Google Ads Attribution Models – How to Choose The Right One For You

You put a lot of work into setting up your campaigns and getting results. The million dollar question is whether or not those campaigns are getting results?!?

Google Ads attribution is important because it allows you to figure out which campaigns are creating the best results for you to enable you to spend your budget more effectively.

This article goes over what attribution is, the different Google Ads attribution models, and how to choose the right attribution model.

What are Google Ads Attribution Models? And why should you care about them?

Attribution models have been around for decades in various forms. Basketball is a great example of attribution at work.

If we judged players solely by how many points they scored, we would be missing a huge part of the game.

Players need to pass the ball to the player that scores. Especially against tough defenses and for 3 point shots. Data analysis reveals that over 70% of 3 point shots are assisted. If you’re a basketball coach, then you’re going to want your players to pass the ball more to create 3 point opportunities.

Now how does basketball have anything to do with Google Ads attribution models?

Even before Google Ads, marketers have contemplated which marketing channels, campaigns, messaging, and so forth to give credit to. Generally speaking – we should consider how different channels like Google Ads account for both direct revenue and assisted revenue. Especially if you have a high value product or service that takes time for consumers to consider buying.

That’s where Google Ads attribution models come into play. They allow us to evaluate how well your keywords, ads, and campaigns performed. To give more or less credit based upon how they ‘attributed’ to your conversion (orders, calls, form fills). 

The way Google defines attribution models as, “the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.”

Choosing a Google Ads Attribution Model

The value you give to a conversion depends upon the game or industry you’re playing in. It might be easier to score in the paint without passing as much vs getting an open 3 point shot. Though you should get to know what you need to do in order to score. There are many ways to evaluate a player’s contribution besides points. Google Ads attribution models provide us with different ways to evaluate the performance of our campaigns. Each attribution model has its own value for your marketing efforts depending upon what you’re trying to sell and what industry you’re in.

Last Click Attribution

Gives all the credit for a conversion to the last clicked ad & corresponding keyword. This is good to figure out what a user did most recently before filling out a form, making an order, or calling in. However – last click isn’t the whole story. Thinking back to the basketball analogy, there are a lot of key moments that happen because another player passed the scoring player the ball to score. 

While it’s great to know which campaigns are generating the most direct revenue, it’s important to consider the following:

  1. People like to do research and consider different options before making a decision. Here’s an example of how that might happen with something like getting a mortgage:
    1. John & Jane Doe get married and they both want to move to the suburbs around Dallas.
    2. They look at different locations that meet their budget criteria and have a desirable community.
    3. They get preapproved for a mortgage and shop around for different rates at different banks
      1. This is when they might see a few tv ads, ads on facebook, and search ads. They might not be buying yet, but they are trying to see what their options are.
    4. They narrow their list of mortgage options down and eventually get their dream home several months later….what’s important to consider is during this entire process, there could be several search ads, social ads, tv ads, and so forth that they saw which generated awareness to allow them to consider going with you vs another mortgage lender. With last click attribution, you might not show ads to Jane & John when it’s most important to pique their interest. This means you might not have gotten a new customer.
  1. The higher the price, the longer the sales cycle – if your customers are buying something at a lower cost that takes less research, then last click attribution can be a good option for you. What’s important to consider is the price and level of competition in the market make brand awareness increasingly important. If you’re not reaching customers early in their decision making process, then they might not even think about you…or worse, they might go with your competition.

First Click Attribution

As you can guess, first click attribution gives all the credit to the first channel that generated traffic to your website. 

If you want to focus on brand awareness, then this is a great Google Ads attribution model for you!

That’s because you can see what campaign, keyword, and ads enticed users to start engaging with you. This can help you see whether you have an audience that is interested in what you’re offering, an effective message to engage users, and whether your initial target audience/messaging eventually inspired people to convert.

The downside to using this attribution model is pretty simple. You’re spending more on getting awareness than you are on generating results. A basketball team wouldn’t be any good if they constantly passed the ball and didn’t shoot.

This is where linear attribution comes into play.

Linear Attribution

Linear attribution in Google is pretty simple. It gives equal credit to every interaction a user takes before converting. 

Whether you’re running a display campaign that generates a user’s first click to the site or brand terms campaign generates the last click before they purchase. They both get the same credit. 

You can also see which campaigns may have assisted in a conversion along the way but may have not been the first or last click.

Linear modeling is a very practical Google Ads attribution model that is used in a variety of accounts. There are only two minor flaws to consider.

  1. Linear modeling favors campaigns that generate more traffic. Which could skew results towards a campaign that might not be as effective at generating an end result.
  1. Not all actions in a consumer’s path are created equal. The last click can be more valuable sometimes or even a click in-between. Valuing all clicks equally can skew your results.

Google is well aware of this issue and has developed 3 different attribution models as a result.

Position Based Attribution

This is my favorite Google Ads attribution model generally speaking. It allows you to collect good data that gives 40% of the credit to both the first and last clicks while giving 20% to the remaining clicks in-between.

You get the best of both worlds. You’re favoring both brand awareness and end results while giving a little credit to the things that happened in between. 

The only issue with this Google Ads attribution model is that it can give a bit more credit to assisted clicks vs last clicks that end in a meaningful result. It’s fair to say that this is a much more balanced model. The issue can be that you’re only giving 40% of the credit to the last click at best.

This is still a great attribution model to use, though the last two models are useful if you want to favor last clicks more.

Time Decay Attribution

Time decay attribution gives most credit to the actions that happen closer to the final conversion. 

You don’t have an issue of over crediting brand awareness touch points. Which is great if a user has +5 touch points and you want to optimize more for last clicks while considering the touch points that happened to create that end result.

Time decay is great for businesses with longer sales cycles or for conversion events that happen over a longer period of time (higher ticket items, B2B sales, so forth).

For a basic account, time decay can be a bit much vs position based attribution. It does help alleviate issues with over valuing brand awareness if you have an issue with that.

Data Driven Attribution

While you were reading this article – you might have thought that each model is useful, but didn’t quite fit what you were looking for. 

That’s where data-driven models come into play!

Google uses its machine learning technology to look at your conversion data and give credit based upon your past performance data.

This new model is based entirely on what will help you get more performance (conversions).

Data driven attribution can be great for the right account. As long as you fit the requirements over a 30 day period:

  • 3000 clicks
  • 300 conversions (we recommend as many as possible)

Machine learning is only as good as the underlying data. Which means you need to generate a lot of data and make sure it’s consistent. The data you use from summer months might not be great for Black Friday for example…..and data driven modeling isn’t quite ready to account for that on its own.

I highly recommend using this in the future, but make sure you do it with plenty of data and consistent testing methods.

Final Thoughts

There is no ‘right’ model for Google Ads attribution, there are quite a few great choices depending upon what you’re trying to achieve.

If you need help deciding what attribution model to use, then you should book a free consultation with us today. We would be happy to help!

Centaur Consulting Group

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