Who gets the credit?

A case for why marketing attribution is getting harder.

Measuring your marketing is crucial to ensure you are focusing on the right marketing tactics and channels. One of the most important items of any marketing strategy is to better understand your marketing attribution.  If you understand what marketing channels are leading to better conversions and conversion rates, you can better plan your marketing efforts. 

While marketing attribution has never been perfect it is often misunderstood.  It’s also flawed in many marketing platforms credit themselves as being the marketing channel that led to the most conversions.  Many marketing tools are telling different stories when it comes to marketing attribution, making it harder to tell the story of what is truly working and not working. Let’s dive in and talk about all the ways that marketing attribution is getting harder to track.

Today’s buyer is influenced by many marketing channels

Prior to digital marketing, there were fewer types of marketing channels to be worried about making measuring efforts simpler.  Marketing attribution was often done by measuring an overall increase in business and associating it with any recent marketing activities. 

Today there is an ever-growing list of marketing channels that a business needs to choose from when it comes to marketing. The consumer has become very fragmented with their time being spent on many different platforms. 

With so many different ways to market, marketers have become obsessed with wanting to give 100% of the credit to one type of marketing or another in an effort to simplify marketing efforts. But all they really created were false narratives that were easier to understand and explain.  

The truth though is that today’s consumer interacts with many different forms of marketing before they make that final decision.  All marketing works together to bring a consumer down the path of purchase. 

Attempting to simplify marketing attribution to only one channel of marketing is going to cause a marketer to make bad decisions when it comes to the strategy of your marketing. 

Technology has changed

One of the most recent big technology shifts in marketing attribution happened in 2021 when Apple introduced app tracking transparency.  Apple essentially required all apps such as Facebook to ask permission in order to be able to track users’ behavior.  

Because Apple had at least 50% of phones in the market this meant that Apple gave back control to the end user on whether apps could track behavior from their apps back to websites.  Essentially tracking was lost and attribution of marketing starting from apps was lost. 

Facebook ads a major platform for marketing lost the ability to tell you if someone clicked from an ad to your website.  Marketing attribution for any app maker was overnight lost.  

As marketers, we lost the ability to showcase whether our ads were working or not working.  This became the first of many to come in and the marketing data started to not add up. 

Another way that technology changes have affected marketing attribution is marketing tech moving and being created too quickly.  Marketing attribution platforms such as Google Analytics, Hubspot and more cannot keep up with the pace at which new marketing technologies are being made.  For this reason, often many marketing analytic tools are incorrectly assigning credit to marketing platforms.  Sometimes they are unable to give credit at all and you will see a lot of credit being assigned to “direct”.  Direct is a channel of marketing in Google Analytics where they are unsure what the referral source is.  This is often caused by marketing platforms that are not keeping up with the pace at which tracking platforms are updating.  This really creates a mess in tracking the marketing attribution.

organic social media and marketing attribution

Zero click marketing has gotten more popular

There are many popular marketing tactics that are considered to be Zero-click marketing such as short-form videos, podcasts, and live broadcasts.  These types of marketing lend to the loss of marketing attribution with no direct click happening. For some marketers, this has caused them to shy away from these types of marketing due to the loss of attribution.  However, they are many ways to measure and understand the value of these types of marketing that it wouldn’t be wise to avoid it. Marketers need to look at metrics such as reach, engagement, listens, and downloads.  Similar to how marketing was tracked prior to digital marketing, there is still value and influence in buying decisions even if a click to a website is not tracked.  

Social Media Algorithm Changes

We are also seeing another shift in being able to track organic social media attribution outside of short-form video content becoming more popular.  Many social media platform algorithms have been updated in recent years to not favor content with links within the post. For this reason, marketers have adjusted the types of organic social media they are posting in order to get the most reach.  this leads to a loss of attribution with less and less traffic being attributed to organic social media.  

Google Analytics is upgrading to G4

We are now about to embark on yet another major shift with the shutting down of universal analytics and moving to Google’s latest G4 tracking.  

Google has paired down many data tracking that we once had and has simplified what is available.  With G4 Google has introduced attribution by machine learning leaning.  

This is a big shift from the previous method of tracking where attribution of marketing was given to the very last type of marketing that a consumer did or last click attribution.  

With the introduction of machine learning in who gets credit for your marketing efforts, we are now a little more blind to what is working and what is not. Google has given little information on how attribution will work.  

They have noted that they will use the following to attribute credit “time from conversion, device type, number of ad interactions, the order of ad exposure, and the type of creative assets”. But we are left to our imagination to know how much credit is given to each of these. 

Ad platforms are giving more credit than they deserve

Another way that marketing attribution gets lost is ad platforms take more credit than they deserve. Ad channels of course want to give you as much insight into how ads are affecting your overall marketing. In doing so though, often the channels are over-crediting themselves within their own platforms. This is why you need to use multiple sources of looking at your attribution besides just the platform itself.

Marketing attribution is still possible

First, you need to let go of the idea that you can 100% attribute all marketing efforts.  There are a lot of updates that have and will happen in the coming years that make it harder and harder.

Next, you need to use multiple platforms to tell the data story accurately,  each channel is going to have its own way of attributing data.  It’s important to recognize this and learn to read between the data points to make the best marketing decisions.  Does this make it harder, yes but it’s way more accurate than being naive to what is really happening. 

If you truly want to measure the value of a marketing strategy you need to look at each marketing channel with its own KPIs. Looking at each channel individually will help you better understand the value of how it contributes to the success of your marketing efforts.

There is no doubt that measuring attribution has changed a lot in the last couple of years. But the truth was there all along, all marketing works together.  

Rather Listen?

Ep # 79 – Why The Marketing Data Doesn’t Add Up Measurement vs Attribution

Listen to “Ep # 79 – Why The Marketing Data Doesn’t Add Up Measurement vs Attribution” on Spreaker.

Jennifer and Brenna dive deep into the debate between attribution and measurement, exploring why marketing data often fails to add up. Tune in as they explore the challenges marketers face in accurately attributing conversions and measuring the true impact of their campaigns across various channels and touchpoints.

Listen on Apple, Spotify, iHeart, Podcast Addict, and Google!

About the Author

Jennifer Denney

Jennifer Denney has been in digital marketing since 2006 and has seen a wealth of changing landscape in digital marketing. She has seen the rise and fall of many marketing tactics.  She is deeply rooted in understanding the metrics that showcase the value of certain types of digital marketing. She produces weekly live shows with Lorraine Ball, solocast with Elevated Marketing Chats, and conducts a weekly podcast called Elevated Marketing Dot Podcast.