What Is Lead Attribution?

Posted at Sep 26, 2019 4:24:00 PM by THAT Agency | Share

Modern branding is changing. No longer does a business rely on their customer making a purchase through a single click to the website. Branding is about forming communities around that brand. Customers are careful about becoming brand loyal. They'll read your content, check out reviews, follow you on social media, and often make dozens of visits to your site before making a purchase. This is what lead attribution seeks to measure and there is more than one marketing attribution model that tells this story.


Lead Attribution | Marketing Attribution Model | THAT Agency of West Palm Beach, Florida


A Journey to a Purchase

Lead attribution decides where credit should be given in a conversion path. Think of it this way:

  1. Martha does an online search. It hits on SEO in some of your content – an article on your website. She clicks through, reads the article, and browses around.

  2. She's not ready to make a purchase yet, but follows you on social media – perhaps on Facebook. This results in her seeing more content. Perhaps she skips the first few, but one article intrigues her. She clicks through and reads this.

  3. Martha has other priorities and doesn't think about it for a few days. When her mind wanders back to making a purchase, she's getting more serious about it. She looks up your business on a review site to see what other customers have to say. She clicks through to your website again.

  4. She has some time the next day and does another search. She's ready to make a purchase. This time, she's familiar with your brand and so simply searches for your brand name to call up the website. She clicks through and makes a purchase.

Now, this is only four steps. Some journeys take dozens of steps and go through multiple mediums – ordering catalogs, receiving email newsletters, making a phone call, watching an influencer video, or clicking through from a social media chat bot. You get the idea, however – today's customer has a need to become familiar and feel comfortable with a brand before making a purchase.

This is especially true for younger customers who know how to research and comparison shop quickly.

Customers who do feel comfortable are likely to become repeat customers – these can account for the vast majority of your business, as well as being much more likely to share your content and help send new customers your way. Repeat customers may have hundreds of visits to your site covering dozens of purchases. For now, let's stick to this example, though.

How do you assign lead attribution in this example? Which of those four steps deserves the credit for producing the sale? There are a few options.

Last Click

One popular marketing attribution model is Last Click. This measures the last touchpoint on the conversion path, the one closest to the purchase. While useful in many instances, does it really deserve 100% of the credit here?

What does Martha entering your brand in a search (step 4) when she's already decided to make a purchase tell you? That last search itself didn't contribute much to her purchasing decision. In this instance, Last Click might not give you the most useful information.

First Click

Perhaps you'd use a First Click marketing attribution model. This would assign 100% of the value to the very first interaction. This is a phenomenal model for assessing how people are learning about you.

That first click definitely got her interested and put your brand on her radar. Did it close the sale? Perhaps another model might work best.


This gives each of the four steps equal weight. Each interaction gets equal credit for the eventual purchase. This is ideal for a conversion path with only a few touchpoints. Yet what if she'd visited a dozen times – as many customers do before making a purchase? If there were a dozen interactions here, certainly not all the midpoints should count equally.

Time Decay

This gives the most credit to the last touchpoint before purchase. Each earlier touchpoint gets a little less credit, until the very first interaction gets the least. This is very useful for assessing the value of many visits that lead into a purchase.

Position Based

This gives 40% of the credit to the first click and 40% of the credit to the last click. The remaining 20% is divided among all the middle interactions. This can measure how someone learned of you and what the last interaction before the sale was, while still giving some value to all the points in the middle.

Other Models

There are as many other models as you can imagine. You can even customize weighting to find answer to very specific questions, but some very useful new ones include:

Data driven models that use algorithms that try to intelligently assign value.

W-shaped models that add an “opportunity creation” midpoint to the Position Based model. First, Last, and the Opportunity point all get 30%, while the remaining 10% is divided among the remaining middle interactions.

Full path can add more midpoints to the W-shaped model – it's a quality model for assessing the effectiveness of your remarketing.

What's the Best Model?

There are so many different marketing attribution models because each can be useful in specific circumstances. There is no “best model.” A website that invests in content creation and an SEO-based inbound marketing strategy will use a very different model than a website with less content that relies on lead generation.

A website that specializes in only a few high-end products and keeps communication open with especially valued customers will use a different model than one that expects customers to constantly re-visit and make purchases from dozens or hundreds of products.

The model that best suits a business depends on the business's marketing strategy, customer base, industry and products, size of business, regional appeal, marketing goals, and website design, among many other factors. That can make lead attribution difficult if you fail to consult with an experienced marketing agency.

Getting Started

This is usually the best way to get your foot in the door on attribution modeling. A marketing agency that specializes in lead attribution will have experience with all those factors, and so will be able to guide you toward the models that fit best and produce the most accurate and useful results. And while they can manage it for you, a marketing agency will also be able to teach you how to understand this tool and master it yourself over time.

How It All Fits into a Business

The most important part of lead attribution is how it helps you understand the ROI of each element of your marketing strategy. Attribution data can feed directly back into your marketing strategy, helping you to adjust, focus on strengths, and develop your way out of potential weaknesses.

This isn't data just to collect so you can adjust the budget bit by bit. It can inform and empower your entire sales structure. As you develop your strategy, you'll start using an advanced multi-touch attribution model with custom weights for different interactions.

You can segment different groups of customers that each get different marketing elements and compare which one produces the highest rate of sales. Perhaps this is different from which marketing elements produce the most valuable sales. Perhaps you'll see one element isn't producing either. As the data from an attribution model comes in, you can make adjustments and investments that get the absolute most ROI out of your marketing strategy.

Best of all, it figures out how the communities that form around your brand spend their money. What speaks to them and closes them on a sale? It allows you to make decisions not just on your marketing strategies that speak to unconnected and separate customers, but on your community strategies that speak to customers who are constantly connected. 

After all, those are the customers who will spend far more, share your marketing content, and create new customers on your behalf. This is the part that the right attribution model helps you understand best.


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