Using Attribution to prove ad spend efficiency

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

6 min read   -  12th January, 2024

Using Attribution to prove ad spend efficiency

As a digital marketer, you know that all progress needs to be measurable. Digital marketing is full of metrics that can unlock the potential of your campaigns and highlight areas where you can make changes to save your budget and increase ROI.

With competitor strategies, ever-changing algorithms and AI all working against your ROI, it’s more important than ever to track your campaign metrics to stay one step ahead.

The key here is attribution. This guide will take you through the available options for attribution, help you understand exactly why and how attribution can help your campaign, and set you up to make the most of your next campaign strategies.​

Let’s get started:

What is attribution?

Attribution is pretty similar to marketing measurements that you’re already familiar with. Things like CTR, ROI and ROAS. But attribution measures more than just the effectiveness of any part of your marketing campaign. 

To clarify, marketing attribution assigns a weight to every interaction that a customer has with your marketing campaign; from the first time they discover you to the final conversion. This weight helps provide an overview of what parts of your marketing funnel are most effective towards various goals.

What’s especially useful about attribution models is how it takes the customer’s full journey into consideration. It’s not just a single tap on their phone that results in a conversion. Their journey is across channels, ad types and platforms. It’s this level of detail that can help revolutionise your tracking.

Why is attribution important to get right?

Naturally, you want the accuracy of this tracking to be your number one priority. But there are many reasons for why attribution models that you can count on can be so useful for your next campaign.

The bigger picture
Go beyond basic conversion metrics and CTRs. Attribution (if set up correctly) can provide a more complete picture of how customers interact with your brand. We know that users don’t buy at the first sight of a new ad, but prefer to build up a relationship and familiarity with your brand over time, before making a purchase.

Attribution across all touchpoints helps you discover exactly where these conversions are coming from. It also highlights areas for growth and development.

Budget allocation
Where’s your money being spent the most effectively? The right attribution model helps you understand the driving forces behind your conversions. It can help you better understand your customers’ interaction with your brand across multiple channels and devices, so you can allocate your budget more efficiently.

Ultimately, this allows you to be strategic and intentional in your budget allocation.

Goals are more than your conversion rate

Conversion rates are important. They’re the ultimate goal for most businesses. But it’s rarely the only goal of any sophisticated marketing campaign.

Attribution tracks so much more than just conversions. The metrics of these equally important goals are tracked using attribution. So bring in new demographics! Build up brand authority on a specific social media platform. Convert your users to mobile devices instead of majority desktop users. You have so many possibilities open to you, if you’re tracking the right metrics in your model.

How is attribution tracked? 

There are several attribution models, due to the hugely varied landscape of ads today. A customer might be introduced to your brand through a social media ad, see a TV commercial for your brand at a later date, and then make a purchase online via a search ad for your brand name. This is tricky to track.
As a result, there are lots of contrasting models available, so you can always find at least one model that you can easily apply to your campaign. 

These are split into two main categories:

  • Single-touch attribution - This gives 100% of the credit to just one touchpoint in the entire customer journey.
  • Multi-touch attribution - Different weights are given to numerous touchpoints across the customer’s journey to a conversion. It’s not just one click or one interaction that results in a conversion.

This is potentially a more accurate view of the overall path to a conversion, but only if measured correctly. Ultimately it’s a lot more complicated to track, but the return value of this data can be hugely impactful for any digital marketer.

Single-touch attribution models

Just because you’re only checking one touch point, doesn’t mean you have to be generic in your analysis. Be selective about which touchpoint will be the most useful for you to better understand and use this data as a starting point in the management of your next campaign.

First touch

This gives full credit to the first interaction with an online ad. If the customer took a multi-touchpoint journey, including multiple ads, before making a purchase, the very first ad would be counted.

Last touch

The reverse of the previous option, this model credits the last interaction that a user had with an ad, moments before making their purchase.

Lead conversion touch

This one is fantastic for forms or email signups, attributing full credit to the touchpoint where a lead is generated. This could be signing up to a mailing list, or entering their details to receive a newsletter.

Last non-direct attribution

This model credits the last channel that a customer clicked on before making a purchase. As this is still a single-touch attribution model, any direct visits to your site are not credited. If a customer were to type your site URL to visit it, this model assumes that they are already far enough along the funnel to make a purchase.

Multi-touch attribution models

This is where you’ll find detail. These models track and distribute the credit of each conversion into various weights at every stage. This is definitely a more complicated way to track your conversions, but if you can successfully set yourself up, the data you receive could really elevate your understanding of both your customer and your site performance and efficiency.


The most basic multi-touch attribution model, Linear attribution gives an equal percentage of the credit to each touchpoint. It’s shared evenly, as if every single interaction was just as effective as the rest.


This model assumes that the interactions closer to the conversion date itself are the most impactful. For example, the first ad that a customer interacts with could be given 5% credit, whilst the final as they click on just before making a purchase could be attributed 40%. 


This one’s like time-decay, but at both ends. With this model, you’re assuming that the first interaction and the final interaction are the most important, with any steps in-between gaining marginally less credit.


Imagine the shape of a “W” and you’re halfway to understanding this model. Here, the first and last ads are given more weight, along with a third touchpoint somewhere in the middle. With complex interactions across multiple devices, networks and services, this can be a useful way of giving credit to those middle steps.


This is the model that everyone wishes they could set up! A full-path attribution model looks at the overall effectiveness of each touchpoint, and assigns credit with this in mind.

Understandably, it can be really tricky, and sometimes impossible to accurately track all the stages of the customer’s experience across multiple devices and platforms. But in an ideal world, this would provide the most useful data you could ever find for your campaign.


This model allows you to totally customise each existing model to your specific requirements and preferences. Take the model that works best for your app or website, then tweak and adjust its parameters to really make the most efficient data for your campaign.

Why do smaller budgets call for stronger attribution models?

The fantasy budgets that we all wish we could work with are often not feasible in the modern day. Digital marketing is becoming increasingly competitive, leading to higher prices overall. Digital marketers are also now asked to create campaigns across a multitude of platforms and channels, not always with the most abundant budget. You’re often given a budget that could stretch comfortably across two platforms and then asked to make it work for five.

So with potentially less to play with and test on new concepts and channels, it’s vital to make your budget work efficiently. Attribution helps you see where the budget is being used most effectively, saving you money when you adjust your budgets accordingly. It’s also a fantastic way to get proof of where the budget is providing the most return, which is a pleasing metric for marketers and clients alike!

In summary

If you’re after metrics that accurately track leads, conversions and sales, you need to be using an attribution model that is best suited to your specific customer journey. These models can track data across multiple channels and platforms too, uniting your entire marketing efforts as a joint benefit to your customer.

Consider both single and multi-touch models, and remember, you can use multiple models across your entire marketing strategy. It’s simply a case of finding what produces the most meaningful metrics for you.

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.

Get in touch Get in touch

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.