Marketers Debate on Attribution Models Continues

  |  October 25, 2010   |  Comments

Marketers continue to explore ways to measure the impact of individual elements in their digital campaign mixes.

A common theme among digital marketers of late is the issue of attribution. In particular, many are debating whether search conversions should be weighted as heavily as they are.

Numerous online marketers speaking at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago this week described the dangers of over-assigning credit to search engine marketing programs in relation to other aspects of digital campaigns - such as display, social media, and email - simply because search is often the last channel a user will interact with before making a purchase or completing another action.

In a session dedicated solely to the issue, Mikel Chertudi, vice president of demand and online marketing at Omniture, said 90 percent of companies running online marketing campaigns aren't currently measuring their campaigns in a way that allows them to understand attribution accurately, and are double and triple counting conversions as a result. "The fact is when you don't get it right, you're overspending or under-spending on each channel," he said.

Adam Goldberg, CIO and co-founder of attribution platform provider ClearSaleing, said many marketers still don't perceive attribution as an issue, since digital marketing efforts as a whole are still generating results and driving revenue. "It's not just moving dollars around from one channel to another," he said, "It's about identifying what works to accurately assign budgets next time round," he continued.

According to Goldberg, continued miss-attribution will decay the performance of digital campaigns over time, and the issue will be further exacerbated, as marketers' media mixes get more diverse.

"If we just stick with this garbage of the last click, it’s going to be ridiculous," he said, adding, "It's not about being perfect, it's about being good. Good attribution makes marketers decisions that little bit more accurate and that little bit more effective."

However, even those marketers that are attempting to attribute more accurately are often failing to do so, argued Avinash Kaushick, analytics evangelist at Google. During a keynote presentation, Kaushik described some of these models, including the "Make Crap Up" system, in which marketers base their assumptions on arbitrary factors such as the size of the team working on a specific element of a campaign, or the amount of budget already being allocated to it.

Kaushik also implied, however, that perfection should not be the goal, and that marketers should simply be striving for a better understanding of their own campaigns. He said the "least worst" attribution model he's come across is what he described as a "decay" model, in which the last click is attributed with the majority of credit, and each touch point prior to that is assigned a progressively reduced portion. Goldberg described similar strategies, and argued, "No methods are perfect, but many are far better than the last click. Simple models can be very effective."

Questions surrounding attribution were also raised by delegates in sessions dedicated to display and social media marketing, demonstrating the issue is now at the forefront of marketers' minds across digital channels.


Jack Marshall

Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011. 

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