What You Need to Know About Attribution Modeling

Marketing Analytics

What You Need to Know About Attribution Modeling

June 24th Thu. 2021


Attribution modeling is a methodology for analyzing the touchpoints along the customer journey through to conversion. With attribution modeling, you can choose from various models – each of which has specific use cases. Each model attributes credit for the conversion differently across the multiple touchpoints. 

For those who are new or unfamiliar with attribution modeling, they are an integral tool within the marketing toolbox. They are also a complex topic in the field. Despite their seeming complexity – particularly when discussing multi-touch attribution models – attribution models are a valuable tool for learning which of your marketing efforts are driving most leads to each part of your sales funnel. 

In today’s marketing atmosphere, where the customer journey is becoming increasingly fragmented and difficult to track, attribution modeling is becoming more critical to determining your return on investment. There are four key reasons why attribution modeling is key to marketing today; those reasons being: 

  1. Attribution modeling allows you to identify which areas of your customer’s journey require improvement; 
  2. With attribution modeling, you more accurately determine the return on investment from each channel and touchpoint; 
  3. You can find the most effective methods for employing your marketing budget; 
  4. With attribution modeling, you can specifically tailor your marketing campaigns and their associated content to each of your unique buyer personas. 

Here, we will give you a complete rundown of attribution modeling, including why attribution modeling is so important, the different models, and how to best implement attribution modeling if you have not already. 


Why does attribution modeling matter? 

Attribution marketing helps you drill down into the elements of engagement and conversion touchpoints of your marketing campaigns. It gives you insight into, for example, what PPC keywords, landing pages, display ads, and SEO are proving effective, but also gives you insight into the often-forgotten touchpoints of emails, video content, social media engagement, intent content engagement data, sales follow-up calls, webinars, or in-person event attendance. 

Attribution marketing is about getting a top-down, birds-eye-view of your customer’s journey, from start to finish. But, beyond that, attribution models are helpful when it comes to clarifying which marketing efforts are providing you with the best return on investment – which is especially vital when it comes to top-of-funnel programs. Knowing which of your marketing efforts are responsible for initially attracting prospects is essential, as it helps you better guide them towards a conversion. 

You might be asking yourself: how can you better guide a prospect towards conversion with attribution modeling? How does attribution modeling matter in relation to your sales funnel? Especially for TOFU marketing efforts and campaigns? 

Let us break these down into their respective answers. 

With attribution modeling, you can see what content resonates with your prospects and what touchpoints (meaning, content) they interact with before a conversion. For example, you might notice that re-targeting campaigns via display ads on social media drive most of your conversions. Or maybe you learn that customers are more likely to convert (or, even better, purchase more) if they receive personalized emails as part of an organized re-targeting email campaign. Attribution modeling gives insight into which touchpoints are driving your prospects to convert – and you get a clear view of all touchpoints across the entirety of their customer journey. 

Now, attribution modeling is important because not only do you know what content is resonating with your prospects but at what stage of their journey (meaning, what segment of the sales funnel) it resonates. We discussed re-targeting campaigns – aimed at prospects who have lapsed during their journey; it is an effort to have them re-engage with your brand and rekindle their interest in converting. While that is important information to have — so you know that your retargeting campaigns are yielding fruit and what their ROI is – you also need to look at what other touchpoints your prospects are hitting, particularly since re-targeting might not be applicable for each journey. 

The best way to illustrate this is by looking at how attribution modeling contributes to evaluating marketing campaigns aimed at the top-of-funnel stage. 

Top-of-funnel marketing efforts are all about brand and product awareness. Here, your focus is on making potential customers aware of your brand’s existence. There are a host of content options that you might take – from display ads to social media marketing – to raise brand awareness, but, at the same time, you need to know that these efforts are successful. This is where attribution modeling comes in. 

Since attribution modeling is about assigning credit to touchpoints, you can easily adopt a model that affords that first crucial touchpoint credit. Whether or not you choose to assign all the credit or only a portion of it to that touchpoint is a decision you will need to make when selecting an attribution model – but it is important to consider. After all, you want to know that people are interacting with your brand and that your brand awareness efforts are working to generate conversions. 

You want to know that you are successfully generating leads for your funnel. Attribution modeling is a key tool to monitor the health of your top-of-funnel marketing campaigns, allowing you to see which ones are performing optimally, which ones need optimization, and which ones are just not working. 

But attribution modeling goes beyond your top-of-funnel efforts – depending on which models you choose. It is important to remember that you are not just limited to one model. By utilizing what is known as a model comparison, you can determine how well a marketing channel is performing from different perspectives. By comparing your marketing performance under different models, you gain a better understanding of the importance of multiple touchpoints in your customer journey. 

Thus, attribution modeling is a vital marketing tool. It allows you to best understand what content is driving lead conversions – therefore, what content (marketing channels and campaigns) is driving your revenue. With these insights, you can better control and understand your marketing budget. But it also allows you to speak to your customers on their own terms. With attribution modeling, you gain insights that allow you to take the steps and stand out as a content and thought leader within your industry – bettering your conversion rates.


How does attribution modeling work? 

Now that you understand the importance of attribution modeling, you understandably want to know how it functions. There are two main categories that attribution models are divided into: single-touch models and multi-touch models

As the name would suggest, a single-touch attribution model assigns the credit for a conversion to a single touchpoint in the customer journey. Generally, this is either the first or last touchpoint that a customer interacted with – meaning when they first became aware of and interacted with your brand, and the last being when they made the decision to convert. 

Single-touch attribution models are commonly split into the following models: 

  • First touch (first-click attribution) 
  • Qualified lead (last touch or last-click attribution) 
  • Lead creation 
  • Last non-direct click 
  • Last <most important touch> 

With a single-touch attribution model, there is a particular logic at work. That logic being, that the first and last touchpoints are essential. While these models certainly do have their place within the scope of attribution modeling, they are not without their limitations. Given that the modern customer journey is becoming increasingly fragmented with customers jumping from one channel to another, you are missing out on valuable data when you focus only on a single touchpoint to the exclusion of all others. After all, if you only focus on a single touchpoint, then you are missing out on the entirety of the customer journey. 

Multi-touch attribution modeling, in comparison, attributes credit to each touchpoint along the customer journey. This value is determined by its importance to the customer journey. The value is calculated by a pre-determined mathematical equation which calculates the amount of credit afforded to a touchpoint in a specific multi-touch model. 

The most common multi-touch attribution models include: 

  • Linear attribution 
  • Time decay attribution 
  • U-shaped attribution 
  • W-shaped attribution 
  • Z-shaped attribution 

In addition to the above listed models, you also have the option to create a custom multi-touch attribution model. Doing so gives you the freedom to fine-tune the mathematical calculations involved to a myriad of factors. If you choose to go the route of a custom model, then it is recommended that you have prior experience with creating and attuning attribution models. 

With attribution modeling, multi-touch attribution is oft considered the more comprehensive model category. Multi-touch attribution grants in-depth insights, more so than a single-touch model can afford modern marketers. However, it is important that you implement selective criteria when choosing an attribution model. There is a myriad of factors that go into which model is most relevant – occasionally, a single-touch model is far more relevant. 

If you are looking at attribution models and trying to decide which one is the most comprehensive for your purposes – showing the ups and downs of each of your prospects’ journeys – then you need to start by asking yourself a few questions. 

  1. How are prospects becoming aware of our brand? 
  2. Why are our prospects dropping out of our sales funnel? 
  3. What makes prospects return to our brand? 
  4. Why do prospects ultimately decide to convert? 

These are important questions to ask before implementing an attribution model – although they might not be the only ones you have. You want your goals with attribution modeling to be precise, particularly your end goals. For example, if you want to answer the first question, then a single-touch model might be sufficient — i.e., a first-click attribution model would give insight into what is attracting prospects to your brand. 

Your end goal might be more complicated than a single-touch attribution model can handle. For instance, if you are looking to delve deeper into the specifics of each individual marketing campaign. Thus, you are going to want to be aware that not every touchpoint contributes the same to encouraging a customer to convert. Here, you want insights into which touchpoints are proving the most effective. By utilizing multiple multi-touch modeling, you gain insight into which touchpoints are important in comparison to the others, but also into how these touchpoints are working together

You are going to want to consider your company’s in-house capabilities for data science when you are looking to implement attribution modeling. The more complicated an attribution model, the more data scientists you will likely require keeping it functional. Data scientists are responsible for working out the formula that attributes credit to each touchpoint, so it is important to consider your company’s capabilities when looking at implementing attribution modeling. For smaller companies or those with limited data science resources, then you likely would want to select a generic or simpler attribution model – rather than having to delve into the realm of customization. 

There are several other factors to consider when selecting an attribution model. You will want to look at the complexity and length of your average customer journey. For example, a larger company with a complex customer journey would likely want to look at a comprehensive, multi-touch attribution model that can take those factors into account. 

Your attribution model is a marketing tool. The purpose of attribution modeling is to help improve and optimize your marketing strategies. Thus, if you are looking at making a change with your strategy, you need to give it time before you can properly assess its impact. Give any change you make a few months before you look at making any further changes. 


What are the benefits of attribution modeling? 

Although they might be both time and resource intensive, attribution modeling is a particularly useful tool in the modern marketer’s toolkit. With complex models that can evaluate multiple datasets – including both online and offline campaigns – it becomes even more complicated, but worthwhile. There are several benefits to implementing attribution modeling as a part of an overall data-driven marketing strategy. 

Optimizing Your Marketing Spend 

With attribution modeling, you get deeper insights into how and where your marketing budget is best invested. You can see which touchpoints are generating engagements with your brand and which ones are responsible for driving the most conversions. Thus, you can adjust your marketing budget and your media spend accordingly. 

Increase your ROI 

Modern marketing is all about serving the right content to the right customer at the right time. Attribution modeling can help visualize which content is resonating with audiences at certain points along the customer journey. What this leads to is that you can increase your conversions, thus leading to your company to enjoy a higher marketing ROI. 

Improve Personalization 

With attribution modeling, you can use the data that your model provides to better understand what messaging and channels are preferred by your customers – in other words, which content is resonating best with certain audiences. This means that you can better target your audience with content that is relevant to their current stage of the customer journey. 

Improve Your Product Development 

It is not just your customers and ROI that benefit from attribution modeling, but your product development can benefit from it as well. This is down to how attribution modeling allows you deeper insights into the needs of your customers. You can then use these insights when you make changes or updates to your product (or service) to better target your customers’ needs. 

Better Optimize Creative 

Now, another benefit to implementing attribution modeling, is that it allows for you to evaluate the creative aspects of your marketing campaigns. With that knowledge, you can better hone your messaging, visual elements, and content. But it also gives you a deeper understanding of your customers, how best to communicate with them, and when. 


Choosing Attribution Modeling Software and Tools 

When looking to garner the most reliable insights from attribution modeling, your marketing team will need to use a combination of different attribution models. From there, they will be correlating the data from each of these models, allowing them to make decisions about where optimization is needed most to both online and offline campaigns. 

This requires the implementation and use of a powerful analytics platform. Data management and data transformation are both key to getting the most out of your marketing analytics platform. There will be specific features that you will want to consider, which might include: 

Modern analytics platforms allow you to utilize a variety of different attribution models – something that you need to capable of to get the most out of attribution modeling. Evaluate an analytics platform based upon its capabilities and what your team’s needs are when it comes to what they will need out of the platform. 

Ultimately, finding the right analytics platform is about finding one that gives you the campaign insights you need. You need to be able to pivot quickly when one of your campaigns is not working properly or requires optimization. But, at the same time, you need ready access to your data so you can properly analyze it and draw the insights that you need from that data. 

A platform like Anatics can be the solution. 

Anatics was built by marketers, for marketers. Make it your one-stop-shop for all your marketing data needs. With self-serve data, you can easily democratize your company’s data for all members of your marketing team; giving them the access to the data they need to do their job, when they need it. 



With attribution modeling, you can build in a robust system for evaluating the effectiveness of each of your individual marketing campaigns. Attribution modeling gives you the birds-eye view of your marketing strategies, allowing you to be able to draw insight into what works and where improvement and further optimization is needed. 

When it comes to building a truly data-driven marketing strategy, attribution modeling has a key role to play. That is why you need to seriously consider the benefits of implementing attribution modeling into your marketing strategy; it is a vast, potentially untapped resource for insights into your marketing efforts and your customer journey. You do not want to be missing out on those! 

For those looking for more information on how attribution modeling can improve your company’s marketing performance and plays a role in creating a data-driven marketing strategy, then you need Anatics’ The Attribution Modeling Playbook. Download your free copy today! 

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