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Marketing Attribution: Why is it getting hard & what to do about it? 

Every morning, Kelly spends a significant amount scrolling through LinkedIn before heading to work. Today, she comes across an ad for an HR SaaS tool that instantly piqued her interest. She visits the page on her laptop and downloads an ebook. She starts reading it, but has to leave it midway to head to work. On the way, she picks it back up on her tablet – right where she left off. 

Customers just like Kelly are used to convenience and constant connectivity. Switching across multiple channels and devices to consume content has become easier now more than ever. In such a cross-connected era, what is a marketer to do when the client asks about ROI?

And it’s not just about one channel. An interested consumer interacts with a brand across multiple channels. While some spend time reading the delightfully crafted blogs, a few engage with their clever social media posts, and also respond to the visually apealing email campaigns. Heck, a handful of them even click on some of the paid ads. 

With so many interaction channels, it is becoming increasingly difficult to track which part of the marketing strategy is working well. In fact, a lot of buyer intent data is lost every single day in the spooky realms of the Dark Funnel. The Dark Funnel contains copious amounts of intel from digital sources that is otherwise not visible to a marketer’s eyes. 

So, how can a marketer derive accurate data from their marketing efforts? 

Enter Marketing Attribution. 

Forward-thinking marketers are leveraging data-driven attribution to effectively measure all their social channels – and analyse the impact of each touchpoint on the customer journey. 

According to Think With Google, 76% of all marketers have adopted marketing attribution into their marketing arsenal. And this number is only going to grow further. 

For the uninitiated, marketing attribution is the scientific analysis of marketing tactics to evaluate which touchpoints contribute to conversion and ROI. Marketers rely on these attribution metrics to determine which channels and brand messaging have had the most significant impact on consumers’ conversion decisions.

But here’s the catch: marketing attribution can be tricky, and hard to get accurate results. Moreover, with an ever-inflating MarTech landscape and cryptic signals from the dark funnel, attribution is becoming even more challenging. Infact, a survey by Advertiser Perceptions and Google found that only 17% of advertisers look at the performance of their digital channels. 

So, why are so many marketers finding it challenging to keep up with attribution? 

Over the years, since the dawn of marketing attribution, several marketers have presented concerns about its accuracy and scope. 

Let’s deep dive into some of the most prominent challenges of attribution – 

  • Inaccuracies in ROI Projection: The attributed ROI is not always congruent to the actual ROI of an organisation. Marketing attribution models only consider conversion touchpoints that occur online while calculating ROI. But there’s so much happening behind the curtain – offline sales, word-of-mouth, affiliate promotions – that goes uncredited. This makes the attribution model’s ROI prediction unreliable and inconsistent. 
  • No Measure for External Factors: Not every conversation with a potential consumer happens on a digital channel. Outdoor activities and offline promotions are essential for a 360º marketing analysis. Sometimes, external factors and current events trigger unique marketing tactics that these attribution models cannot decipher (because of a lack of data). Even though they may seem trivial, external factors (such as the season, economy, target group behaviors, and so on) greatly influence outdoor sales and marketing effectiveness.
  • Is the entire customer journey accounted for?: It is difficult to determine whether the attribution tool captures every piece of the customer journey. Each touchpoint has a value attached to it, so if you assign the wrong attribution model, you’ll have several incongruencies in your data. 

So how do we tackle these challenges and manifest marketing attribution at its full potential? 

Marketing attribution models. 

Marketing attribution is a complex methodology – but you can tweak it based on your brand’s goals and needs. This is where these models can make your (marketing) life easy – they enable you to ascertain which strategy best suits your brand, and the suitable model can yield far more accurate results. 

Let’s explore these models further to know when to use them. 

First-touch attribution: This single-source model accounts for a consumer’s first touchpoint with the brand. The metrics could include a first-time visit to the website, first engagement with the brand’s content, or any other touchpoint that introduces them to the product. 


Application: Implement this attribution model when you want to focus on demand and lead generation. 

Last-touch attribution: As the name suggests, this model accounts for the customer journey’s final touchpoint, which leads to conversion. It is also a single-source model and easy to deploy. However, it has a downside– it cannot track the initial engagement that led the customer to the brand. 


Application: Implement this model when you want to focus on conversions. 

Linear attribution: This attribution model is of the multi-touch kind, which considers all the channels throughout the customer journey. This model gives equal attribution to each touchpoint and presents a holistic view of customer interactions. 


Application: Linear attribution model works well when you want to give equal importance to each touchpoint. 

Last Non-direct Click: This model eliminates direct traffic and attributes the entire conversion value to the last touchpoint or channel that the customer clicks through from engagement to conversion. 


Application: You can leverage this model to assess which marketing channel brought in the conversion and assign better values to it for the future. 

Time-decay: Similar to linear attribution, it attributes to multiple touchpoints. The only difference is that it attributes a timestamp to each touchpoint, so we know precisely when the event occurred. So, the interactions that happened right before conversion have higher values than those in the initial stages. 


Application: This model works best when you have a longer sales cycle – such as a B2B purchase – and you want to focus on building a relationship with the client for renewals. 

Position-based: This U-shaped attribution model splits the value for conversion between the first interaction and the point at which the prospect converts into a lead. The values are divided in a 40% + 20% + 40% manner where: 

-40% of the attribution goes to the first and the last interactions each. 

-20% of the attribution goes to all the interactions in the middle (hence the U-shape). 


Application: This is the best attribution model for your business. While it attributes some credit to every interaction and touchpoint, it gives equal credit to the first and last interaction with the brand. 

Check out – Hubspot Marketing Agency


If you have been considering a marketing attribution tool, you are on the right track. However, before you dive headfirst into the market, figure out all the challenges looming over your team and how an attribution tool enables you to eliminate them. MarTech tools like HubSpot support their Marketing Hub members with auto-generated and build-by-type attribution reports based on client interaction. Users can sort their attribution reports by Revenue attribution or Contact Created attribution to build their reports. For HubSpot, the Contact Created attribution truly takes the cake as it attributes every time a new lead is generated. 

Deploying marketing attribution is a journey in itself that comes with its set of challenges. But when you are armed with the right tools and organisational buy-in, you can wade off these challenges effectively. 
ContentNinja is a growth agency and a platinum-tier HubSpot partner agency in India. With a research-driven approach, ContentNinja solves complex inbound and digital marketing challenges for ambitious brands globally.

Author avatar
Mayank Gulati