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Data-Driven Attribution: Definition, Benefits and More!



While many marketers are already familiar with data-driven attribution models, business owners and other C-suite members may not be. By the end of this post, you’ll understand what a data-driven attribution model is, why it’s beneficial, and how it (might) impact your reporting. 

So, let’s dive in!

First, what is an attribution model?

An attribution model tells Google Ads (or Analytics, or another reporting tool) what actions to give credit to for each conversion. First-click and last-click attribution are commonly used models. With first-click attribution, 100% of the conversion credit is given to the first click. With last-click attribution, 100% of the conversion credit is given to the last click. With first- and last-click attribution, additional touch points are dismissed as invaluable because they receive no credit for the conversion. 

Let’s look at an example

Billy Bob finds your site through a Google search for “bike repair near me” and clicks on your Google ad. A week later, he arrives by clicking your website link from your Facebook page. Later that day, he returns to your website again via a link in an email newsletter from you. Finally, Billy Bob returns for a final time by going directly to your website and scheduling a time to bring his bike in for repair.

With first-click attribution, the Google ad would get 100% of the credit for Billy Bob’s conversion.

With last-click attribution, the direct website visit would get 100% of the credit for Billy Bob’s conversion.

What is the data-driven attribution model?

The technical definition from Google: “Data-driven attribution gives credit for conversions based on how people engage with your various ads and decide to become your customers. It uses data from your account to determine which keywords, ads, and campaigns have the greatest impact on your business goals.”

The not-so-technical definition from Drew (that’s me!): The data-driven attribution model gives weighted credit to all touch points along the user’s journey to conversion based on past performance.

Using the example above regarding data-driven attribution, Google uses historical data and the user’s path to conversion to determine how to divide the credit.

In my opinion, this is the most accurate way to track the value of a touch point. 

Data-driven attribution model benefits

More data

With data-driven attribution, you gain more data on which specific keywords, ads, ad groups, etc., played the biggest role in a conversion. This allows PPC specialists to utilize more data to support the testing of specific ad copy and to help determine which keyword targeting works best. 

Better decision-making

If you’re using an automated bidding strategy on Google Ads (think: Maximize clicks, Maximize conversions, tCPA, etc.), data-driven attribution allows the bidding strategy to learn from the data and make better bidding decisions. 

In-sync tools

Also, GA4 is automatically set to use data-driven attribution by default, although it does allow for other attribution models. Using a data-driven attribution model in Google Ads and Google Analytics will allow for more in-sync reporting. What this means is that data in Google Ads and the Google Ads data in Google Analytics will match because they’re both using the same attribution model.

How data-driven attribution impacts reporting

Because first- and last-click attribution gives 100% of the conversion credit to the first or last click, you will start seeing fractions of conversions counted once you switch to a data-driven attribution model. This is because one ad may have contributed to 33% of the total conversion, resulting in 0.33 conversions total.

What you need to do

Google Ads is beginning to automatically update to data-driven attribution models, so you technically don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. But I’d recommend making the shift ahead of time and ensuring you make note of the date you made the change. This piece is important because your conversions will fluctuate (likely down) due to how the new model works compared to your previous one.

Work with an agency (like Webfor!)

Instead of trying to keep up with all of Google’s changes, I highly recommend working with a digital marketing agency full of Google Ad specialists. They’ll be up-to-date on all the technical aspects and can ensure your account is set up to succeed and accommodate any upcoming changes. 

Luckily we have a team of paid ad specialists ready to help manage your ad accounts and all the changes that come along with that. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or if you’d like to learn more about Webfor’s management of ad accounts.

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