What is Attribution in Advertising? - shesgotvision.com

What is Attribution in Advertising?

Today’s shoppers pass through many phases before deciding what to buy, what to sign up for or even what free trials to take. But when it comes to online advertising, most advertisers only measure the last click right before a purchase. That can severely undervalue platforms like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram that start influencing shoppers’ decisions much earlier in the shopping process. 


Paying attention to the entire shopping (or conversion) process is important for marketers, because it helps to understand when and how to influence buyers decisions. It also helps to determine what is effective in influencing those decisions. 


What is Attribution in Advertising?


What is Attribution?


Let’s start exploring this topic by understanding what attribution is. Attribution is “the action of regarding something as being caused by a person or thing.” (Oxford University Press, 2019). 


When we apply attribution to advertising it is where we say that an action is caused specifically by an ad. Those actions could be viewing, clicking, liking, sharing, commenting on an ad online,  making a purchase, signing up for something, or downloading something. These are the most common actions that can be tracked from an online ad. 


The number of days between when someone viewed or clicked your ad and then took action on your website is referred to as an “attribution window.” 


Attribution Windows in Facebook Advertising


When running ads on Facebook, the default Facebook attribution window settings show actions taken within 1 day of viewing your ad and within 28 days of clicking your ad. So, you will see all the actions taken for a full 28-day period from the day each ad is shown. 


The ultimate goal for an advertiser is to show someone an ad and have them take action right away. But, human beings don’t always behave that way! We like to think, to compare, and get to know the person or company a bit better before making a purchase. 


This is why tracking actions taken from an ad for a full 28-day period is so important — we can see how different segments (or groups) of an audience react to an ad. Do they take action right away (within 1 day of viewing an ad) or do they delay taking action (for up to 28-days)? It’s really interesting to pay attention to how and when people are taking action, so that you can assess the effectiveness of your ads over different periods of time. 


For example, one client I worked with had an audience that had two distinct groups: one that took action right away and another that took awhile to take action. So, instead of quickly judging an ad over one day of performance, I had to look over 3-days, 7-days, and even up to the full 28-days, to judge a specific ad as effective or ineffective. 


It is important to note that any events outside the maximum conversion window (28 days) are not counted. The cycle begins again and if that person sees an ad again, then that ad will be the one that receives the attribution.


It’s also important to pay attention to the data for a campaign up to 28-days after a Facebook advertising campaign ends. Facebook will continue to populate the data for 28-days, so be sure to pull final campaign results after that point to capture the full results or you’ll be missing out on the total number of actions taken as a result of the ads. 


Multi-touch Attribution in Pinterest Advertising 


Pinterest advertising is a great example of why measuring multi-touch attribution (MTA) is so important. Multi-touch attribution helps brands evaluate their advertising campaigns across multiple platforms, throughout the entire path to purchase. That means advertisers get clearer insight into what’s driving sales, regardless of whether it happened at the first moment of inspiration, or right before someone decided to buy. 


Since people use Pinterest all the way from inspiration to action, it’s more accurate to measure Pinterest ads with models that account for more than last click attribution. People are also more likely to use Pinterest earlier in their shopping process, rather than later. Pinterest users like to do their research and use Pinterest to find solutions to their unique needs.


When Neustar MarketShare ran a multi-touch attribution study for Pinterest ads, their model showed that Pinterest deserved 30% more credit than a standard last click attribution model would have reported. That’s crazy, right?! 


The last touch model is similar to giving a retail associate all the credit for selling a designer handbag, even though other inputs shaped the shopper’s decision to buy the handbag. The shopper probably saw ads, did some research and maybe even consulted with friends or family. The sales clerk simply gave a final push when the shopper visited the store.


The best course of action for an advertiser is to measure actual performance and attribution, so marketers can gauge channel impact, customer journey interactions and brand and sales drivers.





Oxford University Press. (2019). Attribution | Definition of attribution in english by oxford dictionaries. Retrieved February 23, 2019, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/attribution 


Pinterest. (2017). Move over, last-click: Multi-touch attribution gives better insight | Pinterest business. Retrieved February 23, 2019, from https://business.pinterest.com/en/blog/move-over-last-click-multi-touch-attribution-gives-better-insight 


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