What is Attribution Modeling? Definition, Types, & Tools

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If you’ve ever dabbled in the marketing aspect of your business, I’m sure you’ve encountered the term attribution modeling.

So, what’s it all about? As a tool, attribution modeling allows marketers to investigate all the different pathways that a customer can travel along in the process of making a purchase. 

Have you ever clicked on sponsored content, or checked out a store’s official site? These are things that attribution modeling cares about!

It’s simply about figuring out the roles that different marketing strategies play in bringing in sales.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions about attribution modeling. Don’t worry – in this article, we’ll talk about some of the key ideas surrounding this tool!

You’ll learn:

  • What attribution modeling is, and why it’s important
  • Different types, software, and tools for attribution modeling
  • An example to help you understand it better.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • Digital marketers love to use attribution modeling as it provides a wealth of insights about which marketing campaigns generate the most sales
  • Different types of attribution modeling look at different segments of the customer journey, as well as identify which touchpoints are the most important
  • There are loads of different tools and services online that offer attribution modeling, so it’s important to find the right fit for your business.

SegMetrics connects to your existing tools and services to instantly connect your historical and incoming data, following your leads through every step of their journey.

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What is Attribution Modeling?

attribution modeling definition

Put simply, attribution modeling is simply about assigning credit to a specific marketing strategy (such as channels and touchpoints) in the execution of a sale (or, more broadly, a conversion).

With attribution modeling, digital marketers analyze their marketing campaigns and figure out what works and what doesn’t!

Believe it or not, the development of this valuable technology didn’t happen overnight. 

Numerous iterations of modeling software came before it, and most of them were unwieldy and slow.

They also were only able to deduce the main factors contributing to a sale weeks after it was executed.

That aside, previous models such as MMMs (Marketing Mix Models) were unable to grasp the broader context in which sales took place. 

They didn’t consider the effects of brand equity and the finer tweaks that could be made when targeting within broader channels.

You know – all the important details! The types of attribution modeling software we have today have come leaps and bounds since the birth of the concept, and are now invaluable to the success of modern business!

Why is attribution modeling so important to marketers?

Being aware of the role different channels play in marketing campaigns allows digital marketers to allocate resources so that they can prioritize what works and what doesn’t.

And the best thing is that this can be done in real-time! The information that attribution modeling provides can save businesses serious amounts of time and money.

Related: Marketing Attribution: The Definitive Guide

Types of Attribution Modeling

I’ve encountered multiple different types of attribution modeling in my time. While they will all inform you of the components of a marketing campaign that influence conversion, each type puts a different weight on different stages of the process.

Check out the most common types below!

Multi-Touch Attribution Modeling

The most comprehensive attribution model, multi-touch attribution modeling acknowledges every aspect of your campaign that a buyer interacts with on their way to finalizing a purchase

This type of attribution modeling offers a summary of the most influential channels and touchpoints.

Cross-Channel Attribution Modeling

Cross-channel attribution modeling is a term often synonymous with multi-touch attribution modeling, but it differs slightly in one key aspect

While the multi-touch model deals with all the touchpoints within each channel, cross-channel models deal only with the channels themselves.

Linear Attribution Modeling

When a conversion (sale) is made, a linear attribution model equally divides credit to each touchpoint that the customer hit in the lead-up to the purchase.

First-Touch Attribution Modeling

This model attributes all the credit to the first touchpoint hit in the conversion.

Last-Touch Attribution Modeling

The opposite of the first-touch model, the last-touch attribution model attributes all credit to the last touchpoint hit in a conversion.

Time-Decay Attribution Modeling

This model gives credit to all the touchpoints hit on the way to a conversion. 

The key feature, however, is the fact that it gives higher credit to the touchpoints that are further down the channel that the customer progresses on.

U-Shaped Attribution Modeling

U-shaped attribution modeling gives equal credit to the first and last touch points leading to a conversion.

W-Shaped Attribution Modeling

Similar to U-shaped attribution modeling, W-shaped attribution modeling credits the first, last, and middle touchpoints as the most influential. 

Then, the rest of the credit is distributed equally between the remaining touchpoints in the channel.

Attribution Modeling Examples

At this point, you might be thinking, “Hold on – back up a little, and give me a real-world example of what this all means!” 

Gladly. Let’s say your company is running marketing campaigns simultaneously on multiple platforms, alongside Google and email marketing. 

A person first clicks on your page via a Facebook ad. Then, a couple of days later, they return to your page through an ad on Google and add an item to their cart, but they don’t purchase it. 

The following week, they receive an email from you, encouraging them to click back to your website and complete the purchase.

In this situation, different types of attribution modeling will accredit different steps with the responsibility for the sale. For example:

  • Last-touch attribution modeling will assign the email with 100% of the credit.
  • U-shaped attribution modeling will assign equal credit to the Google ad and the last email.
  • Time-decay modeling will assign the credit in reverse chronological order leading up to the sale. 

Using different attribution models, you can see which strategies worked the best for conversion. 

For example, if different models pick up on the last email as the most effective indicator of customers making a purchase, it’s a good idea to figure out both why and how you can make it even better.

Attribution Modeling Software & Tools

Now that we’ve discussed the main types of Attribution modeling, I’ll give you the low-down on some of the leading attribution modeling software currently on the market!


CallRail homepage

CallRail is a call-tracking software primarily focused on analyzing marketing channels that result in customer interaction via phone. 

These interactions (or leads) are integrated into return on investment (ROI) calculations to deduce valuable touchpoints and channels within wider marketing campaigns.


Tracking and analytics for phone calls and web forms. Optimize your marketing and increase ROI on your PPC, SEO, and offline ad campaigns.

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Hyros homepage

Hyros is a software that tracks all the info vital to a successful marketing campaign, such as ROI, calls, clicks, and conversions. 

This tool uses sophisticated models to utilize every single bit of data, but the downside is that it has premium pricing.


HYROS is a revolutionary tracking and attribution system that combines print tracking+ AI.

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segmetrics homepage

Aside from being similar to Hyros in a wide variety of services it offers, SegMetrics also features lifetime value tracking based on customers’ payment details and funnel optimization.


SegMetrics connects to your existing tools and services to instantly connect your historical and incoming data, following your leads through every step of their journey.

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Triple Whale

Triple Whale homepage

Also similar to Hyros but with a cheaper price tag, Triple Whale offers incredible ad tracking to brands operating on Shopify! 

It can also be integrated with multiple social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Pinterest, ensuring cross-platform checking.

Triple Whale

Triple Whale lets you easily manage and automate analytics, attribution, merchandising, forecasting and more—in the palm of your hand.

Book a demo
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You’ve reached the end of the article – congratulations! I hope you found this information helpful to use alongside real-world applications. 

I’m sure you already know that continuous learning and practice are very important when mastering any subject, and digital marketing is no exception!

So, go ahead and embrace your curiosity. As long as you stay open to learning, you may just find even more effective ways of optimizing your marketing strategies!


Why use attribution models?

As we’ve discussed, attribution modeling allows businesses to track marketing campaigns and see which ones are most effective for conversions. 

Armed with this information, you can weed out poor marketing strategies and experiment with different plans that play to your strengths!

What is attribution modeling machine learning?

Like most other forms of technology, attribution modeling functions even better when it has more data. 

That’s where machine learning comes in — it helps to train the software to identify patterns in customer behavior and sales, making it a lot more effective overall.

What is the difference between marketing mix modeling (MMM) and attribution modeling?

One of the biggest differences between MMM and attribution modeling is that MMMs focus on the full picture and the huge trends that can influence customer behavior. 

That’s very different from attribution modeling, which takes a closer look at the types of strategies that work best for converting customers.

Related reading:


SegMetrics connects to your existing tools and services to instantly connect your historical and incoming data, following your leads through every step of their journey.

14-day free trial
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Donny is the founder of SMB Guide. He is a seasoned small business owner and entrepreneur, with over 17+ years of experience growing and building companies. He is a well traveled and multi-faceted individual with several successful six figure business exits.