Glossary: Attribution

Glossary: Attribution


When Intentional first started in 2010, the digital climate was very different.

Back then, all of us only had one device (the desktop or laptop computer), and there was only one digital channel to advertise on: Adwords Search (even Display Network was in its infancy).


Married at Last Click

In such a climate, one very important assumption was made that has proven to become a curse that has affected every industry and every digital advertiser: that the only click that counts is the last.

When you only have one channel, running on one device, this underlying assumption is almost true – and so for almost the last decade, advertisers the world over have been used to reporting on Conversions and crediting the source of those conversions as wherever the last click before the conversion came from.

That’s like giving all the credit for your marriage to the last romantic thing you whispered to your wife before the big day – and dismissing all the months and years of relationship building beforehand.



These ‘Last Click’ Conversions are the default reporting you see in both Adwords and Google Analytics.

Because of this disparity, Conversions that arose from ‘Assist Clicks’ (Ad Clicks that contributed to, but were not the last click prior to Conversion) are dismissed. For example, its quite common for us in our research to click on ads, but when we are finally ready to purchase, we type in the domain name directly or use an organic link. In this example, it would appear advertising has had no effect on our purchase decision, when perhaps it played a very significant part. For this reason, factoring in non-last click conversions is extremely important so that we don’t forego lost revenue because we aren’t correctly recognising advertising’s role in driving revenue.



Further, not only are we now dealing with multiple channels (not just advertising channels, but also referral, organic, email, social etc), we are also dealing with multiple devices. The same user is now switching multiple times during the day between devices. How do we keep track of who is doing what at what time, so that we can accurately attribute conversions back to the right source?

We are at a point where humanly, this is impossible and is now just a best estimate. For this reason, we choose to use Data-Driven Attribution models which use real-time statistical analysis based on Shapley Modelling to recognise and give weighted credit for:

  • Last-Click and non Last-Click Conversions, and
  • Cross-Channel Conversions, and
  • Cross-Device Conversions


Intentional Tip

Where Data-Driven Attribution is not available (this requires a high volume of Conversion signals), we recommend at least switching from the default Last Click attribution model to Time Decay attribution – not perfect, but a better compromise than Last Click.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments