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Is Attribution modelling fatally flawed?

Written by James | 13-May-2010 16:41:59

Or is it just incorrectly named? This is a topic of huge debate at present – particularly at the recent Search Engine Strategies conference we attended in New York. Many agencies and advertisers are now trying to get to grips with understanding what happens ahead of the ‘last click’ purchase; specifically whether or not you are giving too much credit to SEM and not enough to other media.

Logic and intuition tell us that value generated by search marketing (particularly brand related searches) has been influenced by other touchpoints – consumers don’t just search for your brand and buy products without being made aware of it, researching and comparing it... and your other media channels influence consumer journeys further away from the point of purchase.

However, arriving at a mathematical model to attribute influence or value of other media channels is the difficult part. There are so many variables from different tracking systems to consumer consideration period. A statistically robust model is a long way off – if at all possible.

We use methodologies not dissimilar to others trying to reach the holy grail of ‘attribution modelling’, but for a different end game; we don’t try to attribute value to what has already happened, but we analyse customer journeys in order to find the optimum media mix for testing during the next campaign period. It delivers line of site to our Clients on media mix; the influence of display or email channels on their conversion channels... be it search, af/wp-content/uploads/filiate or aggregators. It doesn’t attempt to hypothesise the % influence display campaigns had on their Google brand search sales.

Media mix modelling delivers valuable insights when combined with robust trend analysis and correlation mapping. Our bespoke tool ‘Voyage’ enables real time interrogation of the complex dataset to visualize these customer journeys; looking backward (or forwards) from last click conversions (or initial contact).
We agree that attribution analysis / modelling has serious challenges at present, but drawing insights from journey analysis adds value to the planning process, and helps deliver the optimum media mix. Lets not get too hung up on attributing actual values to channels – but how they work together to deliver maximum value.

It’s about total journey analysis, not attribution modelling, when it comes to optimizing your media spend for maximum return on investment. Test and Learn; the cornerstone of optimising and maximising ROI. Building these insights into ongoing test and learn strategies enables you to ask the right questions of your data; tools like Voyage deliver the answers.