If content marketing is to thrive, we start giving credit where credit is due.

Death to Last Click Attribution

If content marketing is to thrive, we must start giving credit where credit is due.


by Staff

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Like a dictator who’s overstayed his welcome, last click attribution still rules the calculation of digital ROI.

In cross-channel measurement, attribution models are used to attribute values to the various brand interactions on the consumer’s online journey. Last click attribution, as the name suggests, is a model in which the very last touchpoint takes all the credit for the purchase decision.

This should explain why LCA keeps getting declared dead. It’s so Web 1.0.

Here’s Bruce Clay driving a stake in LCA back in 2009. Nebo announced it dead in 2012. Earlier this year, Adometry got in on the action with yet another death notice.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, yet here we are rounding the midway point of 2014, and LCA is among us.

To be fair, last click interaction made sense in the early days of the Internet. At that time, companies had only a limited online presence outside their own websites. So the first place a customer encountered your brand before visiting your site was likely also the last place.

Well, that was then. Nowadays, brands populate every nook and cranny of the Web, including all the major social media platforms. A 2012 study by Google showed that consumers engage with brands on average 4.3 times over two days before making a purchase. Considering the growth of content marketing, social and mobile since the study was conducted, the number is probably even higher today.

Obviously, an attribution model that looks at only the last interaction has no hope of offering a true picture of the journey to purchase. And content marketing doesn’t stand a chance in the hands of your CFO who wants to see that a direct link between your corporate blog and the check-out page on your ecommerce site.

So why are we still using last click attribution? Largely because it’s the default setting in Google Analytics.

However, there are a number of other attribution models worth considering, including first interaction, linear, position based and time decay (check out this article for a primer – it’s over a year old but still relevant). You’ll need to roll up your sleeves and experiment with your customer data to determine what works best in your situation. Developing an understanding of the Google Analytics’ Attribution Model Comparison Tool is a good place to start.

If you operate an ecommerce site, especially one that attracts impulse buyers, consider using position-based attribution. This model gives conversion credit to interactions according to their place in the path to purchase.

For lead generation, particularly related to large-dollar transactions, time decay attribution is worth exploring. This model gives more weight to touchpoints the closer they are to when the prospect filled out the lead form. The idea is that prospects need time and multiple interactions to gather information and contemplate their decision; as trust builds, each new interaction has a greater probability of triggering the decision.

For content marketers investing ad dollars across multiple digital channels, accurate channel measurement is vital. It’s time to look beyond last click attribution to attribution models better suited to today’s online environment.