Attribution Technology: What’s Best For Your Needs?

A few months ago, I wrote an article titled Attribution: What It Is And Why It’s Important where I discussed two types of attribution: operational and project based attribution.

For this post, I want to go one step further and explain how you can use several different types of technologies for operational and project-based attribution. The tables below should help you select the most appropriate technology based on your own attribution needs.

Operational attribution allows an advertiser to see all the steps or clicks that led to conversion in real-time and continuously attributes conversion credit across the team of ads. The three most common technologies used for operational attribution are display ad servers, website analytics and advertising analytics.


Technology Pros Cons Audience

Display Ad Servers

Low level implementation; see how display clicks and impressions work alongside PPC. Focused more heavily on paid traffic sources such as display and PPC, and typically excludes other ad sources; revenue focus on ad delivery with limited insight into organic channels. Those with mainly display focus in marketing mix; focus on paid channel overlap.

Website Analytics

Strong digital channel coverage; ability to data mine against site traffic and CRM data. Heavy implementation effort; limited ability to de-duplicate post-impression data at user level. Current users of site analytics; those who have a limited desire to understand post-impression data.

Advertising Analytics

High level of accuracy due to consistent tracking methodology; ability to manage large volumes of data from internal and external systems. Moderate implementation effort; incremental investment to site analytics or ad serving. Those who desire complete channel coverage of digital landscape; those who seek to tie in product, customer and ad creative analytics into the overall value equation.

Project based attribution focuses on your overall marketing program and produces an optimized marketing spend plan, and its solutions include both technology and service providers. For project-based attribution, there are two commonly used technologies: business intelligence and advertising analytics.

Technology Pros Cons Audience
Business Intelligence Ability to pull in and interpret data from disparate sources; manage large volumes of data. Incremental expense to ad serving and site analytics; data from disparate sources can create accuracy and de-duplication concerns. Those who don’t have access to production site; those who are confident in “lift” metrics as opposed to actual metrics at the most granular level.
Advertising Analytics Accurate dataset to conduct comprehensive statistical modeling; ability to translate statistical analysis into day-to-day channel management. Requires code on site; incremental investment to site analytics or ad serving. Those who seek day-to-day dash boarding of their attribution efforts; those who seek to tie in granular data as well as larger econometric data into the equation.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Credit Is Due | How To: PPC


About The Author: is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at ClearSaleing, Inc., a technology provider of advertising analytics. Adam founded ClearSaleing after working at Google for 3 years, where he started their Inside Sales organization.

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  • wkanaday


    Thanks for bringing attention to the issue of attribution and for the work y’all are doing at ClearSaleing.

    But when I look across the Interactive Attribution vendors no one seems to have it all nailed down and tied up nicely. The Forrester report you referenced earlier seems to support this conclusion.

    So when and how do you think that breakthrough will occur or will it ever?


  • Adam Goldberg

    Hi Wkanaday,

    You are welcome. Thanks for reading my article.

    Attribution is the holy grail of advertising. Truly knowing the impact of each touch point along a consumer’s purchase path allows marketers to buy the perfect mix of media at the perfect price point to earn the maximum amount of profit given their investment. To this extent having attribution ‘nailed’ is still a ways off.

    In order to truly have attribution truly ‘nailed’ all forms of media (not just online) has to be accounted for. It will be quite some time until there consumers a comfortable with having everything they see and do reside in a tracking technology. Set top boxes are the next logical addition to the offline world.

    With that said, I do believe companies such as ClearSaleing have made tremendous strides in performing attribution in the online world. We have nearly 100 very large advertisers on our system that have increased their profitability by getting beyond last click measurement. Though they may not all be using ‘perfect’ models to base their decisions off of, they are using models that are far more accurate than last click.

    We have found that our clients that are using an even attribution model have gained a tremendous amount of lift. An even model treats each ad in a path with an equal share of the credit for the conversion. This type of model makes sure our clients don’t over value closers and completely ignore introducing and influencing ads. They quickly find that by investing more dollars in top of the funnel advertisements they attract more new vs. repeat customers, increase AOV, and be in places where their competition cannot justify when using last click metrics.

  • NWTiger54


    Great insight and I couldn’t agree with you more about attribution truly being the holy grail of advertising. I can’t even fathom the performance that could be attained If we were at the point of knowing the impact offline truly had on online, but hey; that’s a ways off.

    Anyway, I was wondering what your take was on Google’s new Search Funnels feature and it’s ability to truly identify a conversion path/attribution? Of course it only ties in AdWords traffic but that alone can make up a smaller firm’s entire online advertising.



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