Why Marketing Attribution is Failing

Every marketer craves the holy grail of attribution, but like anything new, potential pitfalls are waiting for you. Take a 3-minute look at these common mistakes and learn how to make your attribution project a success the first time.

First, we should point out that marketing attribution is booming. 79% of companies are now using some form of attribution, even if it’s just the simple first or last click modeling. Attribution is hugely important, and every marketer is hungry for the insights it provides.

But while getting started with attribution isn’t that difficult, getting trustworthy insights can be deceptively challenging.  In fact, 46% of marketers struggle to formulate actionable insights, often because data is scattered throughout various tools. But we learned that there are a few additional, more compelling reasons.

Don’t count on basic attribution “counting”

Many marketers start with what we call “basic attribution,” which counts the number of times various marketing touchpoints appear in conversion paths. Different attribution models use these counts to produce a “score” for each touchpoint.

The struggles that arise with “basic attribution counting” have caused disappointment and confusion mainly due to over-simplification of results and to numbers that simply don’t add up with other systems. This is particularly true for eCommerce companies who often see dramatic differences between attributed conversion counts and the number of actual orders they’ve received. We’ve seen a difference as high as 20% in some cases.

Simply focusing on attribution counts or scores is very dangerous, and we’ve highlighted three common mistakes that you can avoid to achieve great success.

Mistake #1: Making decisions based on attribution counts or scores.

One of our recent customers running an eCommerce site installed our attribution software to help them decide if Google or Facebook was a better source of customers for their product. After a quick run of the models, our client was tempted to declare Facebook the winner since basic attribution scores seemed to leave no room for confusion.

The analysis showed that Facebook advertising received 41% credit for product purchases and that Google received only 7% credit. The large difference was indisputable, and on the surface, it seemed like our job was done! Further analysis revealed that the company was allocating 83% of their budget to Facebook and only 17% to Google. But this basic attribution counting wasn’t showing the whole picture.

Once we completed the picture with cost and revenue data, the real answer began to appear. Even though the Cost per Acquisition (CPA) was about $71.58 for Facebook buyers and about $73.28 for Google, it turned out that typical order sizes from Google buyers were higher by about $4.00.  This results in a better Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) for Google advertising.  You can read the entire case study here.

Bottom line? Analyzing ROAS, while using the right attribution model, is better than just looking at raw data counts.  ROAS calculations remove the influence of channel reach and disproportionate budget allocation across different mediums.

Mistake #2: Counting the same conversion multiple times

All marketing attribution software can count conversions, but only some can make sure duplicates are avoided. It’s important to know that what you count is representing what you really think you are counting, especially when it comes to things like product purchases.

To count conversions, many attribution products rely on visits to a confirmation or success page. It may be one of the easiest ways to measure conversions, but it’s also notoriously unreliable. Miscounts are inevitable and frequent.

For example, one of our customers using Shopify found that when customers completed their purchases, they of course visited the confirmation page. But consumers love to hit the page reload button in their browsers, and guess what? Another conversion is counted. Then, when the consumer gets an email with their order details and a link to review their order status, guess which page they end up on?  That’s right… the same confirmation page again. And again, another conversion is counted. At the end of the quarter, your finance guy will be morose when his financial figures don’t match your attributed conversions.

The bottom line here is to make sure your attribution system is checking order IDs and eliminating the possibility of duplicates being counted. Confirmation pages are great, but it’s inaccurate to blindly count visits to these pages as conversions.

Mistake #3:  Using static phone numbers on your website.

For many businesses, the telephone still rings and is an important conversion point to attribute. But simply putting a phone number in the footer of your website or on the contact page will lead to phantom conversions with no attribution other than “direct visit” to your site.

One of our customers had exactly this problem. Information that a call had been made to the phone number on the website was sent to LeadsRx for conversion tracking, but that’s the only knowledge we had… nothing else. So we knew someone came to the website and made a call, but we had no way to connect the dots between the caller and their digital experience.

The bottom line is to use Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) technology from call forwarding vendors like CallRail and Call Source. With DNI, marketers can attribute the complete digital customer journey before the inbound phone call was made.  That’s because each caller sees a unique phone number on your website, and when they call this number, CallRail and Call Source can grab the caller’s IP address and pass this on to attribution systems like LeadsRx. Now, you’ll know which search engine activity, web page visits, or advertising lead up to the call.

Count on marketing attribution with these three steps

With this knowledge you can make huge improvements in the maturity of your marketing attribution program. Here’s a summary of what you need to know:

1.   Focus on Return on Ad Spend instead of simple attribution counts.

Find the biggest bang for your buck. Calculate Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) based on cost per acquisition and attributed revenue.

2.   Count conversions only once.

De-duplicate confirmation page visits. Make sure your attribution system tracks a unique order ID to avoid duplicate tracking.

3.   Use DNI technology for phone numbers.

Include inbound phone calls as a conversion point. Use Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) to link callers to online touchpoints.