5 Questions to Answer Before Switching to Multi-Touch Attribution

Marketing your company or products starts pretty simply. A Facebook test here or there. A couple of AdWords campaigns. Once you achieve a bit of success, however, and realize it’s time to expand the scope of your marketing, things will become complicated very quickly.

Suddenly you’re working with multiple platforms and vendors. You need to be producing and refreshing multiple creatives formats frequently. You have reports coming in from 8 different channels that you need to parse. Google Analytics is suddenly becoming inadequate as it’s only great at tracking clicks rather than views (and as we’ve discussed earlier, clicks aren’t even a great benchmark to optimize for).

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Even worse, if you add up the “attributed conversions” across all 8 of these different channels, you’ve supposedly generated 10X the number of conversions compared to what’s actually happening on your site or app. What’s going on? Long story short, you’re ready to transition to a multi-touch attribution world.

We’ve seen lots of our clients make this transition. Below are some of the most common issues that we’ve seen arise when marketers switch to multi-touch attribution. If you make the switch without answering these questions, your chances of success go down significantly. If you address them beforehand, you’re well on your way to attribution success.

Question 1: How do I get started moving away from post-click attribution?

This depends on where your organization is in its online marketing lifecycle. If you’re a marketer that’s launching your first marketing campaign, there’s a good chance you’re not using an ad server yet (especially if you’re only buying on Facebook). You should pick an ad server to use ASAP. Having vendors host your creatives for you will make it much more difficult for you to track impressions that didn’t result in a click. Any basic ad server will enable you to at least get your foot in the post view world.

If you want to get more advanced and move towards fractional attribution consider working with companies that specialize here (e.g. Convertro, C3Metrics, VisualIQ).

Question 2: How do I track impressions in Google Analytics?

This is a situation of trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Google Analytics is right for tracking 2 things: 1)What’s happening on your site or 2) What’s referring traffic to your site. It’s not designed to track where you’re serving ads to customers. 

Question 3: How do I manage channels that enable post view versus channels that don’t?

This is a tougher question. Some of the channels that you’re likely buying through (e.g. AdWords, Facebook) don’t accept 3rd party hosted creatives, rendering the ad server you just decided on somewhat useless (this is actually more of a case-by-case situation for Facebook). In some of these cases, you’ll be able to use impression tracking pixels as a proxy. In others, such as AdWords, impression tracking pixels aren’t an option. There are many answers here and most are case specific. Spend time thinking this one through.

Question 4: How do I determine how much credit to allocate to each impression?

This is also a difficult question. There are fractional attribution companies (see question 1) that are built to solve this question for you. They develop algorithms (some black box, others with some user controls) across all of the impressions that were served across all of your vendors. Alternatively, you can try to solve this question yourself through incrementality tests, geographical hold outs and PSA tests. If you go down the latter route, make sure your company has the resources to tackle this question.

Question 5: How does this affect how I allocate budgets?

This may be the most important question of them all. You’ve likely been running for a couple years in a post-click only world. All of a sudden, your set of historical marketing benchmarks no longer fully applies. You’re trying to compare historical results to new results that show a completely different world — existing vendors may no longer look as great, historically poorly performing channels may become awesome and existing ROAS goals might suddenly seem antiquated. This is the time when it’s critical to have your entire organization aligned with the change of attribution models. Otherwise, reversion to a click only world is a likely outcome.
What issues have you faced in moving away from a post click world? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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