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4 Search Attribution

Google Ads data driven attribution is the methodology of algorithmically assigning credit to different actors in a chain of Google Ads search clicks leading up to a conversion. The usual attribution challenges provided by device, channel and platform proliferation are non existent as Google ties these touch points together. And there is only one channel and platform, Google Search.

The default model in Google Ads is last click. This is a gross over simplification, but it is an attribution model that has served many businesses well. Especially when you are up against competitors with a much larger market share the last click model can be very effective. You are, as of early 2016, also able to select traditional non-last click models such as linear, time decay, first click or position based. These models are known as “rules-based models”, since they’re based on a simple rule to assign the corresponding conversion credit.

No model is perfect. But all of these “rule based models” models are, in ninety-nine percent of use cases, inferior to the Data Driven model. The Data-Driven Attribution model in Google Ads provides an Markov chain based attribution model that values all Google Ads search clicks on the conversion path appropriately, based on each search click’s contribution to driving the propensity to convert for a specific user.

Search Ads 360 Attribution

Whereas switching to a new attribution model is a turnkey approach in Google Ads, Search Ads 360 has a lot more to offer in terms of customising bidding strategies and attribution. As a result of all those cool extra options, there are a lot of things that can go wrong as well.

The first thing to nail is your labeling of the account. Group every set of keywords that has a similar function in your Search strategy together under one label. The most common way to do it is to go for a “brand”, “brand generic”, “generics” and “competitor” grouping. But it depends on the size of your business and the number of clicks and conversions you are measuring. If you are one of the large product comparison sites, you might want to have that grouping set up for every product line (insurance, mortgages, utilities, ect ect). If you office one product and ninety percent of your investment in Search is on twenty or so keywords, you might want to stick to a simple “brand” and “generic” grouping.

As soon as those label groupings have had twelve hours to set in, you can create a Data Driven Attribution model. Make sure you select the right floodlight tag(s). If you have multiple tags for different value drivers, you can combine them in the same model and set up another specific model for each of the main ones. You can choose what models to use for what bid strategies. Your brand campaigns would want to take all value drivers into account, where as you campaigns aimed at selling “product A” should perhaps use the model created for “product A”.

Should I just switch to bidding on a data driven attribution model?

You should. But, you might want to test how different valuation of certain campaigns, ad groups or keywords looks under another attribution model first. You can do this in three different ways. First one is perhaps the simplest one. You can go to the report shown above in Google Ads (Tools > Attribution > Attribution Modelling), and compare the model you are considering versus the default last click model. You can do the same in Google Analytics and select only Google Ads traffic. On Search Ads 360 you can create custom columns to evaluate how the activity in specific Bid Strategies is affected when switching from last click to DDA bidding.

Our advice is always to keep budgets constant and change the (CPA) bidding to reflect the shift in conversion credit under the new model. This way, you spedn the same money but get more through better and smarter bidding.

Google Ads Conversion tracking and/or Floodlight versus Google Analytics goal import

If you are serious about improving your Google Ads attribution importing Google Analytics goals is not best practice. I would strongly recommend installing the (cross account) Google Ads Conversion Tracking pixel (through site wide tagging) if you have not done so already. This allows for the attribution logic to take all Google Ads search clicks across different devices into account.

An example. Customer A has visited your website twice via Google Ads Search click before he booked a hotel room. First on his mobile on his way home from work in the train. After discussing it with his partner at the dinner table, he books on his laptop at home. If you import Google Analytics goal, you will see two customer journeys, if you have Google Ads Conversion tracking installed, you will be able to see this as one customer journey and connect both clicks to the sale.

A significant step forward that takes a lot of the guesswork out of your more upper funnel mobile search investment.