Over the years, as more and more marketers began shifting their efforts to online marketing, one of the most appealing benefits to marketers has been the ability to track marketing effectiveness.  Using tools like web analytics, cookies and conversion pixels, marketers have been able to track which marketing efforts are actually driving the traffic that converts on their websites.

While a great leap forward, marketers have continued to strive for deeper understanding.  You see, these initial tools tend to give all of the credit for the conversion to the last touchpoint – what drove the visitor to the site for the actual visit where they converted.

This is handy information to have, but what about other touchpoints with that user?  As marketing students we are taught about the marketing funnel – in its simplest iteration there is Awareness, Consideration and Conversion.  Aren’t marketing efforts that drive Awareness and Consideration visits to the site valuable as well? Shouldn’t these visits also get credit for a conversion?

Marketing Funnel

At its simplest, the marketing funnel includes stages of Awareness, Interest (Consideration) and Sale (Conversion)

You may ask why assigning credit for the conversion would matter. The danger of awarding all of the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint (the Conversion visit source) is that it will ultimately affect your marketing decisions.  Direct Marketers are trained to measure ROI for all marketing efforts – if conversion credit is going to last touchpoints exclusively we could mistakenly over-value those efforts while under-valuing others.  And this can lead to misappropriating marketing budgets across channels.

Here is an example of how this could play out:

  • A visitor comes to your site for the first time through a broad, unbranded match term (say, “mortgage”).  This term has driven Awareness of your site.  After checking out your site and a few others, this same visitor may return the next day by searching for a more specific brand term (say, “Bank of Brad).  While on the site, the visitor signs up to receive daily emails (in this example, I am sending out an automate Rate Alert email). 2 weeks later, this same visitor sees a rate he likes in the daily email, returns to the site and fills out a mortgage application.
  • We now have a conversion! And all the credit goes to our great email program! Right?
  • Wait!  This visitor actually came to the site 3 times before applying.
    1. Searched for a broad, unbranded term (drove Awareness of our brand)
    2. Searched for our brand (a visit made during the Consideration stage)
    3. Clicked through an email (a visit in which the visitor Converted)
  • If we give all of the credit for the conversion to the 3rd visit, and no credit goes to the 1st and 2nd visits, how might this affect the SEM program?  These visits would be seen as clicks that did not convert and would not be considered when making decisions on increasing bids – worse, these visits would actually be taken into consideration when deciding to lower bids (or stop bidding on particular terms).

This is just a quick example, but I think you get the drift.  Inherently, some marketing efforts are better at driving visits for different stages of the funnel.  If you focus only on the final stage (Conversion), you can mistakenly cut off sources of traffic for the top slices of the funnel.

Luckily, there are now tools out there that give marketers the ability to easily look at multi-channel attribution.  Google Analytics has now even made this available.  You can find this in GA under “Conversions “– check out both “Multi-Channel Funnels” and “Attribution”.

In an upcoming post I will talk through some of these reports as well as how to decide which Attribution Model is right for your business.

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