In this article, we'll go over what you need to know about Google Attribution and how it can help you improve your marketing efforts.

What, Exactly, Is Google Attribution?

Google Attribution is the simplified (and, therefore, free) version of the enterprise-level solution known as Google Attribution 360. It's a comprehensive digital marketing tool that integrates with DoubleClick Search, Google AdWords, and Google Analytics.

Here's how it works: you link a Google Analytics view with DoubleClick Search or AdWords account. Then, attribution info is populated in the view.

There's a lot in that last sentence, so let's break it down.

What, Exactly, Is Attribution?

So what is attribution and why is Google using it in the name of its solution?

Attribution in marketing refers to a set of actions that ultimately lead to a desired outcome (usually, a sale).

For example, if you're running TV ads, search ads, and retargeting ads, each one of those ads is a "touchpoint" that might influence people to buy your product.

It might be the case that people see your TV ad and think about buying your product. Then, those people visit your website to check out what you're selling. After they visit your website, they see a retargeting ad, go back to your website, and finally make the purchase.

Do you see what happened there? The TV ad and the retargeting ad were both touchpoints that contributed to the sale.

Assigning Value

There's more to attribution than just knowing about your various marketing channels, though. It's also important to know which ones contribute the most to a sale.

That's why you need to assign a value to each touchpoint. In the example above, the people who visited your site would never have done so if they didn't see the TV ad. So you'd want to give the TV ad a high value as a contributor to the sale.

Of course, those same people wouldn't have revisited your site if they didn't see the retargeting ad. So you'd want to assign a high value to that strategy as well.

Determining Value

At this point you might be asking: "Which advertising strategy is more valuable? The TV ad or the retargeting ad?"

That's an excellent question. It's also the exact question that Google Attribution is designed to answer.

In a nutshell, Google Attribution gives you info about the extent to which various marketing initiatives (online and offline) contribute to a sale. That way, you can make more informed decisions about where you should spend your marketing budget.

No More Last-Click Attribution

Google Attribution is also designed to do away with last-click attribution. That's a bad habit that some marketers have acquired.

When marketers follow the last-click attribution model, they're basically assuming that the last marketing strategy that led to the sale is the only one that matters.

For example, if somebody clicked on a display ad, visited the site, and made a purchase, a marketer who believes in last-click attribution would give 100% of the credit for that sale to the display ad.

But is that fair? Probably not.

Go back to the example above. Recall that the people who made the purchase did so because of a retargeting strategy. So a last-click believer would respond to that by allocating more ad spend in retargeting.

But remember that those people first visited the website because of a TV ad. After visiting the website, they were hit with the retargeting ad.

The point is: they would never have visited the website in the first place if they didn't see the TV ad. And if they didn't visit the website, then by definition they would never have seen the retargeting ad.

That's why it's dangerous to follow the last-click attribution model. It leads to faulty analysis.

What's Going on Higher up in the Sales Funnel?

Google Attribution is a way to look at the entire customer journey. It shows you interactions that occur at the top and in the middle of the sales funnel.

If people are engaging with your brand via social media marketing, email marketing, print ads, PR, or any other type of promotion farther up in the sales funnel, that's information that you'd want to know about.

Fortunately, Google Attribution provides you with that information.

Make Informed Bidding Decisions

Another benefit of Google Attribution: it helps you make informed bidding decisions.

With Google Attribution, you'll have the opportunity to send modeled conversion data to AdWords. That gives you the opportunity to see how various keywords and ads ultimately contribute to a conversion.

Then, you can use automated bidding that's based on upper- and mid-funnel performance. That's a great way to optimize your ad spend.

How Google Attribution Differs From Attribution in AdWords

If you're an experienced AdWords user, you might already know that it supports attribution modeling rather than last-click attribution.

Google Attribution still offers additional value, though. That's because the AdWords tool works for search funnels only. It doesn't report on advertising strategies in different channels unless advertisers are using data-driven attribution.

Basically, Google Attribution provides a more comprehensive cross-channel solution that AdWords by itself doesn't offer.

Machine Learning

So how, exactly, does Google Attribution know how much value to place on each touchpoint?

It learns along the way.

That may seem like an answer that isn't very encouraging, but keep in mind that Google has been at this for at least a few years now. The system's machine learning process has already received numerous tune-ups.

The tool analyzes various touchpoints to determine how they contribute to the eventual conversion. Based on its own experience with previous funnel analysis, it assigns fractional weight to each event.

It then shares the weighted data in a report so you can make more informed marketing decisions.

Get Started With Google Attribution Now

Google Attribution is likely to be your best friend if you're a firm believer in omnichannel marketing. It's a good idea to get involved with it, move beyond the learning curve, and use it to its full potential in analyzing the results of your marketing efforts. If you like what you see, consider upgrading to Google Attribution 360.