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Giang Nguyen
Giang Nguyen
Solutions Engineer at Y42
28 Jul, 2021 · 5 min read

Types of attribution models


The first part of our marketing attribution series examined attribution models; touching on the relevance, requirements, overall approach, and a rough overview for implementation. With this understanding, our approach now is to measure marketing campaign success. Here, the range of marketing attribution models businesses can choose from are rich and varied to encompass the breadth of marketing activities. 

With just one or two active marketing channels, advertisers still can easily attribute a conversion. But as soon as online marketing gets scaled up and more and more marketing channels are involved, the question of which channel actually contributed to the conversion is no longer straightforward. Naturally, every marketing channel involved in the customer journey will attempt to claim the conversion! How you design a model will decide the contribution a channel receives from a conversion, which significantly affects its profitability. 

Simple attribution models are single-click attributions. That means the complete conversion is attributed to just one single touchpoint. More advanced attribution models consider multiple or all touchpoints of the customer’s journey prior to the conversion. And very complex models account for more than just click touchpoints, and include impressions, usage of discount codes, and more.

The following is an overview of the most commonly used attribution models:

Single-click attribution models

Last -click attribution

The last click or touchpoint prior to the conversion receives 100% credit for the sale. Google Analytics is using this as default conversion attribution. The advantage of
this model is its simplicity and out-of-the-box usability, but it clearly gives lower funnel channels an advantage and underestimates the value of more upper funnel channels.

First-click attribution

The first touchpoint which has led the customer to the shop receives 100% credit for the sale. Similar to the last-click model, the first-click model is doing an unfair attribution and only considers channels which are on top of the funnel.

Last-non-direct click attribution

The last touchpoint which is not direct traffic receives all the credit for the conversion. The assumption for this model is that customers often revisit your shop by going directly to
your website. Since direct traffic must be "induced" by an awareness-generating channel, the idea of this model is to give credit.

Last paid click attribution

The last touchpoint which is not from direct traffic received all credit for the conversion. The assumption for this model is that customers often revisit your shop by going directly to
your website. Since direct traffic must be "induced" by an awareness-generating channel, the idea of this model is to give the credit to the last touchpoint which didn't come directly.

Here's a table of all the single-click attribution models:

Single-Click Attribution Models

Multi-touchpoint attribution models

Position-based/U-curve attribution

The first and last touchpoint receive more credit, everything else is evenly distributed among the touchpoints between the first and last touchpoint. A shared distribution could look like this: 40% to the first and last touchpoint and 20% is spread out among the remaining touchpoints in the middle. This model includes the assumption that the first and last touchpoints should get more credit since they are first making the customer aware about your business and then persuading the customer to purchase. The touchpoints in the middle are seen as supporting/assisting touchpoints.

Time decay attribution

The closer the touchpoint is to the time of the conversion, the more contribution share that touchpoint gets assigned. This model provides a realistic representation of purchase intention throughout their journey with your shop as they move closer to the purchase.

Linear attribution

Each touchpoint leading up to the conversion receives an equal amount of credits for the conversion. This is the simplest type of multi-touch attribution model which gives all contributing touchpoints an equal share of the conversion.

Here's a table of all the multi-touchpoint attribution models:

Multi-touchpoint attribution
Attribution Acquisition and Reorder

Which type of attribution modeling suits you?

How you choose an attribution model depends on your business model and the maturity level of your business. The attribution model you use may change over time with the growth of your business. Each model has its reason for existence with advantages and disadvantages. 

Curious to read which model fits your business the best? Then download our comprehensive guide that shows you how to get started on marketing attribution, and learn how to choose the right one for you:

Get the guide

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About Y42

Y42 is an Integrated Data Development Environment (IDDE) purpose-built for analytics engineers. It helps companies easily design production-ready data pipelines (integrate, model, orchestrate) on top of their Google BigQuery or Snowflake cloud data warehouse. Next to interactive, end-to-end lineage and embedded, dynamic documentation, DataOps best practices such as Virtual Data Builds are baked in to ensure true pipeline scalability.

It's the perfect choice for experienced data professionals that want to reduce their tooling overhead, collaborate with junior data staff, or (re)think their data stack from scratch.

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