What are Adwords Attribution Models and How to Use Them?

Google Ads Attribution Models Contextual advertising

The user can come to the site from various sources (search results, contextual advertising, social networks). Finding out the value of each traffic channel, understanding what contribution it makes to the final conversion, is the main goal of any online marketer.

Attribution models are a mechanism for distributing conversions between different traffic channels, which allows you to set the value of each site or assign the entire conversion to any channel.

Using this tool, you can get the most valuable information for business – what sources to build an advertising strategy on, what audience the target site generates, and much more.

Attention! An attribution model is an important tool for running any advertising campaign. Without its competent use, the efficiency will be at a rather mediocre level.

What are different attribution models used for?

The modern user uses many advertising channels before making a purchase. The same advertisement can be clicked on several times. It may take a week, a month, or more from the date of the first visit to the Internet resource before making a decision.

Google’s attribution models, using various action algorithms, help the marketer evaluate the importance of each traffic source, the effectiveness of an ad or a search query. This allows you to build your promotion strategy based on objective statistics.

What attribution models are available in Google Ads?

Attribution Model Types

Since a user can visit the site numerous times until he completes the purchase of a product or order of a service, while coming for different search queries from different sites, the marketer needs to evaluate the contribution of each of them to the overall conversion.

This impact can be tracked using different Google AdWords attribution models. There are such models:

Last click

This is the most common attribution model and is widely known to those who place online ads. When using this method, Google assigns the conversion to the last source that brought the user who made the order. If you compare advertising with big sports, you can say it differently: it doesn’t matter who the player received the transfer from, it’s important who opened the score.

The advantage of this tool is its ease of use and understanding. However, the last click can hide a whole layer of useful information – the entire previous path of a potential client from the first click to the order. Your strategy will not be complete until you can restore the entire chain of interaction between the client and the site.

Pay attention! Most AdWords advertisers are most familiar with this attribution model.

First Click

When using this attribution, priority is given to the first contact of the user with the resource and, accordingly, the first target request. In other words, whoever gave the first pass in the game makes the match.

Linear model

Unlike previous models, the linear one takes into account the entire chain of interactions and assigns the same rating to each of the channels. It is more complex than the previous ones, but allows you to get more accurate results. In sports terminology, all passes that led to a scoring result are taken into account.

According to the interaction period

This model is suitable for advertising companies that are based on a long sales cycle. Attribution takes into account the entire history of clicks made. But at the same time, the click that is closest in time to the conversion date acquires the highest value for the customer.

The decrease in the value of the target action occurs in this case every 7 days. That is, the system considers transitions made a week before the target action to be two times less important than those that happened directly on the day of the application, and those that occurred 14 days before – four times less important.

Based on position

In this case, the first and last clicks receive 40% of the total value, and the remaining 20% are distributed between the channels in the middle.


When using the Data Driven Attribution Model, the system takes into account the array of general information that Google Ads collects about users. Based on their algorithms, Google determines the likelihood of a conversion in each case.

Important! To connect a data-based attribution model, a sufficient amount of information must accumulate in the system. The advertising campaign must run for at least 30 days, the site must have at least 15,000 clicks from Google advertising, and there must be 600 or more conversions.

Last click from Google Ads

In this case, the conversion is assigned by the system to the last visit to the site that was made through Google AdWords ads. Other advertising channels are not taken into account at all.

With this model, you can identify the most effective queries that lead to conversions more often. However, if clicks from Google Ads to your site are only a small part of the total traffic, it is better not to use last-click attribution from Google Ads.

Last indirect click

This model is the main one in Google Analytics. It assigns full conversion value to the last click on any ad channel, unless it’s direct traffic.

It works well for new advertising campaigns where insufficient user data has yet been collected, for example, there were less than a hundred clicks to the site from advertising during the entire period of the ad. With such a small amount of data, other models will not give an objective picture.

Setting up the attribution model in Google Ads

To set up the attribution model in your Google AdWords advertising account, go to the “Tools and Settings” menu, find the “Conversions” subsection in the “Tracking” section:

Google Ads Manager Conversion Tracking

You can choose your own attribution model for each individual conversion. Go to the settings of the desired conversion and select the appropriate attribution model from the drop-down list:

Setting up an attribution model in Google AdWords

Main differences between attribution in Google AdWords and Analytics

Attribution differences between Google AdWords and Analytics

Conversions are counted differently in these services. Analytics specifically separates completed goals and E-Commerce transactions.

Let’s look at the main differences between the Google Analytics and AdWords attribution model:

  1. Default Model. Google Ads calculates the conversion based on the last visit to the site. In Analytics, everything works the same way, except for direct channels. For example, a visitor clicked on an ad. A few days later, I opened the site from the search results. Analytics will attribute this conversion to the Google / Organic source, while AdWords will attribute it to the campaign / ad group / target query that led to the order;
  2. By conversion date. AdWords counts the conversion on the date of the first click, while Analytics counts the conversion on the date of the purchase. For example, a customer clicked on an ad on May 11 and made a purchase on May 15. In Google Ads, this conversion will be dated May 11, and in Analytics – May 15;
  3. According to the degree of relevance of calculations. In AdWords, the update occurs every 3 hours, in Analytics it takes much longer – up to 9 hours;
  4. Number of conversions per session. In AdWords, you can only count unique conversions within a single session, or that’s all. This can be adjusted using special settings. Analytics only counts one goal per session, while all e-commerce transactions count;
  5. Block Visitor Cookies. Analytics in this case does not “see” the conversion, but Google Ads registers it;
  6. Phone calls. If ads use extensions with a phone number, Google AdWords may record calls of a certain duration as a conversion;
  7. Visits from different devices. In AdWords, touchpoints are recorded from all devices, in Analytics only from the last one (from which the target action was performed).

What to consider when choosing an attribution model?

An effective advertising strategy directly depends on the correctness of the chosen model. To choose the right attribution model in Google Ads, consider the following factors:

  • Determine how long it usually takes for your topic from the first visit to the site to making a purchase;
  • Fix the objectives of the advertising campaign;
  • Set at what stage of the sales funnel, a certain advertising strategy should be used.

For example, you own an online clothing store. The calculation of the decision-making time from the first click to the purchase is two to three weeks.

You’ve launched ads on the Search Network for broad match. If you evaluate the effectiveness of such a campaign by the last interaction, it will be fundamentally wrong, since such advertising works great at the top of the sales funnel (allows a potential client to get to know the brand). Conversions are usually made for other traffic (for example, for branded traffic).

Summing up

Attribution models are an effective sales engine in the right hands. It is able to show errors in the settings of advertising campaigns and help the marketer analyze the target audience he works with in order to optimize the use of various advertising tools and thereby increase the number of orders.

Сергей Шевченко
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