Why Holistic Attribution is Important for Your Higher Education Institution

You’re aiming to see an exponential increase in sales for your business, but don’t know the most valuable data points to prospect with. What keywords do your target audience search, and what ads do they click before they convert? This is where attribution is a necessity. Attribution is a feature within Google Adwords that allows marketers to trace every set of actions that transpired before the customer made a purchase and assigns credit to different sources along the conversion path. There are many different models of attribution within Google Adwords, but we advocate for what eMarketer calls  “holistic attribution.” This means factoring in every company data touchpoint, including non-marketing related touchpoints. Currently, less than 5% of businesses are implementing holistic attribution. Transitioning into this model is a lengthy process, but worth the work for any business.

Non-marketing channel attribution:

Don’t rely on user response to your marketing channels to measure campaign success. If you follow our blog, you know this next point is a big one for us: it’s so important that you don’t manage your data in separate silos. Integrate your marketing, sales and service divisions! The data collected in each respective section should reinforce the others. Here are a few ‘non-marketing’ touchpoints you should include in your holistic attribution approach:

  • Supply chain management
  • Merchandise management
  • Call centers
  • Online chats/chatbot services
  • Customer service centers
  • Customer service social media accounts and emails.
  • In-store browsing and sales (Eventually)

There should be consistency between the data from these sources and your marketing efforts, otherwise, you are at risk of being out-of-touch with your potential customers. If users consistently ask about a certain aspect of your product or service, use this information to craft personalized marketing messages that truly reflect the needs of your audience. When you have a clearer view of the customer journey, you can address customer concerns, optimize budgets and create effective ads.

Marketing Channel Attribution:

The Attribution tool within Adwords provides the ability for your business to understand how customers are interacting with your brand online. There are many different models of attribution you can use, which one you should select depends on your business. We recommend looking at past conversion data online and offline to determine whether your lead generation occurs in the beginning, middle or end of the conversion path.

Adwords Attribution models:

  • Last Click Attribution: This is the most common model in Adwords. Attribution goes to the last advertisement clicked and corresponding keyword before they made a purchase. This can often lead to a false causation. Marketers could be under the assumption that the last page clicked was the main contribution to the conversion, though that decision could have been made earlier in the search.  
  • First click: The credit for the conversion goes to the first-clicked ad and corresponding keyword during the search.
  • Linear: The credit goes to all the keywords and pages/ads clicked on the path to a conversion.
  • Time decay: This gives credit to the ads that were clicked on closer to the time of conversion. For example, an ad clicked on 8 days before a conversion occurred gets half the credit, whereas an ad clicked the day before a conversion would get the most credit.
  • Position-based: 40% credit goes to the first and last click and corresponding keywords along the conversion path. The remaining 20% of the credit is spread across the middle-of-the-path clicks.
  • Data-driven: The credit is distributed based on past data for the conversion (only available to accounts with enough data).
    • Data-driven plus: This is a plus option for advertisers that already have sufficient data. This model uses your accounts data to calculate the actual contribution of each keyword across the conversion path and distributes the credit accordingly.

Uncertain about which model to choose? You can use the “Model Comparison” tool to compare up to 3 different models and assess the future impact of each model on your campaigns. This also gives you the ability to identify undervalued keywords.

For example, if you find that the first and middle clicks are the most valuable to your campaign CRO—you can create custom attribution models.  This analysis is also crucial to gaining fresh traffic to your website or app because you have a better understanding of high conversion value keywords and publishers.

If you decide to change your attribution model from Last Click to Time Decay, you can assess how your past conversions would have panned out had you used Time Decay since campaign inception. This is a great way to plan out your campaign budget for future campaigns.

Implement Holistic Attribution Company-wide:
Adwords Attribution is a valuable tool for detecting where to direct majority campaign efforts. However, we recommend the holistic attribution model for your company’s lifetime value.  To attain this, the technology and data ingestion tools are important, but it’s also about organizational cohesion. Getting everyone at your institution on board with a set of KPI’s and working to maintain inter-departmental communication is the key to achieving holistic attribution.


Also published on Medium.