Why media planners should measure and give credit to multiple touches that influence the final outcome - not only the last click.
I recently spoke with Jason Heller, EVP of The Laredo Group, a media training and consulting firm, about the topic of my last column, "Different Views of View-Through Tracking." He asserted that though view-through tracking can be helpful, the real sleeper tool in the online media planning world is attribution reporting. Are you curious to learn why Heller and other attribution experts feel this way? Read on.
What Is Attribution?
Simplified, attribution in the context of online marketing and advertising is how credit is assigned for an action or "conversion." Attribution experts consistently cite that too many people rely on the last click as the source of a conversion. Instead, planners should consider, measure, and give credit to multiple touches that influence the final outcome. Those touches could be any number of things: numerous display ad impressions; e-mail campaigns; affiliate offers; listings in comparison shopping engines; organic search; or PPC ads.
Attribution reporting can also eliminate the risk of assigning double credit (and possibly double-payment) to more than one tactic or more than one affiliate ("de-duplication"). For example, an e-mail-initiated online shopper who, doing a last-minute search for a coupon code, clicks on a PPC ad offered by an affiliate – which tactic would deserve and get assigned credit (or "partial attribution")? This is where attribution reporting tools come in.
The categories of attribution reporting providers include:
Each provide different levels of reporting and analytics, so you'll want to understand your greatest needs and consider what's at your disposal already.
Challenges of Attribution Reporting
Heller thinks that one of the challenges in adopting attribution reporting (and subsequent media planning based on true attribution) is that the subject alone is an advanced topic. Heller points to the fact that too few media planners even know about/take advantage of well-known campaign management elements such as frequency capping. In order to embrace attribution-based media planning, the planner has to first move beyond common nomenclature and stop thinking of click-through rates as key performance indicators or last clicks as the primary source of conversions.
Though you might find attribution reporting more commonly used in the direct response space, brand advertisers could benefit equally from this kind of analysis. And though attribution tracking-reporting-analysis has been going on for four or five years now, misconceptions, inconsistencies, and imperfections still abound.
Navigating the Attribution Discussion
In talking to multiple sources about attribution, I could understand why Heller describes this discussion as challenging. There are different descriptions for attribution tracking/reporting, e.g., "Engagement Mapping," "Path to Conversion," "Impression Attribution," "Interactive Attribution," "Attribution Modeling," etc.
Chris Brinkworth, CMO of TagMan raised some other common points of confusion:
The Attribution Process
As several experts point out, the attribution process needs to start by coming up with the key questions you need answered by an attribution model. For example:
After your attribution model is established, you need some time to let all of your activities run and be measured before beginning to analyze your comparative data. Below are some reporting screen shots provided by Mediaplex to help illustrate certain attribution reporting:
This screen shows the top conversion rates and associated number of events (touches) it took to drive those conversions.
In this example, display was involved in 81 percent of the conversions, yet only credited on 61 percent of the conversions won; it also influenced 52 percent of the paid search-credited conversions.
Some final words: everyone I spoke to in the attribution tracking/reporting space at least agrees on one thing – attribution is a nascent field but once more marketers recognize its value, it will definitely grow as an important media planning tool.
Hollis is off today. This column was originally published on Oct. 19, 2010 on ClickZ.
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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