BlogGoogleUpdates To Attribution Models in Google Ads & Google Analytics 4

Updates To Attribution Models in Google Ads & Google Analytics 4

Google Ads Attribution
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Google Ads is making a major change to its attribution models, which are used to measure the impact of each advertising touchpoint on a conversion. In this blog post, we will explain what this change is, why it is happening, and what it means for search advertisers.

What is happening?

Goodbye first click, linear, time decay, and position-based from Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.

Google Ads is phasing out four rules-based attribution models: first click, linear, time decay, and position-based. These models assign value to each advertising touchpoint based on predefined rules, but they don’t account for the complexity and diversity of consumer journeys. Instead, Google Ads is making data-driven attribution the default model for web conversions. Data-driven attribution uses Google AI to understand the impact of each touchpoint on a conversion, and it works better with automated bidding to improve performance. This change will take effect starting June 2023. 

Data-driven attribution, last click, and external attribution won’t be impacted by this change in Google Ads or Google Analytics 4. 

What is the timeline of changes?

  • June 2023 – Google will remove the ability to select first click, linear, time decay and position-based attribution models for conversion actions in Google Ads that do not already use one of these models.
  • July 2023 – you will start to see these attribution models disappear in Google Ads and Google Analytics 4. 
  • September 2023 – Google will switch any conversions actions still using these models to data-driven attribution. 

It’s important to note that if you do not want Google to switch this to DDA, you can only select the last click model moving forwards. 

  • From September 2023 – Google will remove reporting throughout the rest of Google Ads including the Overview Page and the Model Comparison Report within the Attribution tab. 

Why is Google making these changes to Attribution Models in Google Ads and Google Analytics?

Other models don't give enough credit to campaigns. This is a problem for advertisers, users and Google.

The difference between data driven attribution and last click in Google Ads and Google Analytics 4 is:

Let’s use Football (or Soccer for our American friends) as an analogy.

With last click attribution, the striker would get all the credit for the goal; at no point would any of the other player on the pitch share credit for their part in the build-up play. On paper, you should only be playing the striker on the pitch!

With data driven attribution, the Goalkeeper, Defenders and Midfielders would also get some of the credit dependent on how much impact they had on the play. Perhaps the Defender did a big tackle earlier on which opened up the pitch for the attacking Midfielders to pass to the Striker and score the goal. At this point, the Defender arguably needs more credit than the striker. Without them, the move wouldn’t have happened.  

Data driven attribution can provide a more accurate representation of the customer journey, but it can also be more complex and may require more data to be effective. Last click attribution is simpler and easier to understand, but it may not accurately reflect the role that other touchpoints played in the customer’s decision to convert. 

Without data driven attribution, you could be making investment decisions in all the wrong places. This is a problem for the user as you may be surfacing ads at the wrong touchpoint, which would lead to a lower conversion rate for the advertiser. For Google, this is also a problem as it needs to make sure advertisers on its platform are relevant to users; with every click, they get paid! So it’s in their interest to keep users clicking on your ads!

Google continues to focus on user privacy, which results in less data for advertisers. It's inevitable we are moving towards more modelling.

The rules based attribution models don’t lend themselves well to privacy. 

Last click attribution relies on cookies or other identifiers to track the last ad interaction that led to a conversion. However, cookies and identifiers are becoming less available due to privacy updates and user preferences.

Data driven attribution uses machine learning algorithms to analyze both converting and non-converting paths, and assigns credit based on the touchpoints’ relative importance. It does not depend on cookies or identifiers, and can preserve measurement even when they are not present.

Data driven attribution also respects user consent choices and adheres to Google’s privacy policies. It does not use any personal or sensitive information to create attribution models.

97% of advertisers use either Data Driven Attribution or Last Click. So it's probably the right time to streamline.

This is happening because data-driven attribution is now the most-used attribution model for conversions used for automated bidding in Google Ads. According to Google, it has proven to be more effective and flexible than rules-based models, which are used by less than 3% of Google Ads web conversions. Google Ads wants to help advertisers adapt to evolving consumer behavior and optimize their campaigns with the best attribution model available.

What does this mean for you?

Switch to Data-Driven Attribution!

If you are currently using one of the rules-based models that are going away, you should switch to data-driven attribution as soon as possible. You can do this by following these steps:

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • In the upper right corner, click the tools icon , then under “Measurement,” click Conversions.
  • Click the name of the conversion action you want to update.
  • Click Edit settings.
  • Click Attribution model.
  • Select Data-driven from the drop-down menu.
  • Click Save.

By switching to data-driven attribution, you can get more accurate and actionable insights into how your ads influence conversions, and how to allocate your budget and bids accordingly. You can also use data-driven attribution with Google Analytics 4 to get a holistic view of your marketing performance across channels and platforms.

Google Ads is moving away from rules-based attribution models and making data-driven attribution the default model for web conversions. Yes, you can still select last click attribution, but we urge you to consider this choice carefully. This is a significant change that will affect how you measure and optimize your search campaigns. To prepare for this change, you should switch to data-driven attribution as soon as possible and take advantage of its benefits. 

Dan Roberts
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