If you start typing “last click attribution” into Google and you’ll notice something:
Analysts and marketers don’t think highly of last click attribution these days. The cognoscenti has deemed last click attribution to be dead, switching allegiance to multi-channel attribution instead. However, just like those who pronounced text messaging dead, email dead and social media dead, reports of last click attribution’s demise have been quite exaggerated.
When I asked more than two hundred small businesses what interested them about their Google Analytics data not a single one of them mentioned multi-channel attribution. Not one!
Rather than wonder if last click attribution is old news, one might instead ask if multi-channel attribution has a place in a small business’ analytics toolkit. I believe that both types of attribution have a role to play for small businesses.
What Are Last Click and Multi-channel Attribution?
Let’s describe a visitor experience to illustrate the difference between these two attribution models.
Jenny is looking at photos of her co-worker Sam’s vacation to Hawaii on Facebook when she sees an ad for your product and clicks on it. Jenny was intrigued but ultimately felt that time wasn’t going to waste itself and returned to envying Sam’s mai tai and mahi mahi. Right before heading back to Facebook, Jenny signed up for your newsletter.
Two days pass and Jenny receives an email newsletter from you. She follows a link in the email and still doesn’t purchase. But later that night, Jenny googles your company name, clicks on the search result and makes a purchase. Jenny lives happily ever after, probably.
Briefly, last click attribution means that when a visitor converts by completing a goal on your website, like purchasing a product or subscribing to your newsletter, the channel that brought the visitor gets all the credit. In our example with Jenny, that would be the organic search channel.
Multi-channel attribution, on the other hand would split the credit between the Social, Email and Organic Search channels. Often, conversions like this are called “assisted conversions.”
Who Uses Multi-channel Attribution?
Instead of asking who uses it, let’s first look at why. Multi-channel attribution allows a business to properly invest in areas that assist conversions, and not just the channel that converts the most.
In larger companies, multi-channel attribution matters a lot. The marketing department, the content writers and the social media team all need to prove their budgets are worthwhile and demonstrate their contributions to the success of the company.
In small businesses, there is a distinct lack of resources and usually all of the above is handled by one overworked person who is also handling seven other responsibilities (if they’re lucky). Small businesses need to focus on last click attribution because it’s consumable. When time and resources are miniscule, there is simply no room for the pan-dimensional sophistication of multi-channel attribution.
How Do Small Businesses Find Insights In Google Analytics?
They use last click attribution. Forward thinking small businesses who go beyond “vanity metrics” tend to focus on which channels drive the most conversions. Last click attribution is undeniably effective at highlighting which channels are working and those that are not.
This method allows for a small business to look at a channel that has significant volume but few conversions and gain an immediate insight: this channel needs optimization. Multi-channel attribution offers little in this scenario.
This same method also uncovers growth opportunities. Those channels with higher conversions and good traffic volume are ripe for growth. While multi-channel attribution doesn’t uncover the insight, it does have a role to play which we’ll see shortly.
There’s a third insight that small businesses can glean from last click attribution. The “do nothing” insight. One example I’ve seen is whereby a channel takes up a lot of time, but yields little traffic and also little benefit. I’d usually recommend the business stop investing in this channel.
One might be forgiven for thinking “Aha! Multi-channel attribution can show that this channel has an impact down the line.” There’s one issue there, this channel has low traffic. Thus it’s not contributing to down line channels either.
How Can Multi-channel Attribution Help Small Businesses?
When a channel is driving significant conversions and sits in the middle of the pack in terms of traffic volume, there is a splendid opportunity. By growing this channel, one is effectively adding new people to a process that is working well.
Multi-channel attribution can be quite valuable here by uncovering the bigger picture. Let’s look at some examples.
Allison looks at Google Analytics and notices that organic search is driving a lot of conversions. When Allison explores Google Analytics’ Top Conversion Paths, she notices that referral traffic often culminates in an organic search.
1. Uncover New Keywords With Multi-channel attribution:
In this example, Allison could put her energy toward growing organic search but, because she knows referral traffic drives high converting searches, she’ll use that knowledge to inform her content. By looking at the referring websites, Allison will discover new keywords for future content that appeals to her audience. She’ll also be able to better understand her audience, their intent and motivation.
2. Encourage More Assists:
Alternately, Allison could forgo focusing on organic search directly to go forth and build relationships with the referrers and cultivate new referring sites. Growing the earlier channel in the pathway to conversions can sometimes suit the business more, and even be easier.
Higher volume channels are harder to increase since they’re presumably already running at full steam. In this case multi-channel attribution might uncover assisting channels that warrant growth.
3. Continued Investment In Low Converting Channels:
In another scenario, a small business might consider winding down investment in a channel that has high volume, low conversions. Investing efforts elsewhere appears, at first, to be the smart decision. A quick look at the Multi-Channel Conversion Visualizer in Google Analytics can show you whether that channel is contributing to assists or if you can, indeed, move your efforts to other, more profitable channels.
In this is instance below, one can see that the social channel assists wonderfully with referral conversions and is worth the time spent on Twitter.
So, Do Small Businesses Need Multi-channel Attribution?
Last click attribution serves small businesses well. Far from being dead, last click attribution is here to stay. No, most small businesses don’t need multi-channel attribution, steeped in complexity the way enterprise companies use it. Nor do they need it as a budget justifier for marketing teams. They don’t need it, but it is quite useful and complimentary to last click attribution.