Why Attribution is Important in Google Analytics

To get the most out of Google Analytics, you need to give attribution where it’s due. Conversion isn’t as short or as simple as many users assume, and attributing the wrong interaction will wreak havoc on the validity of any analytical assessments.

The Twisted Road to Conversion

Although conversion terminology revolves around reasonably linear processes, such as the conversion funnel, the path to a conversion is usually much more complicated. The first time a customer clicks on a specific link, ad, or search result is rarely the time he or she decides to make a purchase. Potential customers typically hop in and out of the conversion funnel. So, even if they end up making a purchase, their final click is not the one that introduced them to your business and triggered their interest.

Potential customers may visit your site a dozen times before they make a decision. They may visit once, briefly, while they're looking for general information, and visit a second time to make the purchase. A customer may window shop on your website through various touchpoints. Giving attribution to the first impression is essential, particularly in primary BI tools like Google Analytics.

Why First Impression Attribution Matters

Although all touchpoints that bring a customer back into your sales funnel matter, it’s important to make a clear distinction between the first and all those that follow. The first interaction is the one that launches the customer’s path through your conversion funnel. All other touchpoints depend on that first interaction.

Consider how attribution plays into how you look at the data from Google Analytics. The entire point of analytics programs is to help you decide how best to improve marketing, your conversion funnel, and all the touchpoints that lead there. If the vast majority of customers who make it all the way through your conversion funnel initially came through sweepstakes advertised on a social media platform, you would see that sweepstakes pair well with social media, and you'd likely try a similar marketing technique in the future. However, that interaction may only be the first of many. Customers may share a post to read later or follow the link to fill out a form, but they only made a purchase after several more visits. If you attribute the conversion to the last touchpoint, then your analysis will mislead you.

Abundant data is only useful if it is accurate. Although there are many attribution models, it’s important to remember the value of first impressions. The first interaction introduces the conversion funnel. You wouldn’t measure a slide only halfway up the chute. Attributing a conversion to any interaction besides the first is the same thing. It generates inaccurate, confusing data that could cost you a lot in the long run.

Remember, the start of the conversion funnel deserves attribution for the final sale. Conversion can be a lengthy process, and that needs to be reflected in analytics if you want to get valuable insights. To improve any process, you need to understand it from the beginning.