Marketing Attribution

the complete guide



It will come as no surprise to someone working in marketing that marketing measurement and attribution are key components of any campaign. Identifying where a lead really comes from, allows a marketer to adjust course based on the channels that are bringing in the best results. What many marketing professionals might not realize, is that most attribution services are only able to match 30% of marketing activity to an audience. That means that 70% of your marketing activity can’t be measured or tracked. This could result in some major misallocation of resources.


What is Marketing Attribution?

Different types of attribution

Marketing Attribution is a term used to verify that the marketing investments made by brands and their agency of record are reaching the right audience at the right time. It also incorporates a methodology for determining which marketing tactics are working toward the sale of a product or solution and which tactics are less effective. With this knowledge, the brand can allocate spend to improve return on their marketing investments.

Definition: Deterministic matching

In marketing, there are many different methods used for identifying a target audience. In online marketing, matching a prospect list of people and addresses to their digital identifiers is a common practice. When a marketer combines multiple channels such as direct mail, email, online display, or visit to a storefront, marketing materials can be personalized for prospects to encourage purchase. For direct mail and email, a prospect list is matched to postal addresses and verified individual emails.

Direct mail and email are examples of a deterministic match. In online advertising, the prospect list can be subject to a more “fuzzy” match – to a digital ID. A digital identifier can represent a person, household, or other people who appear similar because they are from the same geographic area or have similar browsing behaviors. For this reason, determining a 1:1 person match with attribution has been difficult in the past. When a display ad was served to someone who eventually made a purchase, there was not a method to deterministically match the audience who was served the ad to a list of prospects.

The problems with only analyzing first or last click attribution

Typically, marketing attribution platforms default to making an educated guess when it comes to linking online advertising with a prospect list. Marketing platforms do this based on predictive models or by simply relying on last-click activities that register a user prior to purchase. A reliable attribution solution can only provide accurate results when a deterministic match can be made across all outreach channels.

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Why Is Having Correct Attribution So Important?

Missing out on part of your marketing stack could leave a lasting impact

For years, brands relied exclusively on television, direct mail, or the yellow pages to bring in customers. Today, search and online display advertising represent more dollars spent than any other channels because the internet is now the most widely used platform. Marketers need to know what channels are actually driving results, and so they need an attribution solution that reports on effectiveness and can guide them on where to allocate their marketing dollars. One of the biggest issues with using last-click attribution as an exclusive means of measuring campaign performance is that each channel can contribute to results. Eliminating any channel: search, display, or website marketing can break this chain.

Make strategic decisions, such as spend allocation, based on real data.

Modern Marketing is a combination of tactics that only achieve optimal results through multi-touch marketing tactics. The costs associated with generating awareness, research, evaluation and point of purchase should be a required part of the analysis of any campaigns effectiveness.

Communicating value to investors, board, etc.

Marketers have a responsibility to demonstrate performance. Management is becoming increasingly aware of the investments being made in online marketing. The industry has evolved beyond the point where the impact of your online spending can be addressed in generic terms (like click-through rates, keyword costs, downloaded white papers, increases in website visits, etc). Sophisticated marketers need to be able to verify audience targeting and channel investments in quantitative terms that have led to a sale – both directly and indirectly.


The Difference Between Advanced Attribution and Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a first generation tool designed to inform a brand of the effectiveness of their website. It performs necessary tasks such as: Measuring the traffic to the site and to pages on the site – where the consumers came from, how much time they spent and their activity on the site.

Google Analytics has the ability to inform brands the keywords that were effective in getting visitors to the site as well as last-click measurement of site activity that lead to a purchase. Over time, online ad spend has evolved from being 5% of a budget, to (in many cases) 50% of the marketing budget. As a result, more online and offline tactics are in play – often involving resellers, storefront displays, television, online display and even email and direct mail.

Understanding the entire scope of the sales funnel is key to deciding where and how much to invest in each campaign. Omni-channel Advanced Attribution is mandatory to national and regional brands today. Last-click measurement of ad performance was a useful tool for tracking search terms and keyword buys. However, with people-based marketing and programmatic ad targeting the measurement of all tactics and their contribution to a sale is the best reason to employ an advance attribution solution.


Attribution By Industry: What Matters Where

Retail Better understand in-store and online sales

In retail, the key tactics that need to be measured are far ranging and can often include television, direct mail, in-store marketing, and website metrics. A proper balance to the retail marketing spend is crucial to managing marketing investments and maintaining margins.

Sports More accurately track ticket sales

Sports marketing requires a narrowed focus on identifying fans who will engage with the team and purchase tickets and merchandise. By knowing who is in the stands on game day and where they came from, future marketing campaigns can be crafted to drive even more engagement.

By distinguishing between season ticket holders and the unknown fan on game day provides a much clearer picture of the audiences that should be marketed to more heavily. Being able to incorporate information about who is in the stands, other brands they engage with, and their demographic and affluence provides detailed profile of who the “unknown fans” are in order to reach out in the future. Combining mobile advertising and geo-fencing with email, direct mail, and display at home and in the office lowers the amount of waste in fan acquisition.

Home Improvement Track customer loyalty programs

The biggest challenge with home improvement marketing is understanding the customer base. Consumers transact in the stores anonymously, but their lives outside of the store can also be a mystery. Some of them might live in apartments, while others are homeowners, and some of these customers could be contractors. An effective attribution solution can discern those differences by associating online activity to the customers and then by applying the trade area of the store to the right customers be able to implement a more effective marketing strategy.

Education Admissions and enrollment marketing

College enrollment represent a huge milestone for families sending their children off to college. The college admission process has gotten increasingly competitive between schools, and targeting good prospects for future enrollment is costly to the college.

A school with the ability to link a qualified prospect’s website visit to a future student application is a huge advantage. A school that can focus its marketing on prospects who have adequate test scores and are from high schools with a history of past enrollment helps the school focus their marketing efforts even more.

Attribution of the marketing investments toward the right audience is critical to generating applications from the right prospects at an acceptable level of marketing investment by the school.

Franchises Dealerships example

Marketing that supports a franchise can be similar to a retail storefront. However, the investment levels and breadth of investment can be different. In some cases the franchisor will support marketing in television, website or promotional tactics to drive people to the store, however, these tactics can also involve investments that the local franchisee will supplement or underwrite for the local market.

Having insight into who customers are at both a national and local level is critical to marketing success. With an attribution solution in place, you gain the ability to track ad impressions to traffic to the website, and pair these visits to store visits. This can improve the allocation of franchise support and the local marketing mix.



Here are some questions to ask yourself as you dive into your current attribution.

What programs are currently being used?

There are three generations of attribution solutions. The first generation is typically website attribution. This is best characterized by indicators like last-click attribution, which is almost always search attribution. If all sales are through a website, and your only marketing is on search, this type of attribution works fine.

The second generation of attribution can be characterized by a consulting engagement. These are typically commissioned as a study involving statistical modeling and surveying clients. It incorporates multi-touch marketing measurement but the cost for this type of attribution averages in the six figures, with results that typically look like political polling based on a small sample and results that are directional but not specific to any individual customer.

The third generation of attribution involve multiple platforms both online and offline. It is deterministic – meaning it incorporates all customers and prospect in all categories and all matches and non-matches. The matching will transparently identify every customer and prospect with their profile as a campaign evolves and report on prospect in every channel they touch so that the marketer can make deliberate and rational investments in each marketing channel going forward.

What are my ideal goals with an attribution solution?

To prove which marketing investment is working and which investment is falling short so that a business decision can be made to optimize results.

What are the shortcomings of those programs?

The major shortcomings of 1st and 2nd generation attribution solutions are that the insight they offer is either too generic, too costly, too time consuming, or they only offer insight into one channel.

In order to get beyond the black box nature of attribution of the prior generations, the solution needs to be fully transparent across all online and offline platforms.

Attribution needs to be a part of the campaign workflow – set up as a campaign begins and report throughout the duration generating results and qualified leads from engagement by specific prospects who engaged in each channel. With ongoing results adjustments in spending and resources can be more efficiently applied.



Common concerns and frequently asked questions about attribution

Attribution is too difficult

The methodology of the Attributor is a simple three step process – identify the source of marketing activity i.e website traffic or ad impressions and determine the auto refresh frequency over the course of the campaigns. You then add the prospecting source data, CRM data, prospect files, or territory trade areas. Finally you designate where the analytics reporting and the location of the matched and unmatched household records need to be sent. The Attributor is specifically designed to be self-serve and fully integrated to the marketing stack. Integrating website traffic, CRM files, prospect lists, and institutional platforms like Dealer Management Systems, point of sale, ticketing sales or testing platforms is a one time setup that once in place becomes automatically refreshed so that the attribution process becomes part of the marketing workflow.

Attribution is too convoluted – everything in the industry is just a black box

This was the case during the 1st and 2nd generation of attribution solutions. The primary reason was for this was that the online part of the attribution process was unable to match a website visit or an ad impression with the visitor because of poor cookie match rates. The Attributor changes this by using a patented process for mapping to locations. Using publicly available data, we match to the homes and offices of traffic at a rate that typically exceeds 80% coverage.

There isn’t a tool that can actually deliver on this

Conventional attribution solutions are unable to render this coverage and this level of transparency. Our results can be tested and proven at a very low investment in time and expense. The Attributor business model is based on a cost per record processed rather than investing six figures in a study involving consulting fees or statistical modeling. For a typical campaign with 5 million impressions with three to five audiences, the investment in incorporating The Attributor is approximately $3000.

How is this any different from Google Analytics?

Google Analytics measure traffic to a website and where it comes from. The Attributor evaluates all online or offline marketing tactics and determine the impact and contribution to the sale.

Are you ready to see who your true audience is with Advanced Attribution?

Request a Demo of the Attributor >


The Attributor

Description of the platform

The first self-serve attribution platform designed to be part of the marketing workflow. It uses a patented process for linking all online and offline lists and traffic to the location of the party engaging with the marketers efforts. With coverage of over 150 million households, 18 million businesses and 365 million devices, the Attributor can deterministically match upwards of 80% of most audiences. The Attributor can be set up to automatically refresh ongoing website traffic, ad impressions, and CRM platforms, making it possible to optimize marketing investments as they develop rather than waiting month for a study to be completed.

How does it work?

The methodology of the Attributor is a simple three step process – identify the source of marketing activity i.e website traffic or ad impressions and determine the auto refresh frequency over the course of the campaigns. You then add the prospecting source data, CRM data, prospect files, or territory trade areas. Finally you designate where the analytics reporting and the location of the matched and unmatched household records need to be sent. The Attributor is specifically designed to be self-serve and fully integrated to the marketing stack.

Self-service or fully managed

The Attributor is designed to be a self-serve solution, but can also be managed by Semcasting should the client require it. In either case Semcasting will actively train and participate in the setup of the platform and securing the necessary feeds that support the evaluation and automation of the marketing measurement for the organization.

What is the cost commitment?

With no upfront fees and on a per consumption pricing model, the Attributor is the most cost effective solution of its kind. For a typical campaign with 5 million impressions with three to five audiences, the investment in incorporating the attributor is approximately $3000. It is recommended that marketers who want to incorporate attribution into their marketing stack have current investments in online and offline advertising of $10,000 a month and ad impressions and website traffic in excess of two million impressions.

How can the Attributor help you track marketing spend?

The Attributor is designed to determine the cost of reaching specific households and business for each marketing tactic. It is also designed to report on the cost per sale. Through this insight the volume of engagements and the cost per tactic can be compared between tactics to determine a cost of engagement and a return on investment for each tactic and each sale.

What kind of reporting will I see?

The Attributor generates reports and graphs in addition to detailed backup on the matching and unmatched records at a household level.

  • Matched audience per tactic
  • Unmatched audience per tactic
  • Target audience reached
  • Cost of impression
  • Cost of conversion
  • Interactive rebalancing of investment dollars
  • Matched household records to the intended audience (leads & retargeting)
  • Demographic profiling report of the match records
  • Unmatched household records from the intended audience (leads & retargeting)
  • Demographic profiling report of the unmatched records

A successful campaign is dependent on reaching your best prospects.

Are you ready to learn who your true
audience is with The Attributor?
Request a Demo