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Data can teach you a lot about your sales, marketing and advertising performance. But, it’s up to you to find the patterns behind it. Easier said than done, huh?
Fortunately, your approach to reporting can ease the process. Attribution reports help marketers and advertisers find connections between data to see what actions truly make an impact. They’re definitely worth a shot if you haven’t tried using them for your business yet.
We consulted 20 marketers and advertisers about their experiences with attribution reports. You’ll learn the basics of attribution reports and the top 7 insights respondents you can get from them.
Let’s get started.
Attribution data captures every interaction a customer has with your brand from first interaction to conversion. All sorts of data points in sales, marketing, and advertising are fair game, including:
So, let’s say a customer takes these actions before purchasing your product:
This sequence shows that the customer clicked on your ad and liked what they saw on your landing page, so they followed your social media. Then, they click on a social media post that leads them to a product they decide to buy. The whole set of data here counts as attribution data.
An attribution report summarizes attribution data and tries to find the interactions that make the most impact on conversions. You can define the final action that counts as a conversion, such as a purchase or contact creation.
Here’s how InMoat’s James Vukasinovic explains attribution reports: “Attribution is the key to digital marketing and really any advertising. The old days were not so scientific – spend money, see an increase in sales, must have worked, right? In today’s day, we use attribution data to drive our decisions on how we spend capital in marketing to drive meaningful, repeatable, and scalable growth initiatives.”
Putting it all together, an attribution report examines attribution data to see which actions make the most impact so you can focus on them in your lead pipeline.
Attribution reports use attribution models to give each interaction in a dataset different amounts of importance. These models try to account for the fact that not every page view or click will contribute as much to the final interaction.
Some examples of attribution models include:
Attribution models can differ depending on the type of conversion you want to examine. For example, some reports that look at contact creation have a time-decay model that credits later interactions more than earlier ones.
You can create an attribution report in just about any format that makes sense to you. Forty-five percent of the experts we consulted prefer to keep theirs in a consolidated dashboard. The rest were about evenly split among written documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, with a slight preference for presentations.
You can monitor acquisition metrics in Google Analytics like traffic by source, sessions by social network, top paid keywords by sessions, sessions by organic traffic, bounce rate, and more, to quickly identify how people are finding your website, what your most profitable traffic sources are, and how successful specific marketing campaigns are in attracting website visitors.
Keep in mind though, the amount of channels, dimensions, and demographics you can sort by in GA4 is one of the easiest things you can overcomplicate.
To better understand how your website performs in terms of acquisition and conversion, we built this Google Analytics 4 dashboard template that contains all the essential metrics for understanding how successful you are at attracting visitors from different channels.
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Our survey covered multiple reasons to use an attribution report. The main purpose is to find which channels and marketing collateral lead to conversions, but these reports have plenty of additional benefits.
For example, as part of our survey, we asked respondents about the importance of data visualization in communicating attribution insights. Half of them consider it crucial, while more than a third think it’s very important.
We also prompted them to name the most valuable types of insights they get from attribution reports. There was an approximately even split among experts who use attribution reports for better engagement, strategy/performance, and investment management.
But, as you choose your attribution goals, model, and reporting methods, remember to scale your report to your business.
Experimentation and content marketing leader Alex Birkett recommends that small businesses keep their attribution reporting simple. “Attribution, for most companies, is like wearing a sleep tracking ring: fun to look at the data, but ultimately you learn obvious stuff. Unless you’re running massive scale, multi-channel campaigns in multiple regions, sophisticated attribution modeling techniques are probably overkill,” Birkett says.
Birkett continues, “In doing so, I typically learn that ‘lower intent’ channels like referrals and brand ads have a higher impact earlier in the funnel than last click attribution typically shows. But that’s obvious. I’d just stick to the simplest and most usable attribution reporting and take the lack of precision as a point of pride.”
In other words, attribution reporting is just one tool among the analysis options available to you. Scale it to your business and use it alongside additional reporting models that work for you.
The marketing, sales, and advertising experts we surveyed highlighted seven attribution report insights in their responses. They come from a wide range of industries, with most working in software as a service (SaaS), marketing agencies, and ecommerce.
Let’s learn more about these top attribution reporting insights:
Most companies use a multi-channel approach to marketing and advertising to reach a wider range of audiences. But, when you have more than one channel, it can get tricky to tell which one drives more leads or revenue. Attribution reports can help you evaluate your marketing and advertising channels at each point in the customer pipeline.
At FastPeopleSearch.io, Sally Stevens counts on attribution reporting to work toward more traffic and conversions. “Attribution reports are the most accurate of measurements when you are thinking about traffic or conversion. For websites, understanding where your traffic comes from and which sites drive your KPIs allows you to evaluate the areas to focus your efforts on,” Stevens explains.
“For instance, our attribution reports showed us that we were performing great on social media traffic, while we were performing a tad bit below expectations on the SEO front,” Stevens shares. “This informed our decisions to recalibrate our SEO targets.”
While Stevens mentions digital marketing-related examples, Mark Chen at BillSmart tells us how attribution reporting can help with digital ads.
“As a digital-first business, I need to understand which channels are driving revenue,” Chen begins. “This was particularly apparent when Facebook’s ad attribution changed dramatically because of Apple’s new privacy initiatives. Many of my entrepreneur peers were entirely lost because it seemed like their Facebook conversions fell down a cliff.”
“I was able to preserve and gain market share because I set URL tracking months ago so I realized conversions weren’t going down but just not being tracked. It’s thinking ahead and setting up structures like these that let you grow and scale your business comfortably,” Chen concludes.
A successful ad campaign requires ongoing adjustments — you can’t just “set it and forget it.” But, how do you make meaningful changes to your ads that follow customer behavior? Attribution reporting can help you find the answer.
Robin Brown of VIVIPINS uses attribution reporting to identify keywords, bids and clicks that drive conversions. “The most important insight I gained from attribution reporting is the fact that if you are running out of inventory, adding specific keywords or adding more bids might be the best strategy for getting visitors to click on your ads. It’s also important to understand how many people clicked on your advertisement once it’s clicked so you can better identify what methods tend to not convert well,” Brown says.
Ad attribution reports let you single out what’s working and what doesn’t so you can make smart decisions throughout your ad campaign — and therefore reduce ad spend.
What’s the best channel to reach your target audience? Which metrics should become your North Star metrics? When you only have so much time and resources to spend on marketing, it’s critical to answer questions like these.
Attribution reporting can help you identify the channels and metrics that matter so you can focus your marketing efforts accordingly.
“Attribution marketing helps us ensure that we’re spending the right amount of time on each of our marketing efforts,” Lauren Gast from Truck Driver Institute, Inc. confirms. “Since Truck Driver Institute has multiple schools in many different locations, attribution reporting allows us to compare the data between our marketing efforts and the conversion rates for each location. We’ve found that our reporting helps us direct the right amount of attention and effort to each location.”
Gast makes a great point about location. As you design your attribution reports, remember to keep different branches of your business and audiences in mind. Your results will vary depending on your audience segments.
Greg Birch of Store Space Self Storage adds, “The most valuable insight we gain from attribution reporting for our self-storage company is that we’re able to understand where our efforts need to be from a marketing standpoint. If we have a facility that is underperforming, we’re able to look at month-over-month and year-over-year data to determine where we’re lagging.”
“Are we getting fewer conversions from organic search? Do we need to spend more on paid ads or try different tactics? Is traffic consistent and, therefore, does the problem perhaps lie elsewhere? You can’t fully understand your metrics unless you have proper attribution,” Birch explains.
The marketing, sales and ad insights you get from attribution reporting can also help you make broader business decisions, such as pricing.
“Attribution reports have let us know how much to charge on our surety bonds,” says Dave Herman from EZ Surety Bonds. “We provide the peace of mind associated with contractual obligations, which costs us a significant amount of money if one party doesn’t follow through. So, through our attribution reports, we narrow down how much we need to charge for each surety bond to ensure that we’re covered if one side falls through.”
If you notice different results for separate products and can narrow the cause down to price, maybe it’s time to change your pricing strategy. Consider factoring attribution reports into your pricing decisions if you can make clear connections.
It’s easy to fall in the marketing trap of reaching out to as many people as possible, regardless of how interested they might be in your company. Effective marketing involves carefully identifying the target audience because you’ll draw in more people likely to buy.
But, how do you figure out where your best target audiences come from? Attribution reporting can help you track down the source.
“The most important insight I gained from attribution marketing is understanding the source of my audience. I can figure out the platforms where customers are coming from and focus on campaigning on those platforms,” says Harriet Chan of CocoFinder.
Chan shares an example: “For instance, most of our customers come from Linkedin and Twitter. As such, we focus our campaigns on the two platforms, ensuring that our customers always have fresh content.”
Attribution reporting also helps Laura Caveney at Ruler Analytics target the right audiences. “Attribution reporting, when done properly with an attribution tool, allows you to connect the dots between your website visitors, your leads, and your closed revenue. We were able to better target our marketing to reach a customer profile we knew was more likely to convert thanks to attribution providing us with that concrete evidence and insight,” Cavenay recounts.
Some businesses create a customer journey that they expect their customers to go through. But, that journey doesn’t always match the path that customers actually take. Since attribution reporting involves tracking each interaction in this journey, it can help you understand what’s actually going on.
FullCoverageAutoInsurances.com’s Melanie Musson discovered this kind of disconnect when performing attribution reporting. “We had developed a path we expected customers to take and we made that path as simple to follow as we could. Then, through attribution reporting, we realized a large number of customers were stopping at the same spot,” Musson tells us.
“As it turned out, we didn’t know everything like we thought we did,” Musson remarks. “We depend on attribution reports to know our customers’ journey so we can build the paths they need and not just what we think they need.”
At PeopleFinderFree, Eden Cheng uses data to inform the company’s customer journey. Data attribution helps fill gaps in that data for a clearer picture. “From attribution reporting, I have gained numerous insights, like when the customer journey has developed more intricate. I have understood that it has become more crucial than ever. One of the most general reasons my company has been striving to understand the value of attribution reports is their harrowing customer journey, which is damaged by data gaps,” Cheng says.
“Fortunately, the correct marketing attribution tools have showcased all the pain points that my business might be encountering,” Cheng continues. “So, adequate implementation and execution are the leading keys to taking good advantage of the superior amenities attribution provides. The insight I have acquired is that the data dragged from digital interactions make it hassle-free to delineate every customer’s journey.”
Most content marketing targets top-of-funnel customers — people just getting to know your company. So, it can become difficult to tell which pieces of content lead to results later in the pipeline. Attribution data tracks the full process, helping you build a conversion-driven content strategy.
“What content we put out into the world can affect our business. We are constantly looking for ways to get our content out there and help bring traffic to our site,” begins Milkwhale’s Andre Oentoro.
“Over the years, our efforts have resulted in helping our business thrive. Attribution reporting has helped us pinpoint how our content affects our business and helps us plan for future content as well,” Oentoro concludes.
As you examine your attribution data, take note of which pieces of content lead to actions that bring customers down the pipeline. Think email signups and social follows that nurture leads into customers. That content will help you create more content that leads to eventual conversion.
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