Using last click attribution to evaluate the success of a digital campaign is an antiquated system. Most online marketers acknowledge this but use the model nonetheless.
If you break down the reasons why, they usually include some form of the following:
– CMOs are not in the day-to-day nor may they be digitally savvy depending on from where in the ranks they ascended. If they came up through merchandising, for example, it may be hard for a new attribution model to advance given the intricacies of digital analytics.
– The search team surely doesn’t want the last click model to change since they are the ones reaping the benefit of booked revenue/sales/leads being generated by top-of-funnel channels but converting in search. Add to that potential bonuses and incentivizes, and change coming from this team is even less likely.
– Attribution technology is expensive. The top providers target enterprise clients who can afford the high monthly fees, but smaller, performance-based marketers can not.
– Changing online attribution models across the organization would take a Herculean change management effort affecting many people. Finding a champion willing to take it on and make it happen is possible but rare. Beyond the effort and expertise needed to enact it, there would be discourse, which is not attractive politically.
In lieu of having a leader get everyone on board, buy the platform, and make the change, there are 6 relatively simple ways to get the ball rolling. Some live within channels and some across them.
1) Pick the tech stack wisely. If there is even the slightest seed planted for an eventual attribution shift, it would be wise to ensure the campaign management platform can not only accommodate it, but also provide key insights along the way. With Doubleclick, it is possible to run multi-channel attribution reports in DCM (ad serving) and DS (SEM bid management). These reports are free with the platform and provide insight to the interplay between search and display.
2) Google Analytics provides clickpath analytics for visibility to multichannel touches across all online channels (provided they are all tracked in GA). The better the segmentation, the more insightful and actionable the output will be.
3) I often refer to my own personal favorite way of measuring display-to-search assists as poor man’s attribution. I was recently surprised when I heard the head of marketing at one of the largest packaged goods companies say it is his favorite method, too. This company can afford the sophisticated technologies and probably has them inhouse already. This method entails measuring the lift in search impressions after a display campaign has launched. To me (and my new friend!) this is a clear-cut, cause-and-effect type measurement that leaves little doubt how the one channel affected the other. You can also measure tv’s impact on search this way; although, there are some new, very interesting platforms that not only assess paid search lifts from tv but also plug right in to AdWords.
4) For non-brand-to-brand paid search attribution, Google’s search funnels provide a solid read on which keywords are driving a high volume of assists. Search marketers can group these keywords into unique campaigns, give them higher budgets, and loosen their ROI goals. It is rumored that Google is moving towards enabling automated bid management based on funnel data in the AdWords interface. We will watch out for that. Meanwhile, Marin, Kenshoo, and Doubleclick all have this feature already built in to their platforms.
5) For search marketers who are cognizant of the value non-brand keywords have on pushing impressions to trademark, one method is to bid manage with a different attribution model in the search platform but still report internally on last click. This is a more portfolio-based way of managing search, which most SEMs do already.
6) The final point related to paid search attribution is more of a sidebar to #5 above and deserves more attention that I am about to give it. For years I have advised clients — unsuccessfully — to shift some of their non-brand budget to advertising out of performance. However, with programmatic display getting more and more investment, it is time to push this point hard again. With non-brand keyword searches being purely intent-driven and with display advertisers trying to (not terribly successfully) identify purchase intent with programmatic targeting, there is no comparison in my opinion that non-brand searches deliver a higher-value prospect. With most search marketers leaving large-impression, broad search terms out of their keyword portfolios because they don’t convert, someone on the advertising side should be picking them up.
With these baby steps, as well as others, brands can move closer toward replacing the antiquated — but persistent — last-click tracking attribution method.