Marketing Attribution: The Definitive Guide

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Marketers today rely on multi-channel strategies to carry out online and offline marketing campaigns. This approach allows modern marketers to customize every step of the customer journey. 

However, this also presents unique challenges when analyzing the campaign’s impact based on marketing return on investment (ROI). 

Have your campaigns been performing poorly and or seen a low ROI? This article aims to help ease marketing head noise within your business by introducing marketing attribution. 

Throughout this piece, I’ll outline how marketing attribution can streamline how you market in an accessible and digestible manner. 

Further, I’ll show you how you can adapt your business towards consumer wants and needs (and within your marketing budget) by illustrating all the associated risks and rewards of marketing attribution methods.

Key Takeaways

  • In a nutshell, marketing attribution provides valuable insights into which marketing strategies are the most effective at converting customers and increasing sales.
  • With the insights provided by marketing attribution, businesses are in a better place to craft more enlightened strategies.
  • There are six models of marketing attribution that look at different places of the customer journey before they make a sale or are converted to perform the desired action.
  • While marketing attribution provides valuable insights, there are concerns about data privacy, skewed results, and the fact that constant tracking can tax resources.

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What is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution definition

Marketing Attribution determines which marketing efforts and touch points contribute to customer actions or conversions, such as purchases and sign-ups. 

This method involves tracking the customer’s journey across several channels and interactions such as social media, email campaigns, and search ads, which leads to determining the impact of each touchpoint on the outcome. 

By attributing value to precise marketing activities, you can gain critical insights into your marketing strategy’s effectiveness — thus allowing you to distribute and allocate resources wisely and optimize your marketing efforts.

Why is marketing attribution important?

Marketing attribution is crucial in digital marketing as it allows you to accurately identify and measure the impact of diverse marketing channels and touch points. 

The more accurate measurements give companies more information about their customer journey and conversion goals.

This understanding lets you identify which marketing efforts contribute most effectively to your campaign objectives (such as conversions). 

You can optimize resource allocation, refine strategies, and make better-informed decisions.

Having a more data-driven approach ultimately boosts marketing effectiveness and maximizes ROI.

Related: How to Properly Track Your Ads

Marketing Attribution Models

Marketing attribution models are a diverse approach to assigning credit to different touch points along the consumer journey. 

These models give you valuable insights into the effectiveness of various interactions in driving conversions and shaping consumer behavior. 

Below are the six attribution models that can be used for your marketing campaigns:

First-touch attribution

First-touch attribution considers that the consumer chooses to convert after viewing the first advertisement encountered by a company. 

As such, it gives full attribution to the first touchpoint — regardless of any additional messaging seen afterward. 

The assigned value given to specific marketing activities (such as the initial ad viewed) allows you to gain notable insights to refine marketing strategies. 

This model becomes particularly useful when analyzing the impact of awareness-building efforts of a marketing campaign.

Last-touch attribution

Contrarily, last-touch attribution names full attribution credit to the last touchpoint the consumer interacted with before purchasing — without any account for prior engagements. 

An example of this could be the last place a buyer clicks pre-purchase on a product landing page on a business’s website.

That previous click will get the credit for the conversion and sale. When looking at last-touch attribution, it is essential to consider the user experience journey within the marketing funnel.

Multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution helps businesses understand how the total marketing touchpoints interact and work together. 

This attribution measures and assigns value to all the interactions a contact had up until a critical moment on the customer journey. 

These reports are precious as they allow you to identify precisely where marketing and sales efforts put in place led to that conversion.

This information helps you decide where to invest your time and resources accordingly.

Multi-channel attribution

Multi-channel attribution has similar characteristics to multi-touch attribution. 

However, multi-channel compares marketing channels and determines which paths to purchase a customer made along the journey led to a conversion. 

Modern marketing sees customers interact with companies with several touch-points; this method helps you determine which of your campaigns lead consumers to purchase. 

Marketers using this method can decide where to allocate the most considerable budget percentage based on successful consumer interactions.

Linear attribution

The linear attribution model gives equivalent conversion credit to each consumer interaction throughout the buyer journey, which ultimately helps get a comprehensive view of marketing performance.

For example, each touch point receives equal credit within a journey involving social media or email interactions that led to a purchase.

This model best fits journeys with numerous critical touch points, which is ideal for understanding the holistic impact of the campaign and equitably allocating resources.

Time decay attribution

The time decay attribution model can weigh each touchpoint differently on the consumer’s path to purchase. 

This model holds more weight to the touchpoints engaged closer to conversions than those involved early in the journey. 

Think of this as a customer journey where a user first engages through an organic social media post, later clicks on a paid ad, and finally completes a purchase after receiving an email. 

In this example, the time decay attribution model would assign increasing value to each touchpoint closer to purchase.

What is an attribution report?

A marketing attribution report is a document that illustrates how various marketing channels contribute to customer actions.

The information uses data and miscellaneous attribution models to credit specific touchpoints. 

This report helps businesses make more informed choices about marketing budget allocation, which campaigns to prioritize, and generally allows for better strategy optimization. 

This is possible by revealing which efforts are most effective in driving conversions and engagement.

How to Use Marketing Attribution Reports

You can use a marketing attribution report to show the importance of under-utilized channels, refocus on budgets and investment for critical strategies, or change strategies completely.

  1. Decide on the period you want to analyze: Depending on the business you monitor, you can report weekly or monthly. Selecting an appropriate analysis period is critical; consider seasonality and data impacting your business. Further, it is essential to tailor it to your sales cycle length. 
  2. Find the tools for collecting data: Secondly, choosing the tools that allow for quantitative data to be collected effectively is crucial. Consider analytics and dashboard software like HubSpot for a more comprehensive campaign performance indicator. 
  3. Review buyer journey and customer habits: You must understand the customer journey through the utilization of attribution reports. This information will allow you to decipher top-performing marketing channels and answer key marketing questions. The ability to identify content-generating leads and evaluate lead-generating channels is imperative to a successful report. 
  4. Pick the best marketing attribution model: Selecting the best attribution model tailored to your marketing goals is essential. Opt for multiple models based on this and analyze where required. Ideally, you’ll start with first-touch attribution for funnel growth and multi-touch models for more complicated strategies.  
  5. Analyze the attribution data: It is crucial to access the data with your chosen attribution models and focus on interactions, content, and sources for this data.  To create a more tailored report, switch between models to better understand these interactions and their impact on your business. 
      1. Review your attribution report: Reviewing the attribution report and simplifying the data presentation will allow you to visualize the data more clearly.  During this review process, the use of graphics and charts for stakeholders’ understanding is essential. Ensure you employ resources that create a clear presentation and illustrate only valuable data! 
      1. Make improvements based on insights: The last step is the implementation process, where you act on new insights by aligning your strategy with all the attribution results. 

      This process will see the research and training based on clear recommendations — ultimately leading to marketing experiments and strategy enhancements.

      Benefits of Marketing Attribution

      The direct benefit of marketing attribution is being able to clearly understand your business’s marketing tactics that drive the most sales and conversions. 

      Marketing attribution breaks this down into smaller, easier-to-digest components — allowing you to determine which channels are the best performers based on ROI.

      Increase your ROI

      Increasing ROI is every marketer’s goal, and you can maximize overall marketing ROI through attribution. 

      Optimized campaigns enable you to reach your target consumer with the right message and content at the perfect time. 

      As a result, this leads to improved conversion rates and increased ROI.

      Improved product development

      Multi-touch attribution doesn’t just cater to marketing; it has the ability to give you insights throughout all sections of the business. 

      The insights gathered can develop your product or service per your customer’s wants and needs.

      Better personalization

      Throughout the multi-touch attribution, you can better personalize campaigns and tailor them towards your potential consumers. 

      The insights gathered from marketing attribution tools will break down consumer preferences, allowing you to tailor your messaging towards this. 

      As a result, you’ll be able to create messaging that resonates best with your consumers on the channels they frequent the most at prime times.

      Optimized ad spend

      Through attribution, you’ll be able to understand which marketing activities are worth including in the budget! 

      You’ll be able to consider whether an ad campaign led consumers down the funnel and adjust accordingly — making sure all campaigns have the budget allocation they deserve.

      Improve your ad creatives

      Marketing attribution allows you to create much more targeted campaign content and creatives. 

      The attributions you have found will let you know more about potential customers’ preferences — which means you’ll be able to create more engaging content for your campaigns! 

      Through the creation of improved ad creatives, conversion rates and ROI will naturally improve.

      Drawbacks of Marketing Attribution

      There are notable limitations, mainly concerning data privacy concerns, regulation compliance, in-market bias, small data sixes, and the detailed tracking of multiple channels. 

      Data privacy and legal issues associated with marketing attribution arise from consumer data usage, necessitating compliance adherence.

      In-market bias can distort your results and can favor already pre-established channels. The unreliability of data can be seen through the limited data sets, which can create inaccuracy.

      Further, navigating multiple channels can develop complexity with tracking.

      However, despite these obstacles, you can counteract these drawbacks by strengthening data privacy, investing in robust tracking tools, and considering broader and more holistic approaches for attribution that acknowledge channel dynamics and consumer behavior!

      Marketing Attribution Best Practices

      Through the use of best practices, you can optimize your marketing strategy. 

      Firstly, through automation to streamline data collection and analysis, you’ll reduce manual efforts and minimize mistakes that come with manual collection. 

      Integrating marketing and sales channels with a holistic view of the customer journey leads to a more accurate attribution, which benefits your long-term marketing goals. 

      Using key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with your business’s marketing objectives will allow you to focus on crucial insights more effectively. 

      Additionally, monitoring leads and sales throughout your funnel will enable you to capture attribution insights at every stage of the journey.

      Best Marketing Attribution Tools

      Do you want to elevate your attribution efforts? Below I’ve outlined the top marketing attribution tools that can offer you comprehensive insights and optimization capabilities better to understand the impact of your marketing campaigns’ touch points:


      Hyros homepage

      Hyros is a more specialized, data-driven marketing attribution tool that uses artificial intelligence to track and attribute customer actions more in-depth. 

      Hyros is beneficial for those with more challenging consumer journeys. If you or your business needs advanced data-driven attribution to optimize marketing strategy, Hyros is the best option.


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

      Book your free demo
      We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.


      segmetrics homepage

      SegMetrics offers the most advanced analytics and reporting, mainly designed for digital marketers. 

      This tool focuses on measuring the usefulness of various marketing efforts and better understanding the impact of your customer’s multiple touchpoints along the journey. 

      This tool is the best if you’re looking to improve overall marketing strategy and ROI through in-depth insights and the performance of various campaigns and touch points!


      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
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      HubSpot homepage

      HubSpot is a software that offers powerful marketing analytics and a dashboard that measures how marketing campaigns perform across multiple channels. 

      HubSpot is a beneficial marketing tool for any sized business looking for an all-in-one marketing platform that tracks and analyzes performance across various channels.

      HubSpot Reporting

      Empower your team with analytics powerful enough for an analyst, but accessible enough for everyone. Get a free demo.

      Get a demo
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      Getting Started with Marketing Attribution

      Congratulations on completing this guide to getting started with marketing attribution! 

      I know venturing into multi-channel strategies and campaign analysis can be complicated, but I hope this article helps answer any reservations. 

      When you’re getting started, remember to simplify complex campaign analytics using marketing attribution and the tools outlined. 

      Once you get the hang of it, attribution will allow you to gain insights to create effective strategies for campaigns through the use of exploring various models. 

      Following the best practices like automated data collection, integrating channels, and aligning with marketing goals will best set you up to achieve your goals!


      How do you measure marketing attribution?

      Marketing attribution can be measured through tracking and analyzing customer interactions and touch-points across multiple channels to determine their impact on specific outcomes, such as conversions or purchases.

      How to properly report attribution?

      Correctly reporting attribution involves creating a document illustrating how various marketing channels contribute to customers’ actions. 

      Through analytics and attribution models, specific touch points from the consumer can be credited. From there, the report can inform you about marketing budget allocation and strategy.

      What is sales attribution to marketing?

      Sales attribution to marketing involves recognizing and crediting the marketing efforts and touch points that lead to sales and conversions. 

      As such, it allows you to understand the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and drive revenue. 


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

      Book your free demo
      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.