Best Attribution Model for Google ads [With Examples]

Best Attribution Model for Google ads [With Examples]

One of the most misunderstood topics in digital marketing is Attribution Modeling.

Unfortunately, we can see this among many digital marketers as well.

By choosing the wrong model from the beginning, they may spend more than required or miss valuable opportunities.

Partly because any existing model itself is not perfect.

But, depending on your business goal or the strategy you want to implement, one can be more useful than the other.

In this article, we are going to talk about the best attribution model for Google ads and which one gives more accurate data.

So, let’s get started…

Short description of the Attribution Model        

When you make a sale or a conversion, certain ad interactions get more credit than others in the conversion path.

For example, someone clicks your search ad and then exits your website. After some time, with another Shopping campaign, they come back to your website again and convert.

There are two touchpoints that lead to the conversion: clicking Search ads and clicking Shopping ads.

Depending on which one gets more credit, different attribution models can be used.

Attribution models can only be used for Search and Shopping campaigns.     

Currently, for Google ads, there are 6 types of attribution models: 

  • Last Click (Default option) – Gives 100 percent credit for conversions to the last clicked Keyword or Ad. Other non – last click ad interactions receive 0 percent credit.   
  • First Click – Gives 100 percent credit for conversions to the first clicked Keyword or Ad. Other ad interactions in the conversion path receive 0 percent credit
  • Linear – Gives an equal credit to all the touchpoints. It is calculated by dividing 100 percent by the number of touchpoints.
  • Time Decay – Gives more credit to the click closer to the conversion.  It is measured with a 7-day half-life, meaning: 7 days before the conversion, gets half the credit of the day of conversion.  
  • Position-based – Gives for the first and the last touchpoints the same 40 percent credit and all the remaining touchpoints get a total of 20 percent credit.
  • Data-driven – It uses machine-learning technology. So, depending on your campaign type, it can create a custom attribution model. 

Which Attribution Model is the Best?

Out of all the attribution models, the Data-driven model without any question is the best one to use. Because it uses machine learning technology when giving more credit to certain clicks than others.

It can even distinguish the customers who may convert from the customers who may not.

So, if you use this attribution method, you don’t have to make a lot of thinking for making the right decision.

However, this model is not for everybody.

There are some requirements for you to be able to use this method.

You should have at least 3000 ad interactions and at least 300 conversions in the Search and Shopping campaigns within the last 30 days to be able to use this model.

Also, you won’t be able to use it, if the numbers drop below 2000 ad interactions and 200 conversions within 30 days.

If you get continuous low data within 30 days, you may get an alert and eventually switch to the Linear attribution model.

I think those requirements are not high enough to learn effectively the customer journey.

Even then, you should have at least $15 000 to $20 000 to spend on the Google advertisement to be eligible to use it.

Overall, this is the best approach if you have that much budget to spend.  

If you don’t have, continue reading to learn other models…

What is the Best Attribution model other than Data driven?

Depending on your business type, you can use different strategies to achieve conversions.

Likewise, with attribution modeling, you may want to increase your brand awareness, increase the leads, or just to sell your products or services as soon as possible.   

In the examples below, we can see which model fits for which kind of business strategy.


For which businesses the Last click attribution model is the best?

There are 2 types of single-touch attribution models. One of them is Last click model.

According to Adroll, 58 percent of marketers use single-touch attribution modeling.

You might ask. Why so many marketers are using them?

  • First, it is a default attribution model
  • Second, it is the easiest one to apply, without any headache. Just, think of it as the last ad interaction that resulted in the conversion.   

When you open a new business, you try to be as effective as possible and spend your money only on the most important things that bring results.

Because you may not afford to test and try new things unless you have a big budget.

In this case, you may use the Last Click attribution model, which gives more credit to branded keywords.

But, your products should be easy to sell with one or two ad interactions.

To effectively use this method, your keywords and ads you are giving more credit to shouldn’t be generic.

But, they need to be specific to your business and products or services that you sell. 

For example, someone googles a product. Your search ad comes up with a generic keyword. She clicks your ad and after scrolling some time, she leaves your website. Later, you also run remarketing and search campaigns, and finally, she converts with one of your branded search ads. 


Here, you are giving 100 percent credit to the last branded search ad.

However, this attribution method is not that accurate. Actually, it is wrong.

Because, it means all the assisted conversions, which led to the final conversion, have done nothing to convert the customer (e.g. it is giving credit to them by o percent).   

In my opinion, this methodology is wrong and can only be applied to easy to sell products and low of the funnel deals.

100 percent is too extreme. Instead, you could have reduced that and gave more credit to some of the assisted conversions.

Now, let’s see other models as well.    

For which businesses the First click attribution model is the best?

First click as the name suggests is the opposite of the Last click attribution model.

They are mostly used with top of the funnel keywords.

Sometimes, you can also use it with branded and very focused keywords/ads.

Those keywords and ads should reflect easy to consider products or services.

For example, If someone is looking for a Plumber, they don’t spend a lot of time to choose one from Google paid search results. They just call whoever appears to be on top of the list.

Another example is the grocery delivery service. This service can also take a short conversion path.

First click attribution model for increasing brand awareness

First click attribution model is mainly used in the growth stage of the business.

Because it means ad interactions are happening after the first click and the first click couldn’t convince customers to convert.

So, you know in advance you are spending your money on acquiring new customers and increasing your brand awareness.  

Not for getting conversions, right away.

For example, SEO Services Company may start advertising their blog posts without any purpose of getting conversions. In this way, they may focus to increase their brand awareness with this attribution model.  

Again, this strategy gives too much credit to the first ad click for conversion.

If you don’t get your conversions/sales/leads in the first ad click when you want, then this model will be obviously wrong.

For which businesses the Linear attribution model is the best?

Now, with the remaining 3 multi-touch attribution models, it starts to look a little fairer.

Because with the Linear attribution modeling every touchpoint gets some attribution. Also, it doesn’t give more priority to either the first or the last ad click. 

This model is mostly used with products or services which has long cycled conversion paths (e.g. expensive products), as a result, you run a lot of remarketing campaigns. The conversion paths are so long that you can’t even give any touchpoint more credit than the other.

Imagine having more than 10 ad interactions. Which one would you give more credit to?

You wouldn’t probably know exactly which one to attribute more and giving them the equal number of credit would remove the headache of analyzing every touchpoint.

Let’s see an example.

A company that sells Mountain bikes can’t immediately sell its bikes with the first ad. The client needs to make research and review other companies’ products as well. The conversion path may take several weeks if not months. Within that period the company can educate and nurture its client. In this way, it can run several ad campaigns before finally selling the product. 

The downside with this model, though, you may increase the role of underperforming keywords/ad groups/campaigns or decrease the role of better-performing ones.

It is just a conservative approach for whoever wants to take into account every touchpoint in the customer journey without too much thinking.

For which businesses the Time decay attribution model is the best?

With Time decay model, your keywords/ad groups/campaigns can be more targeted to your audiences.

And you start to give more credit to the bottom of the funnel conversions.

So, it means, your client base is big enough or there is low competition for your products.

Also, some people choose it when they try to reach efficiency with their ad spending.

Let’s see an example.

An already grown company with a steady revenue increase may use this approach.

Moreover, new start-ups with a little budget can also implement this method, to reach more efficiency.

Overall, this method of attribution gives more credit to the clicks that happened closer to the conversion. The closer the ad interaction to the final touchpoint, the higher its attribution role.

Of course, you cannot make a rule-based method of calculation like that for every ad interaction that happens in the conversion path.  

Most of the time this approach is not accurate or can be wrong altogether.

For which businesses the Position-based attribution model is the best?

For me, Position-based or U-shaped model is also a slightly conservative approach.

Because, it gives 2 of the most important touchpoints the highest credit, by 40 percent.

Partly this might be true: the first click is when a customer discovers a product or services for the first time and the last click is when she takes action.

This approach can be used by new companies at the growth stage, which has enough budget. The companies using this model can focus on increasing brand awareness and expanding faster.     

For example, a new hosting company may advertise its free product with premium features. The purpose of this advertisement can be to increase its brand awareness while at the same time bringing new customers to the company to buy other products.

The downside of this Position based (U shaped) attribution modeling can also be seen as your product gets expensive. Then the conversion path gets longer and you experience inaccuracy with this approach.

Because it can significantly undervalue the touchpoints in the middle of the conversion path. And gives more credit than it needs to the first and last keyword/ad clicks.   

Compare your models to find the best performing one for you

If you still don’t know which of the models can fit your business goals, you can compare them to choose a better performing one.

  • Go to the Tools & Settings section (at the top right corner of the Google ads platform)
  • Under Measurement, click the Attribution option
  • Then click Model comparison (on the bottom-left corner)
  • Here, you can compare the attribution models of Keywords/Ad groups/Campaigns by their Conversion and Cost per conversion metrics


I think we have covered the most important parts of when you can use the attribution models in Google ads.

But of course, those assumptions doesn’t mean you are going to get those same outcomes from random and multiple ad interactions. There are thousands of factors to take into account and relying on just simple rule-based attribution models doesn’t make sense.

Again, the most recommended one, if you can afford and eligible using is the Data-driven model.

Otherwise, depending on the purpose of your business, choose one of the single or multi-touch rule-based attribution models.

If you’re not sure which one to use, compare them.

Those models may not be perfect but there are definitely some of them that perform better than the others in certain situations.   

Now, which of those models you are going to implement?

Let me know in the comments section below…

For any help regarding your Google ads campaign management, you can contact me anytime through the Contact page.

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