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How Basketball Explains Attribution Modeling

Is Your Website Helping Your Business?

Finding ways to increase conversion rates online is a top priority for many businesses. Whether it's driving new leads, selling products online, or having someone sign up for a newsletter, we're big fans of the marketing channels that generate the highest number of conversions.

When a customer completes an action that you've defined as valuable, these customer actions are called conversions. - Google AdWords Help

But what do you do with those channels that struggle to meet your conversion goals? Are they necessarily a bad thing? These questions can be better answered using a powerful tool called, "attribution modeling."

To better explain this concept, I'm using the help of a favorite pastime of mine... sports!

Image of a basketball hoop. Find out more about how basketball can help explain attribution modeling.


Attribution & Basketball

It all starts with a basketball game. After watching my favorite NBA team (Cleveland Cavaliers) lose on a last-second shot, I couldn’t help but compare the man responsible for the game winner (Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors) to a simple conversion on a website.

Bear with me here... Let's say that a conversion for the Toronto Raptors would be a victory vs. the Cavaliers. Not many would argue that Lowry’s shot was the nail in the coffin to this goal being accomplished. However, are we truly evaluating the big picture here if we only consider the final shot that won the game?

Conversion = Winning the basketball game

Let's think about the Raptors team as a company’s online marketing channels and Kyle Lowry’s final shot as the channel credited with the conversion. Now, how does the attribution model come into play?

Attribution Defined

Attribution modeling lets you analyze the value of your marketing channels (paid or unpaid) and assign credit to the channels that lead to (or eventually lead to) conversions.

Having this model in place allows you to see the impact that each channel has on the overall process of a conversion. It also provides a clear visual as to why people are choosing to complete a predefined goal and what steps were taken to get there. (Side note: make sure to create SMART goals for your website.)

So let's go back to our friend Kyle Lowry (a single marketing channel). Although he was vital in the team’s victory (the conversion), there were other teammates (multiple marketing channels) that were essential to Toronto’s success.

3 Types of Attribution

Just because a specific marketing channel is not converting leads well (or scoring baskets like Kyle Lowry), doesn’t mean it isn’t providing value. Just like how some basketball players provide support by rebounding, passing, good defense, etc., some channels add other benefits.

There are three main types of attributions used in multi-channel funnel reports, including:

  1. Last-Click Attribution (direct) gives 100 percent of the credit to the touchpoint leading to a conversion or sale
  2. First-Click Attribution gives 100 percent of the credit to the touchpoint responsible for the first interaction within the conversion path
  3. Linear Attribution provides equal amounts of credit to each channel utilized throughout the conversion path

How They Compare

In the past, Last-Click Attribution was the best measurement available. As brands rely more and more on multiple marketing channels, it's easy to see how using this model can take away from the value that other channels provide from a micro conversion perspective. You're not able to truly analyze the impact and role that each channel has on the overall goal. This could cause you to make some potentially costly decisions on where to invest (or not invest) further resources and money down the road.

Fortunately, attribution models like First-Click and Linear are leading companies to start putting more value on what channels are assisting in the initial conversations with customers. Through this process, they are able to see their overall marketing strategy in a completely different light.

For example, they are not concerned with a particular blog or banner ad that has low conversion rates (or in basketball terms, a person that doesn't score frequently). Instead, they see (using first-attribution) the impact they have on initiating first engagements with ideal prospects (teammates who assist in the scoring process).

Creating customized attribution models

Want to take your analysis to the next level? Look into creating custom attribution models with the help of Google's Model Comparison Tool. This allows you to choose rules tailored specifically for the needs and assumptions you look to experiment with. You can also share your custom attribution template in the Google Analytics solutions gallery.

If you want to learn more, check out this in-depth Beginners Guide to Attribution Modeling or get in touch with our digital marketing team.

Photo Credit: "Basketball" by Chilli Head is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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