. “You’ll learn to be less wrong over time.”

See You Online for September’s Craft Marketing

Thanks to Chris Hofmann of SeQuel Response, attendees and volunteers. Craft Marketing also appreciates Winbound, our August sponsor.

Craft Marketing invites you to its next virtual event at 4 p.m. on Sept. 29 with Rowan Childs, founder and executive director of the Madison Reading Project. Rowan will share her insights about building a successful nonprofit. Many underserved local children can enjoy reading books at home, thanks to this literacy-based nonprofit.

 Register here for the online event. 

Author

Leslie Blaize, the owner of Blaize Communications, is a certified case study specialist. She crafts B2B content with a focus on the Architecture/Engineering/Construction industry.