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Optimizing for Conversions? Don’t Rely Solely on Google Attribution

August 17, 2017 Kathy Bryan

In May of this year, Google announced a new free service, Google Attribution. A simplified reformatting of an existing multi-channel attribution service, Google Attribution will roll out to advertisers throughout the remainder of 2017.

According to Google, the objective of Google Attribution, is to analyze the full customer journey instead of just measuring performance based on the last click. They’re leveraging data within Google Analytics, AdWords and Double Click to show cross-channel, multi-device attribution, and the data can be incorporated into automated bidding strategies to maximize performance.

What does Google Attribution maximize? Often, just lead volume.

Unless you are pushing offline conversion data from your CRM back to AdWords and/or DoubleClick, Google Attribution looks ONLY at pre-lead data and does not incorporate post-lead conversion milestone data (or conversion performance) in its attribution calculations.

Sparkroom, an industry-leading performance marketing technology, also launched an attribution product this year. Utilizing Google Analytics multi-channel reporting, our cross-channel, multi-touch attribution dashboard, incorporated within Sparkroom performance marketing technology, integrates systems, connects pre-lead and post-lead data, and streamlines reporting to show the full customer journey. As a result, marketers can:

  • Visualize the most common customer journeys across all digital channels
  • Understand which combination of marketing channels results in leads and conversions
  • Assess the holistic performance, including post-lead conversion milestones, of digital channels
  • Find out which channels are openers, influencers and closers
  • Realize the value of branding and other top-of-the funnel campaigns
  • Better optimize campaigns by maximizing ROI based on more than just last-click data

What does the Sparkroom cross-channel, multi-touch attribution dashboard help you maximize? Conversion rates and conversion volume.

To demonstrate the difference between pre-lead and post-lead attribution calculations, we analyzed a sample set of data to evaluate the performance of each digital channel for its ability to generate leads versus its ability to generate conversions. (See the bottom of this post for a glossary of terms used in this post.)

Google Last-Click Analysis

(analysis of channels, based on last click, that converted to lead generation)





Prior to the launch of Google Attribution, most advertisers relied on last-click attribution measurements. Looking at the chart above, we see a simple story. Paid search brought in more than half of all the leads generated. Based on this data alone, smart marketers would likely work to maximize this channel.

Google Multi-Channel Analysis

(analysis of channels, regardless of placement in the touchpoint path, that contributed to lead generation)

Google Attribution is now measuring the full path to lead generation. Numerous channels work together, and every touch that happens prior to lead submission is now being analyzed. The data from our sample set presents a very straight-forward answer to which channel is most important. Paid search appears in almost three-quarters of paths for all the leads generated. Most marketers viewing a chart like this would do anything and everything they could to maximize the paid search channel.

Sparkroom Cross-Channel, Multi-Touch Analysis

(analysis of channels, regardless of placement in the touchpoint path, that contributed to conversion generation)

Analyzing the channels that result in conversions (versus leads) provides an answer that differs dramatically from Google Attribution. While paid search is the top channel for the generation of leads, it is not the top provider of conversions.

Instead of a simple, one-channel answer to what is working, calculating cross-channel attribution based on conversion performance shows us that all the channels are working together to drive results.

  • Paid search contributed to generating the most leads.
  • Direct traffic contributed to generating the highest share of conversions.

Now let’s take a look at the breakdown in performance for opening, assisting and closing channels.

The Sparkroom cross-channel, multi-touch attribution dashboard allows marketers to view the entire customer journey or individual parts of the journey. Reviewing first-touch data lets us see which channels were the strongest openers for driving leads and conversions:

  • Paid search was the strongest first touch to result in both leads and conversions.
  • Organic search provided the first touch for more than one-fifth of all conversions.

Assisting channels are those that provide the first and/or middle touches ― or anything but the last clicks. There are often multiple middle touches, and channels are frequently repeated within customer journeys. Sparkroom cross-channel, multi-touch analysis allows marketers to calculate the top assisting channels:

  • Direct traffic appeared within almost every path, and this channel assisted more than half of all conversions. (This means people went directly to the site and were then engaged via other touchpoints prior to converting.)
  • Paid search provided assistance to almost three-quarters of all lead generation and almost half of all conversion generation.
  • Organic search and referrals each assisted approximately one-third of all conversions.

Closing channels provide the last touch prior to inquiry generation and conversion. Sparkroom cross-channel, multi-touch attribution allows us to identify our top closers:

  • Almost half of all conversions came via direct traffic at the end.
  • For the conversions that concluded with a direct visit to the website, paid search, organic search and direct were the channels that provided the most frequent assistance.

Post-Lead Data Is Required to Maximize Conversions

As this study clearly shows, to maximize for total conversions you must incorporate post-lead data into your analysis.

  • Pre-Lead Attribution: Provides a view into which channels are best at producing leads. Optimizing campaigns based on this data alone should be successful at maximizing lead volume.
  • Post-Lead Attribution: Connects pre-lead and post-lead data for a comprehensive view of campaign performance, including which combinations of channels are best at producing conversions. Optimizing campaigns based on this data should result in higher conversion rates and greater conversion volume.

Interested in learning more about cross-channel, multi-touch attribution? Click here to request a demo of Sparkroom.

Glossary of Attribution Terms Utilized in this Blog Post

  • Assisting Channels: Channels that are not the last click. Beginning the engagement and/or falling in the middle of the path, they assist in lead and conversion generation.
  • Attribution: A calculation of value that each touch or channel provides in getting consumers to convert.
  • Automated Bidding: An automatic bidding feature that is based on pre-defined campaign objectives.
  • Closing Channels: The channels that provide the final click (or last click) prior to a conversion.
  • Conversion: A conversion can be defined as any action. For this study, a conversion equates to an application, enrollment or start.
  • Cross-Channel: Inclusive of multiple channels.
  • Cross-Channel Attribution: The calculation of attribution across multiple channels. In general, cross-channel attribution is also multi-touch attribution and calculates all channels and all touches from the first impression to the inquiry or online conversion.
  • Customer Journey: The path a consumer takes from first impression to inquiry to conversion.
  • Direct: This refers to consumers going directly to a website. This is most frequently achieved by inputting the website URL into the browser.
  • First Click / First Touch: The first click in a consumer journey represents the consumer’s first engagement with a brand.
  • Full Path: The full path of a consumer journey includes every touch from impression to inquiry.
  • Google Attribution: Google Attribution is a new service, provided by Google, that calculates the attribution of all digital channels from first impression to the inquiry or other online conversion.
  • Middle Touch: A middle touch is any touch or impression that happens in between the first touch and the last click.
  • Last Click / Last Touch: The last click or last touch is the final impression prior to an inquiry.
  • Last-Click Attribution: Last-click attribution provides 100% value to the final touch prior to an inquiry. No value is given to opening or assisting channels. Last-click attribution is regularly utilized to analyze channel performance and optimize campaigns, but it falls short in its ability to calculate multi-channel performance.
  • Multi-Touch: Multi-touch is a term used to refer to multiple touches within a consumer journey.
  • Multi-Touch Attribution: The calculation of attribution across multiple touches. In general, multi-touch attribution is also cross-channel attribution and calculates all touches and all channels from the first impression to the inquiry or online conversion.
  • Opening Channels: Opening channels are those that provide the first touch or the initial impression in a consumer journey.
  • Pre-Lead Data: All data compiled prior to a consumer becoming a lead, typically via an inquiry form.
  • Post-Lead Data: All data compiled after a consumer becomes a lead. Post-lead data frequently takes place outside of the internet and must be logged via a customer relationship management (CRM) or other system.
  • Referral: As used by Google Analytics and within this blog post, referral is a referring site. In other words, a website that a consumer visited just prior to visiting the website on which the online conversion took place.
  • Sparkroom Cross-Channel, Multi-Touch Attribution: A system that connects pre-lead and post-lead data to provide a holistic view of campaign performance.
  • Top-of-the-Funnel: Channels at the top of the funnel are those that typically do not provide the last click prior to conversion. These channels are usually relied on for branding and for the lift that they provide to last-click channels.
  • Touch / Touchpoint: Every interaction with a consumer is called a touch or a touchpoint. Examples include advertising impressions and emails.

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS). In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS, the leading global martech company leveraging innovative, performance-driven brand and marketplace solutions to connect consumers and advertisers.

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