Multi-touch attribution can help marketers better track the effectiveness of their programs, show clear ROI and understand where further effort is required. But as the number of channels customers use to interact with a brand increased, and as sales cycles pushed into months rather than days, tracking when, where and what led to a conversion beyond first and last touch became a challenge. We asked practitioners to share some of their best practices when it comes to multi-touch attribution.

Improvements in Multi-Touch Attribution

“Companies should start with the tools they already have in place,” said Renee Spurlin, senior vice president of digital marketing and analytics at ARPR.

“Martech stacks have come a long way in terms of attribution. For example, Google Analytics has introduced cross-device tracking and a multi-channel funnel, and Facebook has followed suit with new attribution models that no longer assign value based on a single action.”

Spurlin recommended starting with the following Google Analytics tools:

  • Multi-channel funnels — By default, Google Analytics attributes conversions to the last touchpoint that brought a prospect to your site. This report expands that data for a broader look at the channels that influenced the conversion.
  • Cross-device — This report connects data from multiple website sessions and multiple devices to create a more cohesive view of visitor interactions.
  • Model comparison — This tool lets marketers see how different attribution models credit marketing efforts. It’s helpful in seeing how reports would look when using different algorithms to assign attribution.

Also look at how the marketing channels influence each other, Spurlin said. “When companies typically look at multi-channel measurement, they look at the channels that directly influence prospects and sales. And that’s certainly where brands should start. But once that reporting is in place, it’s also important to look at how channels influence each other. Is social media a more active influence of conversions in months when more blogs are posted? That data could show how blogs feed social, and that the two may not be as effective without each other.”

For example, for one client ARPR found that decreasing Google ad spend not only impacted leads coming directly from that channel, but also the leads coming from organic search, indicating a direct relationship between the two.

“If you have any conversions set up in your Google Analytics account (from an ecommerce transaction to a lead form fill), you'll be able to see multi-touch attribution for campaigns, channels and content in the Top Conversion Paths report,” added Michael Wiegand, director of analytics for Portent, Inc.

Google is also doing a much better job lately of being able to solve cross-device attribution issues that have long plagued digital marketers, according to Wiegand. Once a company has this data, it can experiment with factoring assisted conversions into paid CPA (cost per acquisition) and budget considerations. The company can also identify the kinds of upper-funnel and mid-funnel content that creates serious buyers later on and produce more of it.

Learning Opportunities

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Prepare for Longer Sales Cycles

“Multi-touch attribution is a must-have when working in any business — B2B or B2C — with over 30 day sales or conversion cycles,” said Laura Troyani, founder and principal of marketing agency PlanBeyond. “Most cookies-based conversion tracking approaches used in ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook expire after a month. If you’re using paid channels to bring in a prospective customer or lead, but those channels are first-touch channels, meaning they don’t immediately result in a conversion, the platforms won’t record the conversion because it happened outside of the 30-day window. You could be left thinking the channels are ineffective when in fact they are critical for initiating a sale.”

Organizations using a paid channel to bring in a customer or lead are often using that channel as a “first touch” channel, meaning they expect it to build awareness and interest, Troyanni explained. These are often not “last touch” channels, meaning they don’t result in the final conversion. If this final conversion happens outside of the one-month window, the cookie has already expired and the ad platform won’t give credit to the first touch, awareness-generating ad. An advertiser could be left thinking the channel is ineffective when in fact it was critical for initiating a sale.

Troyani recommends businesses in this situation use a JavaScript pixel on their websites that drop a longer-lived cookie on visitors’ browsers. This will allow a business to record all digital marketing touch points prior to a conversion in their CMS platform, giving them true visibility into all touch points, paid and unpaid, that impacted the conversion.

Related Article: How Google Analytics Cross Device Reports Improve Attribution and Sales Analysis

Confirmation of Data

Brent Stutzman, owner of Chicago-based digital marketing agency Brand Your Practice, shared three primary ways he uses multi-touch attribution:

  1. Show ROI — "I use CallRail to work with clients whose primary conversion events are phone calls or form submissions. You can bring up the report and show them their ROI of the PPC campaign."
  2. Check Campaign Performance — "I'd like to always trust Google and Facebook conversion reporting, but it's another way to fact-check Google and Facebook's attribution reporting."
  3. Pinpoint Where Conversions Happen — "This [attribution] data allows me to show my clients where on their website people are making phone calls or filling out lead forms."