A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing Attribution

Digital Marketing Strategy

Digital ­marketing attribution is a critical process to understand how successful each channel is in your marketing mix. Though it may seem like a simple question, the answer can often be opaque.

Avinash Kaushik sums up the issues and potential pitfalls, stating, “There are few things more complicated in analytics (all analytics, big data and huge data!) than multi-channel attribution modeling.”

Quantifying how marketing affects a company’s bottom line is crucial to its success and expanding its marketing budgets. Forrester found in 2014 that, among B2B marketing executives, “50% find it difficult to attribute marketing activity directly to revenue results as another means to justify budgets.”

A marketing attribution model’s goal is to give a business a better understanding of the impact of each marketing channel and how to adjust each channel to make overall marketing efforts more effective.

What is marketing attribution? 

Bonfire defines marketing attribution as “assigning credit to the correct traffic sources and marketing channels.”

When looking at attribution for digital marketing, a multichannel attribution model would be recommended in order to account for all aspects of the marketing funnel. From the top of the funnel to the bottom, a customer will see multiple touchpoints on different channels. You can better optimize your marketing campaigns by understanding the value of each channel.

What are marketing attribution models? 

Below are definitions of standard attribution models that you will find in Google Analytics:

  • Last Touch/Interaction: This model gives 100 percent of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint.
  • Last Non-Direct Click: This attribution model gives credit to the last touch before a conversion takes place. For example, if someone clicks on a Google AdWords text ad and then converts on a website, the paid ad would receive 100 percent of the credit.
  • First Interaction: This is the opposite of Last Interaction. The first touchpoint would receive 100 percent of a conversion’s credit.
  • Linear: This assigns each touchpoint in a conversion equally. For example, if there were four touchpoints, each would be awarded 25 percent of the conversion.
  • Time Decay: This model gives more credit to the more recent touchpoints.

Position Based: This model weights the first and last touchpoints heavily, at 40 percent each, while distributing the remaining 20 percent among those touchpoints in the middle.

Setting up attribution in Google Analytics

Though marketing attribution can be set up in different platforms, the following steps will show you how to set up attribution in Google Analytics:

  • Step 1Enable and set up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics. This will require installing a snippet on your website. You can also set up standard and enhanced tracking through Google Tag Manager.
  • Step 2Set up goal tracking in Google Analytics.
  • Step 3Set up Multi-Channel Funnels. Google Analytics will automatically track channels such as organic, direct, and referral; however, to track AdWords, SEM channels (such as Bing), and custom campaigns, you will need to set this up separately.
  • Step 4: Ensure all channels have the proper URL parameters set up for conversion tracking.

After e-commerce tracking and goals are enabled in Google Analytics, you will then be able to access the Multi-Channel Funnels reports and Model Comparison tool for further insight into your conversion attribution.

Attribution reporting in Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a number of reports to help visualize and understand your marketing attribution, including Multi-Channel Funnels reports and the Model Comparison tool. Both can be found underneath the Conversions drop-down on the right side of your Analytics Reporting tab.


The Multi-Channel Funnels reports provide insight into both direct and assisted conversions. Reports include Assisted Conversions, Top Conversion Paths, Time Lag, and Path Length.


The Model Comparison tool allows a user to compare up to three different attribution models at once. This will provide further insight into how to properly attribute conversions to your marketing efforts. It also provides a custom attribution model option. We recommend testing a custom model against standard models to evaluate for any adjustments needed in your custom solution.


What is the end goal of multichannel marketing attribution? 

Of course, we would all love a perfect digital marketing attribution model, but given the complexity of digital marketing and all that goes into a conversion, perfection may be a fool’s errand.

Per Marketing Land’s advice to CMOs, “you might as well accept the fact that you’re never going to get there. … Every model, no matter how advanced, has its flaws.”

This is not meant to cause concern, but an understanding that marketing attribution can be a bit of a moving target. Setting up an attribution model takes careful consideration as well as tweaks and testing to make it a vital tool in your marketing reporting.

Additional resources:

More Content


Leave A Comment

Bonfire Marketing

407 NE 12th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97232

Phone: 503-334-2071

Web: https://thinkbonfire.com