The role of attribution in advertising has become a critical aspect in the digital age. With consumers’ brand interaction on various platforms, understanding the impact of any campaign is proving trickier to navigate.

Companies want to understand which of their efforts are truly driving results, and attribution in advertising is a solid way to get it done.

By getting insights on channels, tactics, or individual actions that are contributing to the success of advertising campaigns, you get to create better strategies that convert to sales. Read on to learn more about marketing attribution models and their impact on your campaign ROI.

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What Is Marketing Attribution?

Role of attribution in advertising: Digital marketing strategist working with digital technologies and media.
Role of attribution in advertising: Digital marketing strategist working with digital technologies and media. Source: DepositPhotos

Marketing attribution is a method used by marketers to determine how credit for sales and conversions is assigned across different marketing touchpoints in a customer’s journey. It provides a thorough understanding of what combination of events, or individual actions, influence individuals to engage in a desired behavior, leading to a purchase.

Marketing attribution gives marketers the evidence they need to understand which campaign elements are effectively driving results, whether these are social media posts, email marketing, SEO efforts, or direct advertising campaigns.

Role Of Attribution On Advertising ROI

marketing attribution optimizes digital advertising ROI
marketing attribution optimizes digital advertising ROI. Source: DepositPhotos

Marketing attribution plays an indispensable role in optimizing the return on investment (ROI) in digital advertising. Using it helps marketers allocate their budget efficiently, maximizing their advertising ROI.

Let’s dive deeper into the specific impacts of marketing attribution in digital advertising.

  • Increasing Marketing Efficiency: Attribution enables marketers to understand which channels are driving conversions, allowing for more targeted and effective advertising strategies.
  • Improving Budget Allocation: Marketing attribution helps you identify high-performing channels and campaigns. You can then adjust digital advertising strategies based on attribution data, leading to more effective use of their advertising budget and better ROI.
  • Enhancing Customer Acquisition: With marketing attribution, businesses can pinpoint which channels and tactics attract new customers. Companies using advanced attribution models have better chances of acquiring new clients by creating strategies that resonate with a specific demographic.
  • Reducing Wasteful Spend: Marketing attribution helps identify underperforming campaigns or channels. Forbes reports that businesses, on average, waste 26% of their budget on ineffective strategies and channels. Attribution can help reduce this wastage, boosting the overall advertising ROI.
  • Optimizing Customer Journey: By understanding the customer’s path to purchase, marketers can optimize each touchpoint to improve conversion rates. Marketers who use attribution can create a better user experience, which indirectly improves digital advertising ROI.

What Are the Different Types of Attribution Models?

Types of attribution models
Types of attribution models. Source: DepositPhotos

Attribution models are a key component in understanding the customer’s purchasing. They allow marketers to measure various marketing touchpoints that contribute to a sale or conversion. Let’s explore the different types of attribution models with their pros and cons.

1. Last-Click Attribution

Think of Last-Click Attribution as the “what sealed the deal” model. It gives all the credit to the very last thing a customer did before buying. It’s like saying, “The last ad did all the work.”

This attribution model is highly useful for pinpointing the last decisive action that led the customer to convert. However, it doesn’t take into account any previous interactions that may have influenced the customer’s journey.


  • It’s simple and easy to understand as it assigns 100% of the credit to the last touchpoint before a conversion.
  • It provides a clear picture of what finally drove the customer to convert.
  • It’s useful for businesses that have a short buying cycle.


  • It fails to recognize other touchpoints or marketing efforts that may have influenced the customer’s purchasing decision.

What Is It Best For:

This model works best for direct response campaigns, where the goal is to get the customer to take immediate action, like purchasing a product or signing up for a service. It’s also effective for campaigns where the sales cycle is short, and the decision-making process is quick.

2. First-click Attribution

First-click attribution is all about first impressions. It gives all the credit to the first ad or action that drew in a customer. It’s like saying, “The first ad started it all.”

This marketing attribution model assigns all the credit for a sale or conversion to the very first interaction a customer has with the brand. It’s great for understanding your audience and what initially draws them toward a product. However, it disregards any subsequent engagement or interactions that may have contributed to the final conversion.


  • It highlights the effectiveness of top-funnel marketing strategies, as it attributes all credit to the first interaction.
  • It gives insights into which channels are most effective at attracting new customers.
  • It’s beneficial for understanding brand discovery or campaigns focused on raising awareness.


  • It ignores all the subsequent interactions a customer has with the brand before purchasing.

What Is It Best For:

First-click attribution is best suited for brand awareness or top-of-funnel (TOFU) campaigns. These are campaigns aimed at drawing in potential customers and getting your brand’s name out there, making it easier to recognize which channels are most effective at bringing in new audiences.

3. Linear Attribution Model

Linear Attribution is the “fair player.” It evenly distributes credit among all touchpoints the customer interacted with on their journey toward conversion. This model provides an overview of the entire customer journey, acknowledging every interaction equally.

However, it may overvalue less influential touchpoints and undervalue key decisive moments.


  • Provides a holistic view by equally attributing credit to all touchpoints in the customer journey.
  • Helps in understanding the overall consumer behavior and all the interactions that contribute to a conversion.
  • Works for businesses with longer, complex sales cycles where multiple touchpoints play a crucial role.


  • Gives equal value to less influential touchpoints and key interactions, resulting in more time identifying where to focus your strategy

What Is It Best For:

The linear model is great for full-funnel campaigns, where customers are nurtured through different stages, from awareness to consideration to decision-making. It gives an understanding of all touchpoints a customer interacts with, making it suitable for campaigns involving multiple sales channels.

4. Time-Decay Attribution Model

Time-Decay Attribution is like a countdown. The closer the interaction is to the time of purchase, the more credit it gets. It’s like saying, “the ads or actions right before buying mattered most.”

This marketing attribution model recognizes that interactions closer to the conversion might have a greater influence on the customer’s decision to purchase. However, it may undervalue interactions earlier in the customer’s journey that sparked initial interest and engagement.


  • Assigns more credit to the touchpoints closer to conversion, making it more accurate for longer sales cycles.
  • Recognizes the impact of recent marketing efforts.
  • Tends to be more closely aligned with actual sales data.


  • Can undervalue the importance of early interactions that triggered the customer’s interest.

What Is It Best For:

Time-decay attribution is effective for long-term, nurturing campaigns where there are multiple interactions over an extended period before a customer converts. It helps recognize the impact of touchpoints in the later stages, ideal for re-engagement or retargeting campaigns.

5. Position-based (U-shaped) Attribution

Position-based attribution favors the first and last interactions, considering them the most important. It gives the most credit to what drew a customer in and what finally got them to buy while still recognizing the ones in between.

Position-based or U-shaped Attribution attributes 40% of the credit to both the first and last interactions, with the remaining 20% distributed evenly among the middle interactions. This model acknowledges the importance of attracting the customer and sealing the deal. However, it might undervalue any substantial engagement that occurs in the middle of the customer’s journey.


  • Acknowledges both the first interaction (attracting the customer) and the last interaction (sealing the deal) while also giving credit to touchpoints in between.
  • Gives a more balanced view of your marketing efforts by recognizing both awareness and decision-driving activities.
  • Works for businesses that emphasize both customer acquisition and closing strategies.


  • Can undervalue the middle touchpoints, which may also heavily influence the customer journey.

What Is It Best For:

The Position-Based Attribution model works well for campaigns that place equal importance on customer acquisition and closing strategies. It’s great when implementing a combination of brand awareness and direct response campaigns.

How to Choose the Right Attribution Model for Your Business Goals

Business team choosing marketing attribution model
Business team choosing marketing attribution model. Source: DepositPhotos

Selecting the right attribution model is crucial in understanding and optimizing your customers’ journey. This guide will help you navigate the process of choosing the right method that aligns with your business objectives.

Step 1: Define Your Business Goals

Start by outlining what your business aims to achieve. This could range from brand awareness, lead generation, customer retention, and maximizing your email reach to direct sales.

Step 2: Understand Your Customer Journey

Analyze your customer journey from the first interaction to conversion. A simpler journey may only require a First-click or Last-click model, whereas a complex, multi-touch journey is ideal with a Linear, Time-decay, or Position-based model.

This step is also where you start getting a clearer view of a customer’s behavior by seeing patterns of campaign engagement.

Step 3: Evaluate Your Marketing Channels

Identify which marketing channels you use and how they fit into the customer journey. Record engagement data in each platform and match it with a model that works well with the platform’s features.

Step 4: Consider Your Sales Cycle

Look at the length and complexity of your sales cycle. Shorter sales cycles might benefit more from Last-click models, while longer, complex cycles fit better using Time-decay or Linear models.

Step 5: Test and Analyze

Implement the chosen attribution model and monitor the results. Don’t be afraid to test different models to get valuable insights about what works well with your brand identity and business goals.

Step 6: Continue to Optimize

Attribution modeling is not a one-time process. Continue to review and refine your model choice as your business, marketing tactics, and customer behaviors evolve. This ensures your method remains relevant and effective to your market’s needs.

Be on the lookout for potential marketing attribution software upgrades you may need to adapt as your business grows.


Marketing attribution plays a critical role in building an online brand and the overall success of advertising campaigns. It involves a thorough understanding of the customer journey and acknowledging the impact of each interaction on their purchasing decision.

Each type of attribution model has its strengths and constraints, and the right choice can boost your advertising ROI.

In essence, marketing attribution is a tool and a strategic approach to successful advertising. Harness the power of marketing attribution and embrace it as an integral part of your campaign planning and execution.

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