What Is Marketing Attribution and How To Use It for Your Business

Employee at a bio grocery shop helping a customer
Employee at a bio grocery shop helping a customer

Marketing is an important component of building awareness and boosting your brand and business revenues. But there are so many available options for getting your message out there, both online and offline. It can be challenging to reach the right people and determine where you should spend your ad budget. Marketing attribution helps you make more strategic decisions.

Think of the last time you went into a retail store. A sales associate came up to help you find what you needed. Another offered to take your items to a dressing room. At the register, the cashier asked, “Did anyone help you out today?” They were looking to attribute your sale to a particular person. 

Marketing attribution is the same premise applied to the many channels you might be using to lead your customers to convert. With marketing attribution, you can better determine what is converting customers and driving sales. This article will explain marketing attribution in greater detail and its benefits. We’ll answer:

  • What is marketing attribution?
  • What are the advantages of marketing attribution?
  • How to measure marketing attribution?
  • How to decide which model is right for your business?
  • How to get started using attribution analytics?

What is marketing attribution?

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When thinking of a marketing attribution definition, it helps to know that marketing attribution depends on three key things:

  1. Touchpoint: The customer interaction with the marketing. This could be clicking a link on Instagram or viewing a video.
  2. Conversion: The action the customer takes. This does not have to be actually purchasing something. You might have a different call to action. Your small business startup may be looking to get more people to subscribe to its newsletter. Or simply enter their email on your website for more information
  3. Attribution credit: The value assigned to the touchpoint based on its role in the conversion.

As Marketing Evolution puts it, marketing attribution lets you evaluate “the marketing touchpoints a consumer encounters on their path to purchase.” This helps you “determine which channels and messages had the greatest impact on the decision to convert, or take the desired next step.” 

In the real-life retail example above, the cashier could ask the purchaser who helped them get to the point of sale. However, online, there’s no one standing there asking that question. Still, just as that retail outlet uses the information to determine commissions and identify its better salespeople, marketing attribution provides the data you need to decide which channels are working better for your business.

Since the average customer is using ten channels to communicate with your business, attribution gets complicated.

What are the advantages of marketing attribution?

Attribution models help your business understand how, when, and where a customer interacts with your brand messages. This has many advantages for marketers. They can:

  • Optimize campaigns that aren’t prompting the desired activity.
  • Customize the campaigns to specific individual customers to improve success.
  • Identify where ad spend is successful and reallocate funds accordingly.
  • Improve targeting to better reach the right customer at the right time.
  • Understand customer needs to further improve product development.

To get the best data out of marketing attribution efforts, you will need to analyze both offline and online data. Plus, you need to learn how to weigh the different aspects of the marketing campaign. Marketing attribution models help you assign value—more on that next.

How to measure marketing attribution?

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Effective attribution depends on your business—learning which messaging the customer was exposed to and in what order, determining which message had the most significant impact, and understanding external factors that may also play a role (e.g., existing brand perception or how weather conditions might impact purchase preferences).

There are several popular attribution marketing attribution models. This section will provide more detail into some of the different single-touch or multi-touch models: 

  • Single-Touch models: All attribution credit goes to just one source.
  • First-Touch: The first touchpoint the customer interacts with is considered the source of customer conversion.
  • Last-Touch: Conversely, the last touchpoint the customer interacts with is considered the source of customer conversion, no matter how many other touchpoints were exposed to the person.
  • Multi-Touch models: Factors in all touchpoints preceding a user’s conversion.
  • Linear:  The simplest of the multi-touch models. This one gives equal credit to each touchpoint the user interacts with. If the user sees a banner ad on Facebook, views a video, and is served up an email message, all three would be credited.
  • Time Decay: This gives the most credit to the touchpoint the user was most recently exposed to, assuming the one that occurred closest to the conversion had the most impact.
  • Full Path: A more expansive view, the full path model considers the same marketing touchpoints already mentioned but adds in the purchase. Thus, this model aims to evaluate the entire path to purchase.

There are more marketing attribution models, but those are some of the main ones. Find out more by reading Salesforce’s Everything You Wanted to Know About Marketing Attribution Models (but Were Afraid to Ask).

How to decide which model is right for your business?

The best attribution model is going to vary. Consider:

  • What are you looking to accomplish?
  • How long is your sales cycle?
  • What is your customer conversion strategy?
  • Is your marketing online or offline?
  • Are you trying to track first-time customers or lifetime customer value?

The problem is that there are so many options! As digital marketing guru Neil Patel puts it, “Some marketers will swear by one model, and others will swear by a different model. That’s because each model works well in its own right. And in different situations.”

In all likelihood, you’re going to need to use more than one marketing attribution model to truly understand the impact and better target and budget your efforts.

How to get started using attribution analytics?

High angle view of a businessman using laptop in a restaurant

This can all sound terribly complicated. The good news is that there are marketing attribution tools available. Many platforms help you automate the process of integrating attribution analytics. You provide information about your marketing efforts and, in return, get an analysis of which marketing campaigns are doing which work. Hubspot, Convertro, Bright Funnel are some of the attribution software options.

You can also use Google Analytics, which has released attribution in a beta feature to:

  • Accurately report conversion totals, de-duplicated across all digital channels.
  • See a consolidated, consistent view of all digital performance.
  • Build an understanding of your brand’s customer journey.

Its attribution feature provides reporting to compare models, view conversion paths (with conversion credit), and understand path length. 


Marketing attribution helps your business understand the different marketing channels users interact with before customer acquisition. Knowing not only where your traffic originates but also where the most valuable traffic comes from lets your business better understand its users and improve the return on investment in your marketing efforts.

Using one platform for legal services, website services, domains and email, business listings, finance tracking, and a point-of-sale system makes it easier and more affordable to run and promote your business. Try Business Maker

With the addition of analytics, like Google Analytics, you can get started with marketing attribution too. It’s easy to analyze your customer’s journey from your marketing campaigns when all your business functions are in one place! Yahoo Business Maker provides affordable support for your business, and you can manage everything from one easy-to-use dashboard.

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