Digital Marketing & Web Analytics: Understanding Conversion and Attribution Modeling

Written By Kelly Cutler, Founder & CEO, Kona Company
Edited By Asha Vaidyanath, Medill IMC Class Of 2015

Published on 10/21/2015


Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.”
— Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist, Hubspot

In the digital age of marketing, everything is measurable. Therefore, the best marketers also have an understanding of both the creative side as well as the analytics. The insurgence of savvy marketers utilizing web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Omniture and Core Metrics, provides a more transparent landscape for advertising decisions. The increased level of transparency allows marketers to better determine the return on investment of digital campaigns. Digital marketing provides the ability for marketers to directly attribute conversions, or actions, back to advertising or marketing efforts.

Conversions can include many different actions such as form submission, video view, blog comment, e-newsletter sign-up, white paper download, e-commerce transaction and many more. Well-trained marketers utilizing digital channels will identify the top conversion points on the website and include calls-to-action within ads and organic campaigns, thus driving users toward the preferred conversion points. Properly enabled web analytics allow marketers to associate conversions directly back to a marketing source like search or social media as well as a medium like PPC (pay-per-click) and can even drill down to the keyword level. With this increased level of measurement, marketers are able to remove the guesswork associated with marketing and can simply optimize the strategy around the most profitable channels.

All About Conversion Attribution

Although conversion tracking is an essential component of measurement, conversion attribution is equally important. Measuring conversion attribution allows marketers to quantify the influence each impression or channel had on the overall purchase intent or conversion point. This valuable data demonstrates the full picture of conversion tracking by offering visibility into the entire path a customer takes when making a decision. If we are only tracking conversions, we eliminate important intelligence about reach and frequency and how people react to different types of marketing. Marketers can track and understand how different digital channels work together to deliver the most valuable customer interactions.

Conversion Paths

Conversion path reports help deliver a visual representation of the customer journey to conversion. Traditional marketing wisdom tells us that most consumers need exposure to an ad or a message several times before they will take action. Digital marketing channels might include some or all of the following techniques:

  • Organic Search (SEO)
  • Paid Search (PPC)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Email Marketing
  • Display Advertising
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Remarketing
  • Referral
  • Direct

By grouping together these channels in order of a user’s interaction, marketers can identify trends in user behavior. We can also identify which conversion paths deliver the highest return on investment (ROI) by tracking total number of conversions as well as the value of those conversions.

Getting Started: Tracking Goals and Conversions

In Google Analytics, a conversion is the completion of an activity that is important to the success of the business. This can be set up within the “Goals” report of Google Analytics, and different conversions can be assigned unique values. For example, a transaction is worth more than an e-newsletter sign-up. Goals can include a dollar value and can be based on conversion points such as Reservations, Payment, Appointment, Contact Us, Get Estimate and many more.

Multi-Channel Funnels

Once conversions are being tracked, view the “Multi-Channel Funnel Overview” report to understand the percentage of conversion paths that includes combinations of channels. Comparing the Assisted Conversions and visualizing the goal path allows a deeper understanding of how users get to the final conversion point.

Assisted Conversions

The Assisted Conversions summarizes the roles and contributions of each channel. There are three different roles in a conversion path:

  • Last Interaction: the interaction that immediately precedes the conversion
  • Assist Interaction: an interaction within the conversion path but not the last interaction
  • First Interaction: the first interaction within the conversion path (this is a type of assist)

Assisted and last click conversion value are reported in the following ways:

  • Assisted conversions and value: the number of assists and the monetary value of those conversions. The higher these numbers, the more important the assist role of the channel
  • Last click or direct conversions and value: the number and monetary value of conversions from the last click in the conversion path. The higher these numbers, the more important the last interaction role of the channel

The final column on this report is a value assigned to the channel, which essentially serves as a conversion rating. The assisted/last click or direct conversions are reported as follows:

  • If the value is close to zero, the channel has a higher propensity to drive last click conversions
  • If the value is greater than 1, the propensity of that channel is to be present earlier in the conversion cycle
  • If the value is very close to 1, the channel equally assists and drives last click interactions
In Summary

Additional reports such as Time Lag and Path Length offer further insights into the effectiveness of each channel. These reports offer details about the amount of time between user interactions and number of interactions, respectively. Measuring goals and conversions with web analytics puts marketers in the driving seat. With reports like the ones described above, we become more strategic about digital marketing. Being more strategic means increasing efficiency and fewer wasted dollars on non-performing ad campaigns. In the digital era, every marketer should be aware of the tools available for tracking and measurement. As we become more comfortable with these metrics, we develop more effective campaigns that deliver higher conversions. Happy Measuring! [END]


Asha_CutlerKelly Kelly Cutler is the founder of Kona Company, a digital strategy firm committed to providing integrated online marketing solutions. Kelly has provided award-winning work to clients including Johns Hopkins Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem, HUB International and Ryland Homes. She speaks around the country at industry events and conferences and enjoys helping future digital marketing leaders through her teaching program at DePaul University’s Kellstadt Marketing Center.
asha_Final Asha Vaidyanath worked as the marketing manager for Penguin Books where she developed award-winning campaigns for Penguin’s leading authors. Before that she worked at Ogilvy & Mather in India where she designed digital strategy for leading brands. Asha holds a master of arts degree in advertising and marketing from Leeds University Business School.

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