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Correctly Attributing The PPC Click To A Sale

By: Marta Turek

In Part I, we looked at two ways in which paid search may not be receiving its full credit - when lifetime customer value is not measured properly and when online sales tracking is not properly implemented in order to capture all PPC driven clicks.

In Part II, the focus becomes more complex because we dive into the dynamic elements that the advertiser needs to understand in order to correctly attribute the PPC click to a sale.

3. Your Cookie Window is Too Long or Too Short: Now this depends on your business model, the type of product that you sell, whether it is B2B or B2C, what the cost is etc etc. The important element to consider in allocating the appropriate cookie window is the length of your sales cycle - if you cookie window is too short, as in, it is set at 30 days but people take on average 50 days to make the purchase decision then not enough sales will be attributed to paid search and it will appear that your campaign is underperforming. On the other hand, if your cookie window is too long, you may then be attributing too much revenue to the PPC click, particularly if your selling cycle is short.

4. How is Multi-Channel Attribution Handled? Imagine someone who has never visited your website, clicks on a PPC driven keyword and lands on it. Then that person fulfils the desired conversion on the website. Thus, the keyword that was clicked on can be directly attributed to the conversion. That's the simple version.

Most frequently though, searchers visit your website multiple times, via multiple channels - both offline and online. If this is the case and somebody visited your website through three different channels on three separate occasions, making a purchase on the fourth visit, which of the channels and which of the clicks should receive the revenue attribution?

The Last Click - This way you are in a sense disregarding the first three clicks and their marketing channels, which means that they are not receiving some percentage of due credit. This has to date been the most common form of attribution within paid search, wherein, no matter what the interaction of the searcher was prior to the purchase / conversion, it is the keyword directly prior to action that is given 100% credit for the conversion.

The First Click - Vice versa to last click, this model turns things around and ultimately says that no matter what happened after the first click, it is that first interaction with the website that is ultimately the most important. So, 100% attribution is allocated to the first click within the conversion window.

Linear Allocation - This method credits each touchpoint that led to the final conversion. If four visits were required to drive the conversion, each one is given equal credit for the conversion. Even though this may not be fundamentally the case, such equal attribution, at least this method recognises each touchpoint rather than dismissing them like last and first click do.

Weighted Allocation - This is the most complex of the models because it is in itself dynamic and unique to each business. This model takes into account all your marketing touchpoints and weights each touchpoint according to a statistically developed model to attribute revenue for the sale.

Most businesses will either be doing no attribution modelling at all, or they will focus on the first three, given their relative mathematical simplicity. In a perfect world, we would all be using some variation of the weighted model.


About the Author:
Marta Turek has been involved in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) industry since 2007. She spent her first 2 years working at an SEM agency in Melbourne, Australia. It was in that time, working closely with clients that her passion developed for educating people and helping them gain a broader understanding of SEM. An advocate of SEO standards, she shares her perspective on her blog:
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