Getting Started with Google Analytics Attribution Reports

trophyguyThere’s an often-overlooked tool in Google Analytics that I have brought into the fold for certain clients: Attribution.

The A-word is a well-worn conversation, one that’s usually circular in nature. Every client wants to know, “How do we do it?” but there isn’t one right way, which makes it a conversation that frequently has no conclusion. While bringing Attribution reports into your discussion can inevitably bring up the “Which model should we use?” talk, it can also shed some helpful light on user behavior. It may or may not drive how the account is managed in the future, but I’ve found it almost always helps gives clients perspective.

This is especially true in accounts that have longer sales cycles than a quick-hit e-commerce world. Particularly in B2B, where there are long considerations, many different decision makers, and other factors that lengthen the time it takes for a purchase to occur.

Getting Started with Attribution Reports

When you log into Analytics, go to the Conversions section. You will see a section for Attribution:


When you click on that, you will have one option for Model Comparison.

When you click into that, you will see a screen that defaults to the Last Click information, which is always the default. It would match what you’d see if you just looked at conversions by channel.

Up at the top, you will see some options. You can filter for just certain conversion types, you can choose to drill specifically into AdWords which will show you campaign, ad group, and keyword level information. You can also choose the day window prior to conversion – that’s a particularly useful field to play around with when you’re dealing with longer sales cycles.


There is also an option to get really granular and only have it include certain audiences, such as specifying what their first Interaction was.

Comparing Attribution Models

Once you have your settings done the way you want, you can start comparing models in the two drop-downs. A description of each Attribution type can be referred to here. Let’s say you want to see how the default attribution your AdWords is getting compares to a Time Decay model. You would choose those two from the drop down (and yes, you can even specify a third if you want, but let’s not get crazy):


Sometimes you may not see a huge difference but sometimes you do:


This was set to a 60 day window as well, and it tells a pretty compelling story about attributable AdWords “help” when it comes to the user journey.

Sometimes it can be extra-interesting if you have an instance where AdWords almost never shows a last-click conversion, but it becomes evident that when you look at other models it plays a part in the customer buying process.

The big question is always how that should influence spend, and how valuable the paid search channel is to the overall buying cycle, but that boils down to being a business decision with no clear answer.

Have you found value in using the attribution reports in different ways? Feel free to share your experience in the comments!