As PPC advertisers, you need to constantly monitor and measure your marketing initiatives. The end goal being: determining the best way to spend your PPC budget while still understanding where your customers come from. With so many interactions leading to a purchase, attribution gives a bird’s-eye view of how different channels are performing and what gives the final conversion. While attribution surely helps you take important decisions regarding your business goals, often choosing the right model might be trickier than you’d imagine.
So in this episode on PPC Town Hall, we invited over some of the top data and attribution experts in the industry to share their tips and tactics on leveraging attribution with the help of Google Analytics.
- Ken Williams, Senior Data Engineer, Search Discovery
- Brooke Osmundson, Director of Paid Media, NordicClick Interactive
- Christopher Gutknecht, Teamlead Acquisition & Optimization, Bergzeit
As always, you can view this week’s episode as well as previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.
Here are 5 insights to attribution and Google Analytics.
1. The biggest measurement challenges in PPC
Chris: We’ve been working on profit bidding and attribution for a year now, and they’re both very challenging. The more you dig down into the rabbit hole, the more challenges you find. You’ve to make so many assumptions to move forward. So far, we’ve tested two models, one of them, the Markov chain model, is already in production. We use the Markov chain model, which we calculate on a daily basis and add the fresh results to attribute channel waste.
Brooke: If measuring different attribution models is new to you, start researching models to understand how your marketing efforts would benefit from each of the available models. If you have them built in Google Ads and Google Analytics, start comparing them against each other to understand the different touchpoints on what will work best for your business. These are the conversations worth having with our clients.
I feel like we’re a little bit behind ourselves in terms of adopting newer attribution models, especially with user behavior shifting. We’re seeing users take longer and there are other touchpoints to make a decision. If clients are still using last-click attribution, marketing efforts won’t show the full picture and can be detrimental in decision-making. Trying to find a model that doesn’t kill your upper funnel is extremely important.
2. Go for the ‘best choice’
Ken: We are working with pretty imperfect data. Being comfortable with acknowledging that, and thinking through the implications of different models to find the best fit is a business challenge. We have to start with the questions that the business needs to answer. And there’s no perfect fit. There’s going to be a ‘best choice’ for your customer experience and you just have to think through what your options are. Experimentation is really important!
3. What’s new with Google Analytics 4
Ken: There’s a lot that’s new in GA4. One of the most fundamental is the concept of an ‘event-driven’ data model, a structure that Firebase Analytics has used for years. It works well with mobile-apps, and now web and mobile will be sharing the same structure. Moreover, the way that we measured engagement has changed quite a bit. All of the key engagement metrics that we relied on with legacy versions of GA have been replaced by a new feature called ‘engagement time’ was rolled out with the ‘event-driven’ data model, which solves the problems with session-based engagement metrics. Finally, GA4 is built on the global site tag, which can help you make changes to the user interface that actually modify the code on your site without requiring a change in the tag manager.
4. Challenges with the tracking cookies fading out
Chris: The fading-out idea is hard to predict and focuses more on cross-site tracking than the first-party context. I think we should be working on small steps from the things that are already hurting us. So for instance, Safari ITP 2.1 kills first-party cookie data after 7 days, but they respect server-side cookies. One thing you could improve right now is to transfer to server-side cookies to preserve GA cookies on Safari devices.
Ken: There are two privacy-related things that we need to respond to: one of them is regulatory (we’ve been dealing with GDPR for a while and CCPA is new in the US), and the second is the momentum from popular browsers to restrict cookies. The vision that both Apple and Mozilla have put out is a desire to restrict the ability to monitor your cross-domain activities, by companies like Facebook.
5. Filling in data-gaps for attribution optimization
Brooke: I think that user-stitching or device ID attribution will be a more long-term solution. But right now, it’s extremely complicated. Whether you have the infrastructure in your team or at a large agency, but you do have essential people in roles that drive developmental work. Since you know what kind of data is available, the best thing will be to have these conversations with your clients. You should also do a bit of testing to figure out what works best for your organizational goals. We know that there will always be gaps in data, so until clients are able to invest in holistic solutions such as device ID attribution, you may have to make assumptions based on data trends available to you. It’s getting more difficult to understand everything there is about every customer, so focus on identifying what can move the needle for your company.
Ken: 10 years ago I believed very strongly in this 360° view of a customer. The idea was that since we’ve got all this digital data, we are gonna get better and better at understanding why customers behave the way they do. And we’ll eventually get to a point where we’ve got amazing data where we know everything. I feel like that is something we need to give up on as an industry because it was never a realistic aspiration. We’re never gonna fill all these data-gaps and have to get used to that.
Let’s be honest. There’s no ‘ideal’ answer to many of these questions regarding attribution. Even to pick the perfect model for your business, you have to constantly evaluate your marketing initiatives. And as Google continues to take away our data, we just have to become a little bit broader in our thinking and go back to the initial question - what’s the business trying to achieve?
This is where experimenting and doing multiple field tests with different models can pay off. The other thing that we can do is look for sophisticated attribution modeling to get that ‘best choice’ for the customer experience. Discussing this with your in-house/agency development teams can only help you finetune your buyer funnel better.