What is Marketing Attribution?

December 18, 2020 Chris Baird

Marketing attribution is a way for specialists and analysts to learn which campaign tactics contribute to sales and conversions.

That’s the simple answer. To better understand what marketing attribution is, consider this example:

You’re the marketing manager for a tennis shoe company. The company wants to release a new designer shoe on their website, and it’s your job to coordinate the marketing push. You work with your marketing team to create webpages, blogs, banner ads, and posts on social media to get the word out and attract people to buy the new shoes. A week after the shoe is released, you see that tens of thousands of people bought the new shoes. 

From an overall vantage point, it looks like your marketing efforts were a success. But marketing attribution wants to know the fine details: What specific marketing tactics contributed to a conversion? The answer to this will inform you on how to proceed so you can optimize your marketing strategy.

To figure out which tactics are working, marketing attribution looks at customer touchpoints.

What Are Touchpoints?

Touchpoints are the interactions that customers have with your brand. They incite an action from the customer, such as seeing an ad and clicking on it. These moments will influence a customer’s journey and their perception of the brand. And the more touchpoints you can identify, the clearer the customer journey will be. Some common touchpoints include:

  • Social media posts & ads
  • Blog content
  • Email campaigns
  • Online ads
  • Product reviews
  • Product catalogs
  • E-commerce pages
  • Homepages

Marketers can analyze these touchpoints to attribute the success of their campaigns to the interactions that contribute to the most conversions. For example, maybe a lot of people went to buy your product after reading a blog post, but not a lot of people converted after interacting with your social media content. Identifying these touchpoints will help you attribute what is and isn’t working in your marketing strategy so you know what to focus on in the future.

Now that you can identify these crucial touchpoints, you need to know how to attribute each of them credit. And what does attribution mean in marketing? It’s the amount of credit a marketing tactic should get for making a conversion. You do this with a marketing attribution model.

What Are Different Marketing Attribution Models?

There are many different marketing attribution models, all of which help you to focus on a specific metric. Are you more interested in generating new leads? Or are you focused on making conversions? Whatever metric you focus on should inform the kind of attribution model you use. 

Attribution models come in two different types: single-touch and multi-touch.

Single-Touch Marketing Attribution

Single-touch marketing attribution assigns all of the credit for an action to a single touchpoint. That means that even if a customer interacts with dozens of your ads before converting, single-touch says only one of those ads deserves recognition.

Some common single-touch attribution models include:

  • First-touch. The first touchpoint a customer interacts with gets all the credit.

  • Last-touch. The last touchpoint a customer interacts with gets all the credit.

  • Last non-direct click. The last touchpoint that is not direct traffic, or searching the product into a search bar, gets all the credit.

  • Last marketing channel-touch. The last marketing channel, like email, Google Ads or a social media page, gets all the credit.


Single-touch attribution is easy to implement because it’s only tracking for a single touchpoint. It is also popularly used because many marketing channels, including Google Ads, have single-touch attribution built into their analytical functions. 


Most customer journeys are very complex, so to give all the credit to a single touchpoint may be overemphasizing it. It’s much more likely that continued exposure to marketing messages is what turns leads into customers, so the single-touch attribution may be a little archaic. 

Multi-Touch Marketing Attribution

Multi-touch attribution assumes that every touchpoint in a customer’s journey plays a role in driving conversions. Different models will distribute the credit according to what metric it focuses on:

  • Linear. Every touchpoint gets equal credit.
  • Time-decay. The closer the touchpoint is to a conversion, the more credit it receives.
  • Position-based (U-shaped). The first and last touchpoints get the most credit, while the rest is spread between the middle points.
  • Machine Learning/AI. These models use machine learning to analyze data from previous conversion journeys and appropriately attribute credit to the touchpoints that converted most historically.


Multi-touch attribution offers a more holistic look at the customer journey, showing how well certain touchpoints work in tandem. It also reveals what your average customer journey looks like, as certain marketing paths may be more utilized than others.


Even though multi-touch attribution gives credit to multiple touchpoints, there’s still reasonable doubt that the more heavily-credited touchpoints are as influential as the model suggests. Essentially, some of the middle touchpoints may deserve more credit than they receive.

Why You Should Use Marketing Attribution

Sure, it’s interesting to know which marketing tactics are working the best, but what are you supposed to do with that information? Taking the time to optimize the marketing tactics that are working well will keep you from wasting money on ineffective strategies.

The information you gather from attribution models can tell you how you should change your marketing approach. If everyone is reading your blog, you should make it as optimized and impressive as possible to draw in more conversions. And if no one is looking at your social media pages, those efforts can be put on the back burner.

Attribution With ObservePoint

So, what is digital marketing attribution? It’s a way to improve your marketing strategies and put money in the right places. ObservePoint offers an attribution solution that’s powered by data you can trust, helping you to make informed and data-driven decisions on all your marketing plans.

Want to know how your marketing efforts can improve? Contact ObservePoint today to learn how our marketing attribution software can help you.

About the Author

Chris Baird

As Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Baird is responsible for providing strategic marketing direction for ObservePoint products, solutions, and services, and for presenting the ObservePoint brand worldwide. He previously held various marketing positions at Mrs. Fields Brands, Omniture, and Adobe.

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