If you’re currently running a business, chances are that your marketing is on multiple digital channels. And smart marketers (and business leaders) want to know where their efforts are having the most impact on leads, sales or general engagement.
According to Content Marketing Institute, marketers use an average of 13 tactics—7 different social media platforms, and 3 paid advertising channels within their efforts. With so many places from which to attribute your desired outcome, it’s crucial you limit attribution errors.
What it feels like to have no attribution model in place
Unfortunately, the more channels you’re on, the more complicated it can become.
But that’s why we’re here. We’ll break it down step by step, and give you the tools to best account for different attribution systems and ensure accurate data from any future campaigns.
What is attribution? In regards to marketing, attribution is the value assigned to a marketing activity based on desired outcome.
Often, when running ads, there can be some confusion as to which platform the sale came from. With multiple traffic sources and default attribution methods from each individual platform, it can become very overwhelming.
In today’s digital space, it’s pretty safe to say that no single event caused a conversion. Instead, we often see multiple touchpoints within the buyer’s journey. More often than not, each platform enhances the user-experience and assists the conversion in some way.
Possible user-experience path to conversion point
It’s important to understand each platform’s default reporting style, as they do tend to differ depending on what marketing efforts you’re utilizing. Instead of using each system as a separate entity, using them in combination will help to achieve the most complete (and accurate) picture.
Sadly, there are no chocolate-chip cookies involved
Since these systems track differently by default, we start to see tracking information that doesn't quite match up.
The two main types of Facebook attribution windows are views and clicks.
When a user clicks on the ad and takes an action, this is called click-through attribution. However, if the user sees the ad (tracked as an impression in Facebook), didn't click, but took an action within the set attribution window, this is instead called a view-through attribution.
Facebook, by default, uses a last-touch attribution model. As long as a Facebook ad was clicked or interacted with by that user, Facebook will take the credit. This is why without additional tracking systems set up, Facebook tends to attribute for conversions in some cases where another analytics platform may not have given Facebook the credit.
Possible user-experience path to conversion point with Facebook last touch attribution model
By default, Google Analytics attributes a conversion to the last traffic source that the user came from before making the conversion—the last-click (or last interaction) model.
Possible user-experience path to conversion point with Google last source attribution model
Other attribution models within Analytics include:
In addition to Facebook and Google default tracking, you also must consider how your website tracks conversions, as well. (For our example, we’ll stick to Shopify.)
In a similar tracking style to Analytics, most third-party reporting platforms use cookie-based measurement. Because of this, Shopify isn’t able to accurately measure cross-device conversions like Facebook does.
With the last-click attribution style, Shopify tends to mislabel conversions from paid traffic (specifically Facebook) as “direct”.
Shopify sessions by referrer report
With all these different systems and tracking styles, what are some ways to account for attribution errors and ensure accurate data?
One of the best ways to ensure accurate data across multiple accounts it to implement Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters within your Facebook campaigns. Once clicked, this URL sends data back to Google Analytics and other systems, like Shopify, allowing your ad campaign efforts to be more accurately tracked.
A good starting place for tags within Facebook Ad campaigns is: utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=campaign_name
Example of UTM Parameters within Facebook Ads Manager
* Pro tip: If you’re looking for a quick UTM tag for any current and future Facebook campaigns, you can get away with just including the above 3 parameters. Be careful though, just having utm_campaign within the UTM parameters without utm_source will result in no tracking within Analytics.
When building campaigns Google gives you two options, auto-tagging and manual tagging. Google recommends enabling auto-tagging to “get the most detailed Google Ads data.” Auto-tagging also saves you time, as manual tagging can be much more time-consuming and prone to more errors.
Auto-tagging selection within Google Ads
Although manual tagging takes more time and only allows a specific amount of data, there are special cases in which manual tagging might be better a fit.
Disabling auto-tagging, will allow you to add parameters to URLs to identify the campaigns that refer traffic. Custom campaigns will require parameters similar to Facebook.
Pro tip: Separate the parameters from the URL with a question mark. List the parameters and values as pairs separated by an equal sign. Separate each parameter-value pair with an ampersand. https://www.example.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=campaign_name
When consulting multiple platforms, check that your conversion attribution windows match. By default, the Facebook conversion reports are set to a 1-day after view or 28-day click window.
The attribution windows within Facebook are 1-day, 7-day, and 28-day view and click attribution. To ensure accurate analysis of data, make sure your Analytics windows are set to the corresponding time frame as well.
Conversion window within Facebook Ads Manager
Attribution can get tricky for novice and experienced marketers alike, especially while measuring results from efforts across multiple platforms. With a better understanding of attribution and by taking the necessary steps to implement tagging options within your campaigns, it becomes easier to see which channels are most profitable for you.