Internet Marketing Is Maturing: Attribution Modeling is the only way you can compete


(source:tmartin on Flickr.)

Here’s a frank question: Will you still have a viable online business in the next 3-5 years?

The internet business space isn’t getting easier. Your bigger competitors are getting into the game, and sinking bigger dollars in by looking at things like customer lifetime values and “branding value” (or just being wasteful).

According to research by Google, the average retail buyer on the internet visits over 10 different sources before buying. However, there is no standard in tracking revenue and sales back to the proper sources. So if you are buying media in multiple channels, you may often be double paying for a sale.

As an example, Google Adwords gives the credit to the last adwords click. So if someone clicks on an Adwords ad, and then clicks multiple links from multiple other networks or on an SEO link afterwards, Adwords will still credit the last paid Adwords click. However, those other networks will also take the credit for the sale.

Now, if you think that’s sneaky, consider that Google is one of the more honest vendors. Some other companies will by default include anyone who saw their ad (view-through conversion) without clicking on it. Often times, this can include people who would have converted anyways.

However, we aren’t trying to excoriate the industry for lack of standards. That won’t help you. You need to make sure you have a viable online business in the next 3-5 years.

So how do you make sure you are squeezing every dollar of revenue out of your ad budget? How do you maximize or hit your margin targets?

Let’s take a more a holistic view of your customers purchase journey. Let’s create a figurative journey for the customer of an internet retailer. Keep in mind, the same model can be used if you are doing lead generation. However, we’re going to focus on retail for a moment.

Let’s say you are selling women’s swimwear online. Jill sees one of her friends gush about her sexy one-piece she bought from She even posts a picture of herself in it on facebook. Jill thinks she’s absolutely got to check out those styles, she’s been thinking of buying a new swimsuit herself, but gets a bit distracted on other facebook comments. However, before she does that, Jill likes’s facebook page. creates a facebook ad targeting their facebook fans offering the latest summer fashions. Jill clicks on the ad and goes to and starts browsing styles. However, before she buys, she has to make sure that she’s really getting the best deal, and seeing all the latest styles.

She goes to Google, searches for sexy swimwear and clicks on a couple of retailers. She also finds a fashion forum and looks for reviews., being a savvy retailer, has multiple vendors with the latest “dynamic remarketing” (or whatever each vendor calls it) serving up the same or similar products to her in ads. She clicks on a couple of the more intriguing products she didn’t notice before.

She then goes back to facebook to chat. Another dynamic remarketing vendor targets her on facebook with dynamic ads. She clicks and finally buys $200 worth of swimwear because of a promotion sent to her. Our retailer is comfortable paying $40 for that sale.

From a holistic viewpoint, we are paying for every touchpoint Jill has with our brand. If we over-pay on the remarketing, for example, we won’t be able to bid as effectively on the generic “sexy swimwear” keyword. So even though the dynamic marketing looks like (and is) a goldmine for us retailers, we don’t want to over-value it, or we risk undervaluing other channels and losing potential sales.

To resolve this, we need to use attribution modeling. Attribution modeling is the process of attributing partial credit to each touch-point. The standard “model” is called “last click”, which is that the last click gets the credit for the whole sale. There are many ways of slicing the pie.

Previously, attribution modeling remained the domain of the 6 figure/year analytics tools like IBM Analytics, Webtrends etc. However, recently Google has released their version of their “attribution modeling” tool, which is free.

To learn how to use the Google Analytics Attribution Modeling tool, join National Positions and Tagman on our webinar on August 20th about attribution modeling. You will learn some basic attribution models, the power of Google analytics and some of the limitations, as well as your alternatives. Click here to sign up.


About National Positions: National Positions is an INC 500 internet marketing company. Our webinar with Tagman on attribution modeling will help retailers invest their marketing budget more effectively and drive more sales.

1 Comment

  1. Anand

    You did a hell of a job with this blog, and although I’m not looking for swimwear (though damn it I should..with this body lol) you perfectly described someone within the Web ecosystem moving in and out. Attribution is the key in digital marketing, and I’m happy you called it out so well. Nice work.