Without accurate attribution, your optimisation efforts are a waste of time

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Accurate attribution before optimisation: that is the key to digital marketing.

Before you can optimise anything you need to know exactly which campaigns are bringing in which sales - and attribution does exactly this. If you have Google Ads, Facebook ads, and offline leafleting all active, attribution shows you which sales are coming from which channel.

You can then see which of your platforms are losing money, which of your platforms are giving you the biggest margins, and which maybe are flatlining. You can shift budget accordingly and optimise each of those different campaigns with these numbers.

The best way I have explained this is my pirate analogy. Captain Pugwash and Captain Jack Sparrow are racing each other across the seas. They have identical ships and identical crews. They have roughly the same information, but Captain Pugwash has a map and that is the key to his success.

Pugwash gets from point A to B by optimising his sailing technique and map reading. Pugwash has a more accurate idea of what he is going to face so can plan his route accordingly. Jack doesn’t have a map, so doesn’t know what he’s going to face. He loses his crew to 'grog' and falling over board. He goes on some roundabout route, hitting some rocks and runs aground! Pugwash will always get there first because of his map.

Attribution is our map from click to sale. It allows us to see exactly which routes customers are taking, meaning our optimisation is more accurate and achieves better results.

The right track

You can't optimise accurately without seeing which sales, or which leads, come from the specific activity you're running. We've looked at different clients, we've looked at all the different ways in which their products and services work, the different customer paths, and we allocate spend accordingly. For one of our clients, a train company, we looked at the time it took for a customer to purchase a ticket after the first visit to the website. We analysed the number of interactions they had before sale, and the different paths they'd taken.

Using this data, we identified key paths that customers took and recognised where the similarities were. From this we deduced that the earlier clicks from Pay-Per-Click activity were the most influential to sales, so created an attribution model that weighted these clicks more than others. To test this theory, we duplicated several campaigns. We optimised the originals to our current methods and optimised the new ones to this new attribution model that we'd created.

We found that campaigns optimised with our custom attribution performed much better than those not using it, without any detriment to any other channels. Sales increased 16%, Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) increased 8%, conversion value increased 17% and Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) 7%. The improved results meant we were optimising more accurately, therefore, our custom attribution was more accurate and so a better model to use to optimise towards and increase sales and revenue. That's what we want to do with more clients, and it should be the standard for digital marketing.

Marketers should be looking at their products and services, and analysing how customers interact with the business, with the marketing material, with the buying journey and coming up with an attribution model that works for them.

If you have accurate attribution, you can optimise accurately, and your campaigns will achieve a better ROI without increasing costs.

Which is it's wise to always remember: accurate attribution before optimisation.

David Cooper is a PPC specialist at Fountain Partnership

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