Building Blocks of Digital Attribution: How to get started with Google’s attribution tools

Friday, June 8, 2012

(Cross-posted from the Analytics Blog)

What are the key steps to getting started with marketing attribution? Are you ready to move beyond the “last click” attribution model? How can you use Google’s tools to better understand your customer’s journey and calculate the impact of your digital marketing channels?

To help answer these questions, we’ve put together a series of webinars on attribution:
  • Attribution Insights from Google and Econsultancy (4/26/2012) – watch recording here
  • Building Blocks of Digital Attribution (5/24/2012) – watch recording here
  • Search Attribution: AdWords Search Funnels (6/20/2012) – register here
  • Cross-Channel Attribution: Multi-Channel Funnels – registration details coming soon
  • Next Steps with Attribution – registration details coming soon
If you didn’t have a chance to catch last week’s webinar on Building Blocks of Digital Attribution, it’s a great place to start your attribution journey -- you can watch the recording above. During the webinar, Bill Kee, Product Manager for Attribution and Multi-Channel Measurement, discussed how to lay the foundation for digital attribution. First and foremost, it’s important to get your organization ready. In our work with customers and our recent attribution research, we’ve discovered that many companies try to pursue attribution before their culture or their data is ready. In the webinar, Bill describes the steps and the potential pitfalls to make sure your company is heading in the right direction.

Second, even if the organization has taken the necessary steps culturally, it’s challenging to find the right technology, and to ensure that technology is properly implemented.

We know that finding the right technology is a challenge, which is why Google offers several great attribution tools – including AdWords Search Funnels, Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics, and Attribution Modeling in Google Analytics Premium. In order to get the most out of these tools, it’s important to ensure that the basics are set up correctly.  So, during the webinar, Bill also did a live demo of how to get started with AdWords Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics Goals. The setup is quick and easy – and once it’s in place, users can start accessing rich attribution data.

Naturally, we also received a lot of great questions from the webinar participants. We weren’t able to get to all of them during the webinar, so here are some responses and more pointers on getting started with attribution.

How do you define “digital attribution”?
Digital attribution is the process of assigning credit to the various online interactions your customer has before a “conversion” (conversion = making a purchase or performing some other valuable action on your site). These interactions could include display ads, paid or organic search results, email campaigns, affiliate coupon programs, social network posts, and other digital interactions. Today, many marketers by default use “last click” attribution, assigning all of the credit to the last interaction before a conversion. By understanding the full path to conversion – including early “upper funnel” touch points – and giving credit to all of those interactions, you’ll be able to budget more effectively and design better marketing campaigns.

What about attribution beyond digital channels?
Attribution is about improving the measurement of how ad spend drives conversions. To address this challenging topic, it’s important to consider all the factors that might affect conversions. These factors include the digital channels mentioned above, as well as how users interact with your brand across multiple devices, and the influence of online advertising on offline sales. This webinar series is focused on how to get the most out of digital attribution.

How do I know which interaction is the trigger for the actual conversion, out of the entire funnel?
The goal of attribution is to more accurately measure the impact of all your digital channels on sales, including how these channels interact in the path to conversion. This means acknowledging that, in most cases, there is no single “trigger” for the conversion, but rather a group of campaigns or touch points working together to help drive a conversion. So, a user might see a display ad which makes her start thinking about your product, then a few days later view an organic search result, then receive a targeted email, and finally buy your product. In this example the email was the last pre-conversion interaction, but all three interactions probably had an impact on your customer’s decision. Attribution is the process of deciding how much credit you want to give to each of those interactions.

How do I set up those tools you discussed during the webinar? Can you provide more detail for advanced setup needs?
Our help center provides very detailed information about how to get your AdWords and Analytics set up correctly, and responses to frequently asked questions. Check out our pages on:
In addition, if you'd like more help, we recommend contacting one of our certified partners – they can assist you with all aspects of implementation, as well as with interpreting your results. You can also check out our AdWords user forum and our Google Analytics user forum to get answers to your questions.

Does adding all this code to my website affect the site speed at all?
If the code is installed correctly by following the directions outlined on our help center pages (see above for links), it should not impact your site speed, or have only a very tiny impact. Setting up goals and conversion tracking will provide much richer data on how users arrive at your site and whether they’re doing what you want them to do once they get there. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to improve your marketing programs and your website.

What are some sample use cases for “event” goals?
A goal or a conversion can be more than just a purchase. Indeed, you can define multiple “micro-conversions” that represent various actions that are important to your business. So, you might use event goals to keep track of when a PDF was downloaded, or when a user watched a video or played an audio clip. Each of these “events” could be tied to goals that are of value to you. You can find more detail about event tracking in this article on the Google Developers site.

Why do I need to set up conversion tracking and goals? Can’t Google Analytics track without conversions?
It is possible to see some useful information without conversions, but defining conversions helps you measure what's important, rather than just general behavior. Plus, after you have these conversion tools set up in Analytics and AdWords, you’ll be able to access Multi-Channel Funnels, Flow Visualization, and Conversion Reporting in Google Analytics, as well as Search Funnels and Conversion Optimizer in AdWords. It’s quick and easy to get started, and it’s much more useful to look at a user’s path if you know that they’ve reached your desired end point and performed an action that’s valuable to your business.

Marketing attribution is a complex but very rewarding process – we hope that these tools and webinars will help you to get started.

Happy analyzing, and hope you'll join us for the next webinar in the series!

Sara Jablon Moked, Product Marketing Manager for Conversion and Attribution

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