The Anatics Guide to Single-Touch Attribution Models

Marketing AnalyticsThe Anatics Guide to Single-Touch Attribution ModelsJune 24th Thu. 2021

With a single-touch attribution model, all the credit for a conversion is given to a single touchpoint in the customer journey. The most common single-touch models are first touch (first-click attribution) and qualified lead (last touch or last-click attribution). However, these are not the only available single-touch models. Here, we will be guiding you through the five most common single-touch attribution models. 


First-Touch Attribution (First-Click Attribution)

With a first touch, or first-click, attribution model, 100% of the credit for a conversion is given to the first interaction (meaning, the first “click”) that a customer has with your brand. First touch attribution models are easy to use and simple to set up. 


When it comes to benefits, the first-touch model is particularly beneficial in its simplicity and ease of use – but only if you can successfully identify the first touchpoint. First-touch attribution models are particularly useful, and often recommended, for companies with a notably short sales cycle or for smaller companies which lack in-house data science capabilities.

But first touch attribution is also useful when you are trying to focus on demand generation. With it, you can better evaluate which channels are responsible for driving the most initial brand awareness. And, as a result, you have more insight into which channels you should focus your marketing spend on, as they are primarily responsible for generating leads for your marketing and sales teams.

However, it is important to acknowledge that first touch attribution has several limitations. Notably, it is rare that you would want to afford 100% of the conversion credit to the first touch. It can skew how you view your sales funnel, while also ignoring critical middle-of- and bottom-of-funnel marketing efforts. Remember that it is vital for you to nurture your leads with a wide range of strategies that differ as leads progress down your sales funnel. A first-touch attribution model removes much of the nuance from your view of your customer journey.

Qualified Lead (Last-Touch) Attribution 

More commonly known as a last-touch attribution model, qualified lead attribution is a model where 100% of the credit for a conversion is given to the last touchpoint. Much like first-touch attribution, it is simple to use and understand. 


Qualified lead models are useful at evaluating which touchpoints are the most effective at driving customers to finally convert. However, with the average customer journey becoming more fragmented in recent years, particularly for B2B customers, it can take weeks or longer for a customer to move from being a prospect to making a purchase. 


There are, however, benefits to adopting a qualified lead model – especially for companies looking for top-level insights and for those with a simple, short buying cycle. For those with a short buying cycle (i.e., your average customer hits between one and three touchpoints before conversion), then a qualified lead model works well. In such a situation, a qualified lead model will provide you with insights quickly, allowing you to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. 


For those companies with a complex buying cycle and customer journey, then the simplicity of a single-touch model such as a qualified lead model will not be as effective as a more comprehensive, complicated multi-touch model. You will want to take into consideration multiple touchpoints and marketing channels, all while evaluating how they interact with each other. 


Lead-Creation Attribution 

With a lead-creation model, 100% of the credit for a conversion is given to the touchpoint where a prospect transforms into a qualifiable lead. With this model, it is vital that you define what a prospect is. 


Prospects are at the beginning of the customer journey, which is the widest point of the funnel: its opening. Now, a qualified lead, in contrast, is further along the customer journey who has granted you permission to contact them by voluntarily giving you their personal contact details. A qualified lead might have signed up for an online seminar or subscribed to your company’s newsletter, for example. Leads and prospects require vastly different marketing tactics. 


Lead creation attribution places a strong emphasis on the differences between prospects and leads. That is down to how it distributes credit for a conversion; in a lead creation model, 100% of the credit goes to that crucial step where a prospect converts into a qualified lead. 


Thus, with lead creation attribution, you can easily assess how effective your marketing strategy is in isolation – since it ignores how your sales team performs after the handover. With lead creation, there are a couple of aspects that you will want to consider. These include whether sales or marketing (or a combination of both) handle prospects once they have graduated into qualified leads.


Last Non-Direct Click Attribution 

In a last non-direct click model, 100% of the credit for conversion is assigned to the customer’s last non-direct touchpoint. When looking at last non-direct attribution, it is important to differentiate between direct and non-direct traffic. 


Direct traffic refers to when a visitor makes direct contact with your brand. The most obvious example is when they go directly to your brand’s website via entering the website URL into their browser. Now, non-direct traffic is defined as the traffic that is brought to your website by another source – which could include social media or marketing campaigns, as examples. You can further differentiate non-direct traffic by tagging your different campaigns with an Urchin Tracking Module, otherwise known as a UTM. What you need to know about an UTM is that they are tags that alert you to where traffic is originating from, which is particularly useful for attribution. 


As for when last-direct click attribution is most useful, that is for when you need quick insights that you can then take immediate action upon. Since non-last direct click helps track which marketing campaigns are successfully driving traffic and conversions to your website, they can be helpful in tracking where optimization is needed in these campaigns and where your marketing budget is best invested. 


While there are definite use cases for last-direct click attribution – particularly in highlighting which marketing campaigns are proving most influential – they are not necessarily as accurate at reporting on the entirety of your customer journey. That is a problem that is inherent with single-touch models, as conversions rarely occur because of a single touchpoint. 


While last non-direct click attribution is a good method for evaluating the importance of direct traffic, it is only applicable to certain scenarios. Knowing when to utilize it and when another model would serve your purposes better is key to mastering attribution modeling.


Last <Most Important Touch> Attribution 

With last <most important touch> attribution, we begin to get into the realm of customizable marketing attribution models. Last <most important touch> models attribute 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint of a pre-determined channel. What this means is that your attribution reports will show a single channel as being responsible for every conversion. 


A last <most important touch> model is a little bit of the odd-one-out in marketing attribution. Generally, when you are looking at attribution modeling, you are trying to assess all your brand’s marketing channels, with the aim of ranking them according to their importance. However, when using a last <most important touch> model, you have already determined which channel is most important, thus which channel your model focuses on. 


This model is beneficial, in that it requires you to sift through your various marketing campaigns to figure out which ones are having a greater impact on conversions than others. Typically, you would want to do this after implementing a variety of other models to determine the ranking of your marketing channels. It is an excellent choice when you are looking to optimize a channel that you already know is profitable – likely one that you have already invested heavily in. 


Despite the benefits, last <most important touch> attribution is incredibly limited in its scope. It is a self-limiting strategy, where you focus on a singular channel that you have determined is the most effective – or has received the bulk of your investment. This does disregard some of the purposes of attribution modeling, which is to inform you of which of your channels are proving to be the most profitable. Thus, last <most important touch> defeats the purpose as you have already set up your model as you already “know” the answer. 



Whether you are just starting out with your marketing efforts or are a well-established brand looking to tweak your strategies, you need to be familiar with the different single-touch models. However, single-touch models are effective when employed in very specific scenarios. Even if a single channel is proving remarkably effective, that does not mean that others can be neglected or are not in need of optimization. Remember that you need to be looking at the full, wider picture when it comes to your marketing efforts and single-touch attribution may not always be the right choice.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *