On most websites, the conversion journey involves many different routes and across many sessions: few customers buy from the first advert.

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You may have heard of the ‘rule of 7’. In reality, it varies from maybe 2 or 3 touches for a $20 purchase and definitely more than 10 for an enterprise business service. Your company is buying prospects (or traffic) from a number of online channels, and in many cases, it will be the same potential customer coming from different sources.

To be able to report on this in Google Analytics, we need to get the basic setup correct.

Tagging campaigns for attribution

The first step is to make sure that the different traffic sources can be compared in a multi-channel report are consistent and have complete inbound link tagging. Be sure to tag your campaign correct with our URL Builder.

Some tools (such as Bing or Mailchimp) have options to turn on link tagging for GA – although it’s buried in the settings. With many others, you will have to add the necessary ‘UTM’ parameters onto the link.

Without this tagging, many sources will be misattributed. For example, affiliate networks could send referrals from any of thousands of websites which will appear under the ‘referrals’ channel by default. Facebook ads, since the majority come from the Facebook’s app, will appear under the ‘direct’ (or ‘unknown’) channel.

From when full tagging is in effect, the channels report will start to reflect your genuine traffic acquisition source. But don’t expect a 100% match with other tracking tools – see our article on Facebook – GA discrepancies.

Importing cost data

The cost for any Google AdWords campaigns can be imported automatically, by linking the accounts, but for any third party campaigns, you will need to upload a spreadsheet with your costs on.

The benefit is that now you can see the return on investment calculation update in real-time in the multi-channel reports.

Model attribution

The final step is to decide how you will attribute the value of a campaign if it forms part of a longer conversion pathway. The default for Google Analytics (and most others) is ‘last non-direct click’. That means that the most recent TAGGED campaign gets all the credit for the sale. If the user clicks on 5 Facebook ads, and then eventually buys after an abandoned basket email reminder, that email reminder will get all the sales (not Facebook). This attribution is what you’ll see in all the standard campaign and acquisition reports.

You may feel that it is unfair on all the work done by the earlier campaigns, so ‘linear’ (sale equally credited to all tagged campaigns) or ‘time decay’ (more recent campaigns get more credit) may be a better fit with your businesses’ goals.

Conclusion

Multi-channel marketing performance attribution is not a luxury for the largest companies. It’s available to you now, with the free version of Google Analytics. It will require some setup effort to get meaningful reports (as with any measurement tool) but it has the power to transform how you allocate budget across a range of online marketing platforms.

But if this still is not working for you then you may have a problem with cross domain tracking.

Need a bit more advice or have any questions? Get in touch with our experts or leave a comment below!

 

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Alexandra

Previously led retail and digital marketing for LEGO Certified Stores and PANDORA. She’s experienced in PPC, affiliate, e-commerce, travel and news websites. She has a Master's degree in economic analysis.

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