Measuring Customers with ‘Last Touch Attribution’ is like Sharing Vacation Photos of only the Airport

The biggest challenge in measuring the impact of marketing is drawing the line between advertising and sales. It’s the illusive dragon that most companies continue to chase. Unfortunately, like a mythical creature, you will never find a perfectly defined path between your sales and marketing. This is especially true of companies utilizing the Last Touch Attribution measuring model. You may not know what Last Touch Attribution means, but the funny thing is that you are probably being judged by it right now.

Last Touch Attribution is a method of tracking the results of marketing or advertising by looking at the very last thing someone did before purchasing a product. If you do a Google search for “laptops”, and an ad for Dell Laptops shows up first, and you click it and buy from the ad, that sale would be “last point attributed” to the Google ad that Dell purchased and you clicked.

Here’s a more realistic, and often occurring, instance of Last Touch Attribution.

You are scrolling through Facebook and see a blog post about a new laptop that a friend of yours likes. You click on the article and go to a blog about the new Dell laptop that is amazing. You decide the laptop is awesome and want to buy it. You do a Google search for that laptop to compare prices, and a Google Ad for that laptop by Dell shows up first. You click and buy from the ad. Once again, Dell would claim that they “acquired” you through a Google Ad … but wasn’t it an article posted to Facebook?

What if you didn’t click on the Google Ad, but instead on one of the organic search results, which were likely placed through some method of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Do we attribute the individual piece of content that was SEO’d, or do we divide the entire SEO strategy cost up by the amount of new customers?

Marketing ROI EquationThis method is messy, and it’s blurry, and it’s supposed to be. Last Touch Attribution is just not telling the whole story. Let me give you a different kind of example.

Let’s say I was on a vacation in Europe for two weeks, and upon returning home someone asks me “hey, what did you do on your vacation?” I could answer “I went to Italy,” which might be factually correct, but doesn’t begin to tell you an accurate story. Not if I took one week to travel from Germany through Austria and the Alps before arriving in Italy. It would especially not be true if I visited four ancient cathedrals, climbed a mountain, toured castles and drank beer in Munich, and then for the last week of my vacation arrived in Italy to sit at the hotel. You’re missing the chapters of the story and just reading the final sentence.

Telling the story of customer purchases must be contextual. There are MANY touch points to attribute to a sale, and it all needs to be understood. You have to start connecting dots, even if they connect more than once to create a loop instead of a line. You can’t be lazy with the data by just looking at the things you’re sure of – the space in between is just as important. Think of reporting like a Monet painting. When you look at a Monet closely it seems messy and blurry, but step back about 20 feet and you see a much sharper image.

When it really comes down to it, the burden exists on everyone within a brand – from the sales team to the business owner – in order to really understand where customers originate.

Often this can be as rudimentary as asking the questions:
“How did you find us?”
“Did you see us in more than one place?”
“What sold you on our brand?”


Or you can keep feeling for the walls in the dark … it’s your business.





Brad Bogus

Brad has spent over 10 years in the digital multimedia industry. In 2010, he started Speak Social, a digital marketing and advertising team that defies the traditional agency model. Brad has multiple industry related articles published online, has spoken on many panels and presented on Social Media, Search and the future of Online Marketing, including during SXSWi, and has appeared on numerous news stories and radio interviews on the industry. Brad is also a celebrated trainer and has educated Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, and the US State Department alike on Social Media strategy and implementation. Speak Social creates the strategies and campaigns for brands utilizing all forms of Social Media for marketing, advertising, sales, crowdfunding and PR.

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