If you think back to the 2012 Olympics swim team, most likely the name Michael Phelps comes to mind.  Yes, Phelps is the most decorated swimmer in Olympic history.  He contributed to USA as the anchor leg, taking home the gold for the 4x200m freestyle relay, but shouldn’t some of the glory also belong to the other team members?


I would hope your answer to this question is “yes”.  Just like in swimming, track and other sports with multiple players (great analogy Steve Latham), as marketers we need to be taking into account all the different consumer touch points when analyzing data.

In today’s session, Paid Search Analytics and Multi-Touch Attribution Analysis, Michael Coughlin, Founder of MP Coughlin Consulting, and Steve Latham, Founder and CEO of Encore Media Metrics, discussed attribution, algorithmic attribution and implications for marketers.

Michael Coughlin kicked off the presentation with an introduction to what attribution is and where marketers go wrong in allowing their data deceive them.  As Coughlin pointed out, most data deception starts with last click attribution.   Last click attribution in swimming terms is letting Phelps have all the glory for winning the gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay in 2012.  Instead, we need to give credit where credit is due and attribute value to the other team members too- THANKS Ricky Berens, David Walters and Ryan Lochte!  As a member of the Paid Search team, this would be attributing a conversion solely to a PPC keyword and not taking into account the other marketing channels that consumer interacted with before clicking on an ad and converting.

So why do so many marketers ignore attribution analysis?  Caughlin identified that it is mostly due to lack of education and experience or in his words “new dogs being taught old tricks”.

For marketers to get on board with attribution analysis, Coughlin suggests organizational restructuring which ideally would mean hiring an analytics team to serve as a liaison between the other departments such as PPC, SEO, display and social.  For many, this might not be possible yet so below are some simple things to look at as a PPC team member to get started:

  • Customize columns in AdWords under the keyword tab to view search funnels

AdWords Keyword tab- search funnels for attribution model

  • Within Tools and Analysis tab in AdWords, click on Conversions and you can also view search funnels

AdWords conversion search funnels


Steve Latham took over the presentation from there and did more of a deep dive and spoke about algorithmic attribution.  Algorithmic attribution uses science or algorithms to assign conversion credit across all touch points.

Just as you must learn to walk before you can run, Latham suggests that companies may need to start with fixed weight attribution models and then move onto algorithmic down the line.

The insights from algorithmic attribution can be applied in various ways to your marketing strategies such as:

  • Budgets can be optimized across channels to inform rational budget allocations
  • Each channel can be optimized based on data
  • Pause display ads that aren’t performing or under-performing
  • Adjust AdWords bids and budget for attributed top performers
  • Prioritize SEO based on ROI of keywords

Throughout the presentation the main takeaway was that if you are only thinking in terms of last click attribution (aka giving all the glory to Michael Phelps) then you are missing the big picture.  Are you letting the data deceive you?