I could make this article short and sweet and sum it up in one sentence. Basically, Zuckerberg and the Google Gods just see things differently. And that’s ok, because we all do.



If I have answered your questions, great, go forth and make some money and write beautiful reports. If not, stick around and come on a journey through time and space …



So what is attribution in digital marketing? Attribution modelling describes various methods marketers use to properly break up and assign conversion credit to various different channels, just in case users make multiple website visits [via multiple channels] to finally make a conversion. You may hear this word ‘attribution’ thrown around a bit … and no, it’s not another bullshit word like ‘synergy’ that tumbles across board room tables. There’s a reason you hear it, and that’s because it’s integral to finding out which digital activity you’re doing, is having the biggest impact.



‘Oh, simple’ you may say … sounds pretty straightforward, you think?! Enter Google Analytics. My go-to gal for data. She’s the metric mecca and reporting goddess, but for some reason [as you may already know], sometimes the figures she reports don’t match up, compared to Facebook ads manager or Google ads



Why’s that?  Well Google, being a rival of Facebook, don’t want to share their advertising data with Facebook. And [of course] Facebook feels the same. So due to a conflict of interests, this makes cross-platform attribution difficult.



Some other reasons things might not add up;


  • Urgh, I hate to say this … these words should not be said out loud … Ad blockers. Apparently some people don’t love ads as much as me. It’s reported up to 30% of internet users, use an ad blocker! Stop guyssss, I make cute ads … 
  • Your tracking has broken. This could be your pixel or Google tag! Check your events are set up correctly and test them



Let’s look at how we assign attribution in Digital Marketing. There are few different ways we can do this; 


  • 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.



A lot of the time, Facebook ads manager, Google Ads, and Google Analytics may have been set up on different attribution models. Therefore discrepancies occur. The first step is to make sure these are aligning, or you at least know how each platform is representing the attribution



What other ways can we see how our digital activity impacts a users journey to a conversion?


Let’s look at Top Conversion Paths. Just like shopping online and in a shopping centre, you may visit a store a few times before you make the decision to buy. Each time you go there, you may take a different path. On the first trip you go past the coffee shop, the second you see a billboard and stop to read the ad for that shop you visited, but you get distracted by a Dan Andrews press conference being live streamed. Finally you decide to go straight there, you know what you want and how to get to the shop! Top Conversion Paths show us the paths people take on their way to that conversion. 




Image showing conversion paths

The Top Conversion Paths report shows all of the unique conversion paths (i.e., sequences of channel interactions) that led to conversions, as well as the number of conversions from each path, and the value of those conversions. This allows you to see how channels interact along your conversion paths. 



So whilst you may see a certain amount of sales contributed to social ads, this could be the last touchpoint someone makes, before making their purchase. In fact, they may have played a part in other purchases and nurtured people along the way!



There’s no one way to do this, and you need to pick what works best for you. No matter how much we refine everything we strategise, build, optimise and report in digital marketing, the truth is, multi channel marketing is complex and a lot of what we do is also complex. So while we can try our best to align attribution between platforms, some things to check off are


  • Accept the numbers won’t always line up to the exact number 
  • Make sure there are no errors in how you’re tracking your activity
  • Choose where you report your data wisely
  • Analyse which attribution model is best suited to you [all have pro’s and con’s] and which sources have the most meaningful interactions
  • Cross reference your reports from all the digital sources you have access to, from social, email, your CRM and Google Analytics and sales
  • Always look at your top conversion paths and imagine removing one of those channels of activity and analyse what impact it would have



So really the attribution pie can be sliced up very differently, it’s not always evenly distributed … and the recipe can be complex, to say the least!