A brief guide to marketing data attribution models

It’s one thing to know how you’re doing against your metrics. But even if you’re knocking it out of the park, if you don’t know why you’re doing well, you won’t be able to replicate your success. That’s why, at Zapier, we use attribution to understand how customer actions result in certain business outcomes.

Attribution is a way for us to see how much each of our activities — across marketing, product, support, and more — is influencing the customer journey. It gives us a holistic view of how each touchpoint — from a blog post to an email to the product itself — contributes to user behavior.

To say attribution models are complex and nuanced would be an understatement: it took us years to build and execute a robust attribution model at Zapier.

But by understanding the more common attribution methods available to you, you can figure out how to use your data to help your company grow.

Types of attribution methods

I’m going to focus on three attribution methods here: first-touch, last-touch, and linear. There are plenty of others to choose from, but these are a great place to start.

First-touch attribution

First-touch attribution means that all the credit for a conversion (e.g., signup, purchase, whatever your business uses) goes to the first way the customer ever interacted with your brand. Did they first land on a blog post on your website? Did they click on a paid ad? Did they find your homepage from search?

Of course, this is a customer’s first trackable exposure to your brand. (If you find a way to automatically track that one time you told your uncle Carl about something, please let me know.)

In the image below, we’re looking at the journey of a customer who interacted with Zapier six times before signing up:

(1) They landed on a blog post, (2) then they visited the site directly by typing in the URL, (3) then they clicked on an ad, (4) then they found a landing page on our site from Google, (5) then they clicked on another ad, (6) and then they visited the site directly again.

It was during that last interaction (visiting the site directly) that they signed up.