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The PPC Attribution Carnival:
Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This marketing infographic is part of KlientBoosts 25-part series. Subscribe to our blog and enjoy more creative posts like this one.

If you’ve ever been to a carnival or circus, then you know there are endless possibilities of amazement.
Things are odd, weird, delicious, and downright entertaining.
But what’s not entertaining is when you have a hard time figuring out what does what when it comes to your PPC attribution. Does your display advertising help search activity, or do your social ads stifle your retargeting goals?
Those are the questions we’re here to help answer with our partner Marketo. Together, we’re diving deeper into your PPC analytics so you can see your true performance, even when campaigns don’t seem to generate any conversions.


Different Attribution Models

When it comes to your PPC campaigns and Google Analytics, you currently have six different attribution models to choose from.
These attribution models help shift the conversion credit to different parts of your PPC customer journey. Because almost all attribution modeling is giving the conversion credit to the last click, you don’t know if other types of PPC campaigns assist others in the conversion process.
If you don’t figure that out, then you may pause campaigns, ad groups, and ad sets prematurely as you see they’re not converting for you.
Also, as you start testing these different PPC attribution models below, keep in mind that there’s not one model that’s perfect for all your traffic.
Your goal with these is to find correlations between campaigns.
More on these attribution models in the bottom section.

Unique Customer Journeys

Now that you know the different types of attribution models, the next step is to see which model allows you to be actionable.
Because without actionability, data is quite useless.
To see different attribution models, go to your Google Analytics account and click Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison Tool.
Once you’re there, you can start comparing different attribution models side by side, and see the breakdown across your different PPC traffic channels.

ppc attribution

Display has a lot of first touch points – image source

If the above screenshot looks like your Google Analytics account, then you can see that your display campaigns have a lot of conversions start there, but don’t end there necessarily.
So as for interpretation, that could mean that your display campaigns are doing great, even if they’re not driving last touch conversions.
As you slice and dice your data, you’ll find that with enough traffic volume, every keyword, ad group, and ad set can have unique PPC customer journeys.
It’s up to you to figure out which PPC attribution models are the most common across your entire set of traffic.

Proper URL Tagging

For your PPC attribution data to be properly collected, you need to make sure that all your channels are properly tagged.
This means using manual UTM parameters or something like automatic ValueTrack parameters.
For manual UTM parameters, you’ll want to be able to turn a regular link like this:
Into something like this:
Each part of this URL string can be understood as follows:

  • utm_source – Where the origin of the traffic is coming from. This is usually kept at the website level.
  • utm_medium – This is the parent channel of where the traffic is coming from – email, social, search, etc.
  • utm_campaign – This is a narrowing down of your actual campaign that you’re running and the naming convention you’re giving that campaign.

So that you don’t have to read an entire blog post within this blog post, I highly recommend you read our friends Effin Amazing’s guide to UTM parameters.

Cross Device Journeys

Just like your visitors jump across different channels before they convert, they do the same thing across their different devices too.
According to Google research, there are different paths that are easily seen across different countries.

New cross device attribution reports and benchmarks

Different devices for when people start and finish – image source

In addition to this, and if your visitors are able to be tracked across devices, then you can see additional device attribution reports inside your Google Ads account.
cross device attribution google adwords

Here’s what that report looks like – image source

With this info, you now have three different reports you can run:

  • Devices – See how often visitors use different devices when it comes to your Google Ads campaigns.
  • Assisting Devices – Improve your device bid adjustments by seeing which devices assist others.
  • Device Paths – See the top conversion paths for visitors who use two or more devices.


Your Attribution Options

There’s a good chance by now that you may be scratching your head. And I don’t blame you.
But now that you know what PPC attribution is, it’s time to see which attribution model gives you the most data to be actionable about.
Here’s a look at the most common ones you’ll find in your Google Analytics account:
Last Interaction – This is where the last click gets 100% of the credit for the conversion.
Last Non-Direct – all direct traffic is ignored, and 100% of the conversion credit goes to the channel, not the individual keyword or campaign. An example could be the email channel.
First Interaction – This is where the first click gets 100% of the credit for the conversion.
Linear Model – Each channel or click would get an equally distributed credit for the conversion. If there are four touch points, then each point would get 25% conversion credit.
Time Decay – This is where the touch points (channels and clicks) closest to the conversion get the most credit. If social and email received clicks a few hours before conversion, but display and search clicks happened a week ago, then social and email would get most of the credit.
Position-Based – In this model, 40% credit is assigned to each the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to interactions that happen in-between.

It’s Time To Be Actionable

Now that you know what PPC attribution is, the next step for you is to act on the data you have.
If you have a hard time seeing the correlations, then it could be that you don’t have high enough traffic or conversion volumes. That’s okay.
The best thing for that is to still keep your focus on the last click attribution piece.
What insights have you gained from your PPC attribution data? Does display fill the top of the funnel?

Klientboost Blog Author <br>Johnathan Dane

Johnathan Dane


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