Understanding Your Conversion Attribution Model

Have you ever wondered why your AdWords or ad campaigns aren’t yielding any conversions? Or at least not as many as you’d like them to. You do the usual: you check keywords, tags, add negative keywords, fine tune your landing pages, but still conversions aren’t adding up. This frustration is more common than you think, but it is also a symptom of not looking at the big picture.

Don’t rely on a single strategy to get your conversions

Often times business owners hear about isolated strategies that might help their business. Or marketers put all their eggs in a single basket. This couldn’t be further from the true path a user takes when deciding to make a purchase, or contact a service / product provider. Even if Google’s micromoments video makes you instantly think about how a single click on your ad can lead to a direct purchase, this is rarely the case.

Micromoments and context

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “Micromoments” are a lie. Quite the contrary, it points out true, real life situations in which we pull out our smartphones and search for whatever we need, think or want an answer to. And brands should definitely be there for those moments. However, that does not mean users make an instant purchase.

If you watch the video, you’ll see how a woman needs a new blow dryer, and another woman is looking for a running app. Their search was sparked by a moment in their lives, a thought, or a life goal (getting fit in the case of the running app). However, it’s most likely that the woman looking for a blow dryer will try to compare brands, prices, and shipping dates and costs before making a purchase. The other woman will may be download the app, or ask her friends, and compare app reviews before making a decision.

Thinking that this single micromoment will turn into an instant purchase would be like saying that all love relationships are the result of love at first sight. Although some relationships are indeed the result of love at first sight, the truth is the vast majority of relationships go through many other getting-to-know-each-other steps. The same thing happens when buying a product or engaging with a brand.

Understanding attribution models

There are many types of industries, companies, products, services, and values. They all work differently. For some, AdWords will be more effective than for others. Other factors also play a role: geography, target, landing pages, etc. So in order for you to understand what strategy mix works best for you, you need to get to know how your user behaves, thus the importance of your attribution model, or to which strategy(ies) do you attribute your success to.

Go to Google Analytics > reporting > conversions > multi-channel conversions > top conversion paths. You’ll see something like this:


As you can see, there are a number of paths different users take in order to finally convert. You can see how different strategies influence each other. On the first path for example, paid search is a major driver, but the conversion doesn’t end there. The user exits the funnel, and reenters it through a referral link. Referral links can be links placed in an email, publication, or anywhere else.

I’ve seen conversion paths that are longer than the ones you see above. It really depends on your product, and its costs. As a rule of thumb, the pricier the product, the longer the path. Users decide more carefully when it comes to bigger purchase decisions or stronger commitments.

Designing the right strategy mix for you

Once you have enough data, you can start making conclusions on how different strategies support each other. Design your conversion funnel accordingly, and don’t be afraid to test new strategies, landing pages, or even targets. Just remember to always go back to your analytics and check on these conversion paths.

For example, you may not see conversions on your AdWords campaigns. However, if you take a look at your conversion paths and see that they play a major role in driving the user through the conversion funnel, then it means that your campaigns are still working and are important enough to influence buyer’s intent.

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