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Data-driven attribution: Why it matters and how to use it4 min read

4 min read

Setting up your PPC Google account may be straight-forward; however knowing what data to value and making strategic decisions is far harder. Attribution is all about that strategic choice.

For many businesses, the only data they have been using to make those strategic decisions has been last-click attribution. To give this a wider context, imagine you decide to make a casserole. You choose and chop vegetables, brown the meat, add stock and wine and finally place it in the oven.

“With last click attribution, all you know is that your potential customers are using the oven!”  Google Partners Livestream – New Google Attribution (26.07.2017)

In a recent survey by AdRoll, 70% of digital marketeers identified attribution as being their biggest challenge of 2017 and the key area they most want to solve in the next 12 months.

So why does it matter?

The customer’s journey is now more fragmented and spread across more channels and devices than ever before.  With last-click attribution models ignoring three out of four clicks in the conversion path, not forgetting any ignored impressions, it is almost impossible to know which of your keywords are truly involved in the conversion funnel of each new customer.  

By moving across to the new data-driven attribution (DDA) model within AdWords, you can allow Google to channel the multiple views and clicks leading up to your customer’s conversion and attribute a value to each element/search term used.

It is your data that AdWords uses for this strategy, so you can start to have real insight into how your potential buyers are viewing your site when purchasing is occurring and where your customers are spending their time. DDA will also give you values for a cross-device search path, so giving further insight into the value of your mobile and tablet-driven activities.

What does it look like?

Whereas with last-click attribution each conversion had a value of 1, the DDA system will give a value to each search term used by your customer in the lead-up to that final converting click.

So, to use our earlier example:

Chopping veg                           0.2

Browning meat                       0.1

Adding stock & wine            0.3

Placing in the oven                0.4


Here you can see how your future conversion values can be decimals according to how much of the conversion they are attributed to:

At each stage of the customer’s journey, a value is placed on each action. The beauty of the DDA model is that these values are calculated with a dynamic model – one that credits user interactions, not according to a static set of rules, but according to the statistical evidence that they caused the conversion, regardless of campaign type. The total for the journey still remains 1, but it is now split into each of the components.

So how do I gain insight from decimals?

Now let’s consider a real situation. As the owner of a Chinese restaurant in central Chinatown in London, knowing which search terms to push my bids on would significantly improve my ROI.  Let’s take a conversion funnel for a visitor to London who is keen on Chinese food and see how last-click attribution and data-driven attribution compareAs the owner, last click tells me the customer used my location extension to find my restaurant on their mobile. I have no idea how they knew about my restaurant.

If I was using DDA,  I would now know that my restaurant appeared in their search list for Chinese restaurants; that my ad promoting my customer reviews persuaded this person to try my restaurant; that my sitelinks gave them my opening times; and that my location extension brought them to my door.  I also know that they started their search on their desktop and used my mobile ads to find me while in London.

How DDA can inform your strategies

Search terms that you may have previously ignored because they were not being attributed with conversions may well now have values <1, which shows that these terms are being used by your customers in their conversion path. Consequently, they have a real value to you and it may be worth increasing your bids for these terms.  

The types of search terms used in the early stages of a conversion may be surprising – not what you perceive to be your key terms – and may give valuable insight into the context in which your potential customers are viewing your website.

If you have not used this type of attribution before, consider trying it with some of your key campaigns. You may be surprised or delighted with the insights. Either way, you will be able to see terms that are driving customers down that conversion funnel – terms which could be key to improving your conversion rate and increasing your ROI.

If you have any questions about DDA, or about attribution in general, please do contact us and we’d be very happy to help!