If you could better measure user behavior and improve ROI, would you? Of course you would! That's why many marketers are taking advantage of a new approach called marketing attribution.

In order for a company of any size to make informed decisions, they must be able to determine the true value of their online efforts. Marketers often aim to discover which online channels have the most influence on purchase decisions. However, typical user behavior makes it very difficult to find a clear answer.

Online shoppers will interact with a website in a number of different ways over the course of a few days or even weeks before making a purchase. Some shoppers make impulse decisions, while others like to spend time comparing prices and doing research about the product or service. Examples of channels that online shoppers use to find websites include: organic search, paid advertising, referring websites, direct visits, emails, banner ads and social networks.

Marketing attribution introduces a way to assign value to each channel that played a role in influencing the consumer to make a purchase. For example, if a user first visits your website through an organic search, returns later through a social network and then buys something after clicking on an advertisement, who should get the credit? In marketing attribution, a percentage of the purchase order is assigned to each marketing channel based on how far away that channel was from an order, instead of attributing 100 percent of credit to the last click.

When implemented effectively, marketing attribution models can be used to value conversions, determine the most influential paths and prioritize use of different marketing channels.

The tools that are available in various Web analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst, allow marketers to see how users interact with a website before making a purchase. Marketers can now see what truly affects sales.

The standard way of valuing conversions has changed, but as Derek Tangren of Adobe explains in his recent post, certain questions must be asked before implementing a marketing attribution model, as it may not apply to all businesses. Marketers must decide if it's worth investing the time and resources into using the system, and whether or not it will give them any insight into their business.

Please read a few of the studies on marketing attribution and how it can be used to make informed decisions about your online strategy:

Even if the time is not right for your business to implement an advanced marketing attribution model, valuing conversions should be part of ROI-focused discussions and a key focus for all marketers.