A buyer’s journey is usually not straightforward, and it’s difficult to track which of the marketing channels impacted the conversion. Learn all you need about attribution models and why they are essential marketing tools.

What is an Attribution Model?

Attribution models are a framework and set of rules that determine how to assign a result to a variable. The attribution is usually done by assigning a numeric value to each variable and computing a resulting score to find which variable had the major impact on the result.

Marketers use attribution models to understand how different channels and touchpoints contribute to each sale.

What is Marketing Attribution Modeling?

Let’s start by giving the marketing attribution modeling definition. Marketing attribution modeling is a method that helps marketers attribute conversions to the right marketing channels. Without an attribution model, marketers would be in the dark, trying to understand which touchpoints lead conversions and which don’t.

What is the purpose of attribution modeling?

Marketers can use a marketing attribution model to understand which parts of their marketing campaign drive the most sales-to-funnel leads and increase the chances for conversions. Marketers assign value to touchpoints at specific steps of the buyer’s journey, from searching for the product online to purchasing.

Types of Attribution Models in Marketing

So, let’s delve deeper into attribution models. There are several marketing attribution models, but we can categorize them into two types: single and multi-source.

Single-source marketing attribution
Only gives credit to one marketing touchpoint, usually the first or last interaction. The first is when the consumer gets interested, and the last is when they close the sale.
Qualified lead model (Last touch)
Single-source marketing attribution
Only gives credit to one marketing touchpoint, usually the first or last interaction. The first is when the consumer gets interested, and the last is when they close the sale.
Multi-source marketing attribution
These models give credit to each contributing channel. When you use multi-touch attribution models, you can decide how much importance has each of your efforts.
Multi-source marketing attribution
These models give credit to each contributing channel. When you use multi-touch attribution models, you can decide how much importance has each of your efforts.

We’ll explain more about the different types in the next section.

Single-touch models 

First-Touch Attribution Model,

First touch attribution model

Also called the first-interaction, or first-click attribution model, this model gives all the credit for the conversion to the first interaction the customer has with your business on the customer journey, where they make a purchase.

When should you use this model? When you want to know what catches a new lead’s attention at the top of the funnel.

This attribution model identifies what makes your customers tick. For example, how your search or display ads campaigns are performing. Businesses with short sales cycles or that want to create brand awareness may benefit from this model.

Pros and Cons of First Touch Attribution

It works better for businesses that immediately convert to paying customers.
Overlooks the effect of other marketing inputs, such as retargeting.
It may lead to inaccurate recommendations

Last-Touch Attribution Model,

Last-Touch Attribution Model

The last touch attribution, also known as the qualified lead model, credits the sale to the customer’s last interaction with your business before purchasing. This model is called “last click attribution” or “last interaction attribution.” Because it is simple to quantify, most platforms, including Google Analytics, use it.

When should you use Last Touch Attribution? When you want to know which marketing campaign, techniques, or channels drive your customers to action. This model can be effective for organizations with short sales cycles with few steps before conversion.

Pros and Cons of Last Touch Attribution

Easy to implement and evaluate
Defines the customer’s last touchpoint before purchasing
Ignores the effects of previous marketing efforts
May be inaccurate and overestimate the ROI of the customer’s last touchpoint.

Lead creation model

Lead Creation Model

This attribution model gives the credit of the sales to the moment when a prospect becomes a lead. This turning point is where a prospect takes an action that leads to a purchase, such as completing a form.

When should you use Lead Creation attribution?: When you want to understand what is the activity that is turning your prospect into a potential customer.

Pros and Cons of Lead Creation Attribution

Help you pinpoint which marketing input is turning prospects into leads
Ignores all the other previous efforts.

Last non-direct click model

Last non-direct click model

This attribution model differentiates between direct and non-direct touchpoints, giving the credit for the sale to the last non-direct interaction. What is non-direct traffic? For example, the one driven to your website from another site. This includes email campaigns, Twitter posts, or influencer marketing.

When should you use Last non-direct touch attribution? When you want to understand which of your indirect traffic is influencing sales.

Pros and Cons of Last Non-Direct Click Attribution

Give more insight into which marketing channel leads to the purchase
Helps identify which marketing channel is used by warm leads
Ignores other touchpoints before the last non-direct interaction
You cannot understand where the customer learns about the brand.

Last  <most important> touch model 

Last most important touch model

This model is different from others because it is customizable. Last <most important channel> touch attribution model gives the credit for the sale to the last touchpoint of any specific channel. This means you choose which channel to measure for all the sales.

When should you use Last <most important channel> model? When you prioritize a channel over the others and want to measure it.

Pros and Cons of Last <most important> touch model

Gives you insights about a single channel
Good if you focus only on driving conversions.
It overlooks the other touchpoints that may affect the sale
It fragments the customer journey

Multi-Touch Attribution Models

Even-weight or Linear

Even-weight or Linear

This model divides the credit for the sale equally among all the touchpoints in a customer’s journey. For example, if there are four touchpoints in the consumer journey, each of these points gets 20% of the credit for the sale.

Let’s say a customer finds your organization on social media and signs on the mailing list. Later, the customer goes to your website and makes a purchase. Since there are three steps on this sale, each one has a conversion credit of 33%, and the number of touchpoints splits the value of the purchase.

When should you use linear attribution? When you want a more balanced insight into your client’s marketing strategy.

Pros and Cons of Even-weight or Linear Model

Helps quantify the impact of each marketing channel
It is a simple way to explain the ROI of each marketing channel
May be inaccurate when estimating the influence of each marketing touchpoint
It is difficult to define which marketing channel has the most impact.


Time decay

This model assigns credit for the sale to each of the touchpoints and, in this way, is similar to the linear attribution. The difference is that assigns more relevance to the most recent touchpoints and the earlier interactions are assigned less weight.

When should you use Time-decay attribution model? When you want to consider when the interactions occurred and have the credit spread more evenly.

Pros and Cons of Time-decay attribution model

Good for companies that depend on building relationships with customers
It helps to optimize the organization’s most important touchpoints.
Doesn’t work well for businesses with short sales cycles
May be not accurate when assigning credit to early touchpoints.

U-Shaped Attribution  

U shaped attribution

Also called the Position Attribution model, it credits conversions by giving more importance to the first and last touch point in the customer’s journey, distributing the rest evenly among other touchpoints.

For example, a customer arrives at your site through a search ad. They later view your Instagram bio and sign up to receive email marketing. Later, the customer clicks on a newsletter CTA. The initial response to the search ad and then click on the newsletter CTA each receive 40% of the credit for the conversion. The Instagram and the sign-up receive 10%.

When should you use U-Shaped attribution? When your goals include brand awareness and conversions. It gives a more accurate picture than other models.

Pros and Cons of U-Shaped attribution

Good for businesses that have several touchpoints before the full conversion process
Distributes the conversion credit between all marketing touchpoints
It may be inaccurate when assessing the impact of the in-between marketing efforts.
When you have too many touchpoints conversion credit may be too little for the between points.

W-Shaped Attribution

W-shaped attribution

This model splits the credit between the first touch, last touch, and qualified lead milestone. These points receive a third of the credit for the sale, while the rest of the credit is spread among the other touchpoints.

When should you use a W-Shaped attribution model? This model works well for B2B organizations that have a clear funnel. You will learn how the channels connect with each other and how touchpoints help buyers at each stage of the funnel.

Pros and Cons of W-Shaped Attribution

Gives you oversight of the customer journey
A great option if your company has no in-depth data science capabilities
It puts too much emphasis on only three touchpoints which can skew the analysis
It may overlook some important touchpoints

Z-Shaped Attribution

This attribution model gives credit to all touchpoints in the buyer’s journey. It works similarly to a position-based model by deciding how much credit should you assign to each touchpoint depending on its position in the sales cycle.

The model chooses the four most important touchpoints in the buyer’s journey and assigns each one 22.5% of the credit, and the remaining 10% is split equally amongst the remaining touchpoints.

When should you use a Z-shaped attribution model?  This model works well for companies with long sales cycles where customers must be guided along the way.

Pros and Cons of Z-shaped attribution model

Assigns some impact at least to all the customer journey’s touchpoints.
Its simple formula highlights the key touchpoints from the others.
Lacks nuances when assigning credit to touchpoints
Doesn’t account for cases where the first interaction is not that positive

Machine learning

Also called data-driven attribution models, uses the organization’s historical data to create the rules by which they assign credit to each of the marketing touchpoints. According to this model, each touchpoint’s value is determined based on its performance through several campaigns.

Cross-Channel Attribution Model

This model is based on multi-touch attribution. The model gives credit to the channels the customer interacts too but leaves out the touchpoints within these channels. For example, it might include a display ad but not a specific social media post. This model works best for organizations with multiple marketing channels where there is no clear overproducing channel.

View-Through Attribution Model

This model works primarily with ads and credits conversions to ad impressions, even if the conversion doesn’t follow immediately. Marketers use VTA to show that a specific impression leads to an eventual conversion. View-through attribution is also known as impression tracking. This model helps marketers acknowledge the impact of advertising on a conversion.

Custom Single or Multi-Touch Model

Maybe none of the above fits your organization. Here, consider using a custom attribution model. This model will fit your rules, and you can combine the benefits of different models and create one that works with your organization.

Examples of attribution models

Let’s understand how it works with examples. Customers X and Y come to your website looking for a product you sell, but they have different journeys:

Customer X

Converts straight away in one step. They come to your website knowing what they want, click on it, and buy it. Easy.

Customer Y

They may have a different buyer’s journey. Let’s say they found out about an ad about your product, looked for reviews on social media, went to your company’s website, looked at testimonials, and then bought the product.

Customer Y’s journey involved several touchpoints, while Customer X’s journey involved very few, if any. 

If you want to understand which touchpoints create conversions, you have a few options here.

You can assign relevance to the last touchpoint before the sale. But when you do that, you miss all the others that influenced the customer to purchase. Or you can assign relevance to the first interaction or distribute the relevance among all the touch points.

What are the touchpoints, the purpose and why attribution modeling is important? 

When you assign credit to your marketing channels and touchpoints, you can increase your chances of conversions. Other benefits of using attribution models:

  • You can identify where you need to improve the buyer’s journey
  • Detect the ROI for each channel or touchpoint
  • Understand the most effective ways to invest your budget 
  • Adjust your marketing campaign to improve conversions.

What is the most common attribution model?

The last Touch attribution model is the most common. It is used as a default for Google Analytics reports. The first touch attribution follows closely in popularity because of its simplicity.

Machine learning and cross-channel attribution models are increasingly popular because of their accuracy.

Attribution Modeling Tools

There are numerous tools available to help with marketing attribution modeling. Here are three examples:

1. CallRail

It is a marketing analytics platform with several features that helps you analyze call data, including attribution modeling. Attribution modeling can help you understand how every marketing touchpoint impacts a phone conversation with a prospect. It may help you check the sources that lead to the greatest number of calls.

2. Attribution

This enterprise multi-touch attribution tool can give you clear visibility into your marketing touchpoints and how they impact your customer’s journey. This tool automation feature lets you collect and analyze data by integrating with ad software, CRM platform, and other marketing tools.

3. Wicked Reports

It is a multi-channel attribution software for marketers. This useful tool helps you calculate the ROI for every channel, ad, and campaign. Wicked reports help adjust the attribution models according to your campaign goals and provide in-depth and accurate data.

How to find attribution model reports in Google Analytics 4. 

GA4 is a new set of Google Analytics reports and data. Google Analytics 4 displays the following features:

  • It collects website and app data to understand the customer journey
  • Uses event-based data
  • Includes privacy controls and predictive capabilities
  • It integrates directly with media platforms.

One of the tools available for Google Analytics is the Multi-Channel Funnels Model Comparison Tool. This tool helps you compare how different attribution models affect your marketing channels.

You can use the Model Comparison tool to create your custom attribution model. This means you can customize models to adjust specifically to what you want to evaluate in the conversion path.  You can learn in-depth how the Model Comparison Tool works in the Google documentation.

Let’s give an example of how model comparison in GA4 works:

  • On the left-hand menu, click Advertising.
  • In the display menu, go to Attribution, then choose Model Comparison.

Google Analytics 4

Google will consider all conversion events in the last 28 days, but you can select the date range and conversion event you want to measure.

Google Analytics 4 filters

Google lets you filter by campaign, geographic location, or device. You can also select which dimension you can report.

How to use attribution models in marketing

Collect attribution model based analytics and customer data

There are several analytics and data sources you can check in order to gain more. For example, Google Analytics multi-Channel Funnel gives you different reports according to what you want to know:

  • Assisted conversions
  • Top conversion paths
  • Time lag report
  • Path length report
  • Model comparison tool
  • ROI analysis
  • Model explorer

How do you know which analytics and touchpoints you need? That’s why, when starting attribution models, you first need to map your customer journey.

Use the Data

Next,  you should map the customer data sources and customer data platform (CDP), especially if you have first-party data. Some data sources may include:

  • Data from real-time customer interactions
  • Product data
  • Mobile data
  • Point of sale data
  • Customer support data
  • Behavioral, web browsing, and behavioral data

Map your customer journey

Understanding the path your customer takes, from searching for your product to purchase, and what influences it, is critical to measure attributions. Some questions you can ask are:

  • How long is the customer journey from prospect to customer? How many stages are they?
  • Map all channels you use to reach customers.
  • Check in what channels you spend the most of your marketing budget.
  • How long do your prospects stay at each stage in the customer journey?

In particular, you should pay attention to the following points in your customer journey:

  • How they become aware of your brand
  • What makes them return to buy
  • What makes them decide to purchase

Use an Attribution Tool

There are several attribution tools available in the market, and as the market evolves, more are added every year. How do you choose the right tool for your business? 

  • Supports multiple attribution models: Choosing a tool that supports multiple attribution models gives you the flexibility to change your approach if needed.
  • Integrates multiple data sources: if you work with single-touch attribution, choose a tool that can integrate many customer data sources.
  • Supports multi-touch attribution: If, on the other hand, a multi-touch attribution model is better for assessing the effectiveness of marketing points, you need a tool that supports multi-touch attribution.

When you find the right tool, connect your data sources and start viewing and analyzing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Limitation of attribution models in marketing

For all the benefits of marketing attribution models, they have some challenges and limitations:

  • They don’t credit immeasurable factors, for example, offline marketing.
  • Marketing attribution models don’t credit organic behavior for ad campaigns.
  • Models divide credit among different touchpoints, but most don’t give the true ROI.
  • It can be difficult for marketers to ensure the right touchpoints get the right amount of credit.
  • It may be challenging to find every touchpoint in the customer journey, so it is important to have a strategy beforehand.

How do you choose the right attribution model for your business? 

A wide variety of attribution model types enables you to adjust your strategy to your goals. With so many different models, it is challenging to understand which one is the best for you. Here are several things to consider while choosing your model:

  • How long is your sales cycle and funnel: Some attribution models work better with short cycles, while others work better with long cycles.
  • What is your customer’s journey map and touchpoints: How many stages and touchpoints do you have in the customer’s journey? Also, which channels are you using to target each touchpoint?
  • Your is your brand’s goals: The goal of your brand’s campaign will define the channels you use and the attribution models you use.


Let’s say a handbag company wants to know more about how its customers reacted to a recent social media campaign. Their sales cycle is short, and there are not a lot of customer touchpoints, social media posts, a website, or a landing page. The company’s goal is to drive sales, and they do it by promoting on social media. This brand may benefit from a single source attribution model, first or last touch.

A brand with a multichannel strategy may benefit from multi-touch models.

Take time to evaluate the attribution model.

Once you choose an attribution model to use, test it.  For instance, you may want to test if your customers come to your brand through organic search. Also, when using an attribution model, remember to account for offline touchpoints as well as online touchpoints.

For instance, you can measure foot traffic, point of sale surveys, or track calls.

Regardless of the model you choose, test it for accuracy and how it aligns with your campaign goals—common mistakes to avoid with marketing attribution.

When starting with attribution models, it is easy to commit mistakes. Here are four of the most common. 

  • Overreliance on the last-click attribution: It is easy to go to the last-click attribution model. However, if you follow this simplistic view, you may miss essential touchpoints.
  •  Not using all available data:  Try to collect data from as many sources as you can. That way, you can get insights about marketing strategy, which channels are performing better, and which touchpoints are most successful.
  • Staying with basic attribution models: As your company grows, you must adjust your models and add more channels.
  • Not aligning the model with your brand goals: confirm your business goals before picking an attribution model. Once you pick one model, test it to check if it aligns with your goals.

Attribution modeling with Codefuel

CodeFuel helps publishers with attribution with CodeFuel Center. The platform allows publishers to gain actionable insights, improve their strategy and increase revenue.

What’s in CodeFuel Center?

  • The Data and Analytics Dashboard – Presents real-time insights for traffic optimization.
  • Pre-defined performance reports
  • Customizable analytics – You can customize reports with new filters and metrics.
  • Dedicated section My Reports – Publishers helps you access previous data and manage saved reports.

CodeFuel publishers maximize their revenue and have a clear understanding of their attribution. Learn more about how CodeFuel helps by contacting us. 


How to get started with marketing attribution?

Start by understanding what you want to measure. Map the customer journey and the touchpoints. How many stages are there, and what are channels that you use at every stage?

What is the attribution model in marketing?

The attribution model in marketing is a method that helps marketers understand how every touchpoint and channel affects the conversion. When you assign credit to your marketing channels and touchpoints, you can understand which areas of the buyer’s journey you can improve, the ROI for each touchpoint or channel, and adjust your strategy and marketing budget accordingly.

What is multi-source marketing attribution?

In these models, each channel gets credit for the conversion. How much? This will depend on the type of multi-touch attribution model. Some give the most credit to the first and second to last contribution; others spread the credit evenly.

What is single-source marketing attribution?

These models give all the credit for the conversion to a single touchpoint. Usually, they assign it to the first or last touchpoint. First touch attribution assigns all the credit for the conversion to the first interaction of the lead with the brand. Last touch attribution, however, assigns all the credit for the conversion to the last touchpoint before the purchase.

What are the best marketing attribution models?

There is no “best” attribution model but “best for your campaign and goals.” Some attribution models, however, are more accurate than others.

Data-driven, called Cros-Channel Linnear, assigns credit based on how each touchpoint impacts the probability of conversions. The advantage of this model is that it can calculate the exact contribution of a touchpoint for every conversion.  Google Analytics’ new tool, GA4, enables you to see how the performance changes according to the attribution model you use.

What is an attribution model in google analytics?

Google Analytics has its own way of determining how to credit touchpoints for sales. Because there are different attribution models, Google has a Multi-Channel Funnels Model Comparison Tool that helps you compare different attribution models and their impact on evaluating your marketing channels. The conversion value will vary according o the attribution model you use.