Simply put attribution modeling is a set of rules an advertisers uses to determine the credit that they attribute to an interaction that led to a desired conversion outcome, most commonly a sale of a product or service. Below is an excellent description of various attribution models which I’ve borrowed from Google. Whether the interaction starts with a Google ad or a Facebook, Instagram or another platform’s ad, the concept holds.

Attribution Modeling Example
A customer finds your site by clicking one of your Google Ads ads. She returns one week later by clicking over from a social network. That same day, she comes back a third time via one of your email campaigns, and a few hours later, she returns again directly and makes a purchase.

- In th Last Interaction model, the last touchpoint—in this case, the Direct channel—would receive 100% of the credit for the sale.

- In the Last Non-Direct Click attribution model, all direct traffic is ignored, and 100% of the credit for the sale goes to the last channel that the customer clicked through from before converting—in this case, the Email channel.

- In the Last Google Ads Click attribution model, the last Google Ads click—in this case, the first and only click to the Paid Search channel —would receive 100% of the credit for the sale.

- In the First Interaction attribution model, the first touchpoint—in this case, the Paid Search channel—would receive 100% of the credit for the sale.

- In the Linear attribution model, each touchpoint in the conversion path—in this case the Paid Search, Social Network, Email, and Direct channels—would share equal credit (25% each) for the sale.

- In the Time Decay attribution model, the touchpoints closest in time to the sale or conversion get most of the credit. In this particular sale, the Direct and Email channels would receive the most credit because the customer interacted with them within a few hours of conversion. The Social Network channel would receive less credit than either the Direct or Email channels. Since the Paid Search interaction occurred one week earlier, this channel would receive significantly less credit.

- In the Position Based (or data driven) attribution model, you to plug in your end goals and then weight each channel based on its effectiveness in accomplishing those goals. As an example, 40% credit is assigned to each the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions. In this example, the Paid Search and Direct channels would each receive 40% credit, while the Social Network and Email channels would each receive 10% credit.

You may be asking at the point, which is the correct model to use? Each model has pros and cons. The key is to figure out which one is a good fit for your business or marketing campaign. For that reason, don’t be afraid to play around with different attribution models to determine which works best for your business and marketing campaigns. Consider trying all of the attribution models because in the end, there is no right answer. The only right attribution model is the one that provides you with valuable information to increase ROI from your strategy.