Marketing Attribution: What It Is and Best Practices

What Is Marketing Attribution?

Marketing attribution is the process of determining which marketing actions help drive leads or sales. It considers all the customer touchpoints between learning about a brand and converting to a customer.

The Importance of Marketing Attribution in Digital Marketing

Marketing attribution allows businesses to:

  • Identify the best-performing marketing channels: Find out which marketing channels drive the most customers to your business and which ones are underperforming.
  • Understand the customer journey better: Learn more about all the different touchpoints involved in acquiring a new customer.
  • Improve return on investment: Avoid wasting your marketing budget on underperforming channels and focus on top performers.
  • Get stakeholder buy-in: Use marketing attribution data to prove the effectiveness of specific marketing channels and secure increased investment in the most effective channels.

Types of Marketing Attribution Models

There are different ways of attributing sales to specific marketing channels, collectively referred to as attribution models. These are divided into single-touch and multi-touch models.

Single-Touch Attribution Models

Single-touch attribution models credit all the sales to one specific touchpoint or channel, typically the first or last one.

First-Touch Attribution Model

The first-touch attribution model gives all the credit for a sale to the first touchpoint the customer had with your brand. Although easy to implement, it often overlooks the influence of subsequent touchpoints.

Last-Touch Attribution Model

The last-touch attribution model assigns all the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint the customer had with your brand before making a purchase. Like the first-touch model, it is simple but can lead to misjudgments about channel effectiveness.

Multi-Touch Attribution Models

Multi-touch attribution models credit all touchpoints or channels that contributed to a sale. Here are some popular multi-touch models:

Linear Attribution Model

Linear attribution gives equal credit to all touchpoints in the customer journey. It provides a complete picture but can be complex to implement and sometimes unrealistic.

Time Decay Attribution Model

Time decay attribution assigns more credit to later touchpoints, assuming they have a greater influence on the purchase decision. It can undervalue top-of-the-funnel marketing efforts.

U-Shaped (Position-Based) Attribution Model

The U-shaped model credits 40% to the first and last touchpoints each and 20% to all the remaining touchpoints. It assumes that the first and last touchpoints are the most impactful.

W-Shaped Attribution Model

The W-shaped model assigns 30% credit each to the first, mid-funnel, and last touchpoints, with the remaining 10% spread across the other touchpoints.

Custom Attribution Models

Your business might require a custom attribution model for more control over the weighting of each touchpoint, though it may be more difficult to implement and track.

How to Pick a Marketing Attribution Model

Selecting the right marketing attribution model ensures accurate data for effective marketing budget allocation. Consider the following when choosing an attribution model:

Your Goal

Determine what you are trying to measure—whether you want to find out which marketing channel brings in the most leads or the most revenue.

Sales Cycle Length

The complexity and length of your sales cycle will influence the appropriate attribution model. B2B businesses might benefit from the linear model, while B2C businesses with shorter cycles might find first-touch or last-touch models more suitable.

Customer Journey

Analyze the average number of touchpoints and their distribution. Linear attribution may be appropriate for complex journeys, while U-shaped or W-shaped models might be better for shorter, more straightforward journeys.

How to Implement Marketing Attribution

Once you’ve chosen an attribution model, follow these steps to implement marketing attribution effectively:

Choose the Right Marketing Attribution Tool

Look for tools that offer ease of use, integrate with your existing tech stack, and provide reliable customer support.

Integrate Marketing Attribution into Your Wider Strategy

Align attribution with your business goals, train your team on attribution concepts, and use data to optimize your strategy.

Analyze Your Data & Optimize Your Strategy

Regularly review marketing attribution data to extract insights and improve your marketing strategy. Use reports to understand conversion paths, the effectiveness of channels over time, and customer responses to marketing activities.

Optimize Your Campaigns Based on Attribution Data

Use marketing attribution data to:

  • Reallocate Marketing Budget: Invest more in top-performing channels.
  • Adjust Targeting: Focus on high-converting customer segments.
  • Use Remarketing and Retargeting: Enhance the effectiveness of marketing channels by targeting past customers or previous site visitors.

Top Marketing Attribution Tools

Here are some marketing attribution tools to help you better allocate your budget and convert more leads into customers:

1. Organic Traffic Insights

This tool from Semrush helps you understand which keywords drive organic traffic to your website by combining data from Semrush, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.

2. supports various single-touch and multi-touch attribution models and integrates with popular marketing data sources, helping businesses measure ROI across all channels.

3. Dreamdata

Dreamdata, aimed at B2B marketing teams, allows for the analysis of the entire customer journey and the determination of marketing ROI by connecting data to business outcomes.

4. Woopra

Woopra tracks and analyzes the customer journey, offering customizable reports and integrating with over 50 popular marketing tools and ad platforms.

5. Ruler Analytics

Ruler Analytics tracks the customer journey across all touchpoints and supports different attribution models, offering insights for revenue activities and offline touchpoints.


Implementing an effective marketing attribution process is crucial for maximizing the return on your marketing investment. By using the best practices and tools outlined above, you can make data-driven decisions that drive real results and optimize your marketing strategy for better performance