Google Ads Attribution Explained
  • September 4, 2021
  • PPC

Google Ads Attribution Explained

Google Ads Attribution Models Explained

The Google Ads attribution models have become an increasingly important part of digital marketers’ toolkit.



There are many ways to calculate what proportion of the sales is attributed to a particular campaign, but which one you use will depend on your goals and objectives for the business.

Understanding the differences between each model can help you reach your desired goal – whether it’s maximizing ROI or understanding where marketing budgets should be allocated in future campaigns.

Google has made significant strides in improving its attribution models since they were first introduced, making it easier than ever to understand how much revenue is generated from a given ad spend.

This blog post will give you an overview of six popular models: first click, last click, linear, time decay, position-based and data-driven.

What Are Google Ads Attribution Models?

Google Ads attribution models estimate how much revenue a particular click or campaign contributed to the total volume of conversions.

For example, let’s say that you’re an online fashion retailer and are considering running two PPC campaigns for your fall line.

You’ve tracked sales over the past few months and have seen significant increases in most months when the campaigns were running.

For the sake of this example, let’s say that a campaign was running during all months except for June and July.

In August, you had a total of 100 conversions, with 70 coming from the first campaign.

Using the last-click attribution model, you would attribute 70 conversions to the first campaign with the keyword that drove the user to purchase.

This is because that campaign was the last interaction a customer had with your business before converting. It also gives credit for impressions in August based on any clicks from visitors who clicked on an ad and later returned.

Why Are Attribution Models Important?

Google Ads attribution models are important because they provide a way to hold campaigns accountable for revenue driven. They show which sources are most effective and allow marketers to optimize their efforts toward those sources.

If you want to step up your game as a business owner, you need to know which campaigns convert and drive revenue.

You can use the attribution data to determine how much spend should be allocated toward specific sources of traffic so that you get as much return on your investment as possible.

How Do Google Ads Attribution Models Work?

Before we get too far, let’s talk about how attribution works.

They work by associating a certain percentage of total conversions with each campaign or ad group. It’s important to note that these percentages are not absolute numbers but rather a relative weighting of how much each campaign contributes to the total number of conversions.

Different Attribution Models Explained

Now that you know what attribution models are let’s look at how each one works.

The first click attribution model

This model is the simplest way to attribute conversions and assumes that the first click was the most important.

If a customer clicks on an ad, it’s the first interaction they’ve had with your business, and that click is heavily weighted.

You can use this attribution model to see how much your revenue was generated from each campaign by dividing the total conversions by the number of times a specific ad was clicked and the corresponding keyword.

A first-click attribution is a good place for new advertisers to start, as it gives them a way to get an idea of how many sales are driven by specific clicks.

Last click attribution model

This model considers the last clicked ad that brought a person to the website before converting.

So, if they first clicked on an ad that drove them into a conversion funnel, then an ad from another campaign, and finally completed a purchase on their second interaction with your business. This model would attribute the sale to the last click.

Linear attribution model

The linear model gives “credit for the conversion” equally to each interaction a customer has with the business after clicking an ad.

So, if they clicked three different ads from separate campaigns and then converted in three different ways – this model would attribute the revenue equally among all three clicks.

Time decay attribution model

Time Decay model looks at how recently a conversion was made and gives credit to the ad that was most recently clicked and converted.

The credit is given more heavily if the conversion was made close to the time of the click.

For example, if you have two different ads and one makes a sale, this ad will get all the credit for that sale.

Position based attribution model

The position-based model gives 40% credit for both the first and last interaction of a customer.

The remaining 20% of the credit is split between the ads /keywords that a customer interacts with and clicks on.

Data-driven attribution model

The name says it all. The data-driven model considers a customer’s entire path to conversion and focuses on value instead of several interactions.

It calculates which had led the user to take any action with the least cost to allocate your budget toward the best-performing ads and keywords.

What is The Best Attribution Model to Use?

Each attribution model has its strengths and weaknesses.

The first click is good for keeping things simple when you’re new to Google Ads but may not be the best way to assign value as your campaigns mature.

Last-click attribution makes much sense based on business models where people often research products before buying, but it might not work well for your business.

Linear attribution gives more value to the ads that drive people toward conversions, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which ad drove them there.

Data-driven attribution considers a customer’s entire path to conversion. It focuses on where you can get the greatest return from your spend but again is not as simple as just assigning everything to the last click.

So which attribution model should you use? Use a data-driven attribution model that focuses on return and assigns credit based on your spending is driving value. This will ensure that you are bidding most effectively across your campaigns.

Don’t forget you can always run ads through your google ads account and use google analytics to test out each model yourself and choose the one that you feel best fits your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a specific industry that would be better suited to one model over another?

A market with a longer sales cycle and higher ticket items would be better suited to a last-click or linear attribution model.

If you’re selling something that can be easily researched, such as a simple Product comparison, then the first click model could work well for you.

Is there a specific business size that would be better suited to one model over another?

The data-driven model makes the most sense for large businesses since they have the resources and data. If you’re a small business, though, then using last click or linear attribution models is equally valid.

What if I want to use a certain type of attribution but can’t figure out how to do it?

If you’ve tried all three models and still haven’t found the perfect fit for your business, then it’s time to get help. First, reach out to an expert on Google ads attribution models and find out which model works for you.

Last Thoughts

Attribution models are important for businesses to consider because they help make better decisions about where to put their marketing efforts.

When you’re trying to figure out which model best suits your needs, it can be helpful to know what each one does.

Understanding how all these advertising terms translate into business success should give marketers peace of mind when figuring out which methods are best suited for their campaigns.

It’s important to do your research and analyze the data before choosing a specific model to get the best results from your spending.

We hope that this article has helped you better understand Google ads attribution models and how they work.

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by albert somlith
About author
Albert Somlith

Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.