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Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords, is one of the most important tools when it comes to digital marketing. Effectively using Google Ads can drive tons of traffic to your website, and you can even convert the audience into customers.

For getting the best out of Google Ads, attribution modeling is very important. Google Ads attribution stands for the process of understanding the roles played by various keywords, campaigns and ad groups. The process follows benchmarks like initiating, assisting and completing conversion actions.

If this sound gibberish to you, you have come to the right place. In this article, you will get to know different attribution models and their usage. Besides, this article will also discuss the difference between the attribution models.

Let’s start!

Why is an attribution so important?

Google Ads attribution is important for several reasons. For running an effective Ad marketing strategy via Google, attributions are mandatory.

With different attribution modellings, you’ll be able to understand how the search engine users search for the niche you are targeting and their behavior before deciding to make a purchase.

The most significant benefit you might get from attribution modeling is being able to determine your most efficient ad groups, campaigns and keywords for placing your investment.

If you can get an insight on all the data, then you won’t have to waste your money in unnecessary campaigns, keywords or ad groups. This will help you to use your resources and time in a much better way.

Different types of attribution models

As there are quite a few different types of attribution models, it is very normal for you to get confused which one you should use for your campaigns. Depending on the target group and objective of your campaign, you need choose the right attribution model. Have a look at the different options at your disposal first.

1.      Last Click Model

The last click model is the default one for Google Ads and Analytics. It gives credit for the action taken of the last-clicked ad or keyword.

It is very simple to comprehend. If you run multiple ads to the same user and they finally convert on the display remarketing campaign, then the display ad gets the credit for the conversion.


This model is perfect for all you marketers out there focused on driving conversions. This attribution strategy provides the complete value of the last clicked interactions.


There is always a path to conversion and the last click attribution doesn’t take that into consideration. Maybe someone interacted before multiple times on social media but converted through a click on an Ad on Google. In this way social gets no credit for the work it did to influence this consumer.


2.      First Click Model

The first click model is the exact opposite of the last click model. It gives credit to the first keyword or channel that brought traffic into your site, instead of the last one that initiated the conversion. For example, if a visitor comes to your site from a search campaign based on a targeted keyword and doesn’t decide to buy anything immediately, you can run a remarketing ad to drive another click. If they make a purchase clicking on the remarketing ad, then the first search campaign keyword will get credit.


When your campaign is highly focused on demand generation and driving people to get an interaction with your brand then the First click model can be applied. This model is excellent when your campaigns are focused to introduce your customer to your brand regardless of the result.


This model doesn’t say much in terms of reporting. You don’t have the ability to see what eventually leaded to the conversion and the impact of the final conversion.


3.      Linear Model

This model tells you what keywords and channels are working for your platform, and which ones are not. If one of your ad or keywords doesn’t get clicks, it won’t get any credit either. Each keyword is valued equally within the path to conversion.


With this model you are able to optimize the complete customer journey while all touch points are given equal value for the part they played within the path to success.


While you are giving each step in the customer journey the same amount of credit you lose objectivity. We mean objectivity with the fact that not each step in the customer journey has equal value. A broad search has less value then requesting a consult for example.


4.      Time Decay Model

This model is based on the length of the sales process where most credit is given to the actions that happened closer to the final conversion. So, in some industries it takes a bit more time to get to a conversion. If for example a user needs 4-6 interactions before it converts then the last couple of interactions get the most credit.


This attribution model truly gives you the option to optimize your campaigns. It recognizes the importance of each step in the customer journey that led to a conversion. The closer you get to the conversion the higher the value of that interaction. With this model you can both optimize for interactions that drove conversions as the interactions that happened in the top of the funnel for brand awareness.


Within this model the last interactions (most of the time branded terms) get the most value opposed to the upper funnel keywords. It lacks the ability to say which interaction truly was responsible to introduce the customer to your brand.


5.      Position Based Model

This method is a great one for collecting important data about what keywords where most important in the beginning (which one drove attention), which keywords supported the customer along the way and which were important for getting the conversion (in the end off of the process). It gives 40% credit to both the first and last clicks, and 20% to the remaining ones. This attribution model is interesting when you need to understand the journey from awareness to interest to the final conversion.


In this model you can see which keyword drove the first interaction with your brand and also which keywords are most responsible for your conversions. In this way you provide the keywords that were most important to the conversion the value that they deserve. Still the other interactions are values as well although they were less significant the the first and last interaction.


Although this is a well-balanced model it is still a dangerous model to use. Within this model we assume that the first and last interactions where the most important but sometimes the interactions in between were even more important to convince the consumer to purchase.


6.      Data Driven Model

This is the newest addition from Google Ads. Google’s own machine learning technology is used to give credit to the most effective keywords that play vital roles in conversion process. As Google describes this model; the algorithms evaluate the path to purchase both for the converting side and the non-converting side of things to determine which touchpoints where the most relevant and most important within your campaign.

The parameters that are taken into account within this model are the number of ad interactions, the order of exposure and the creative assets used in the conversion paths.

Unfortunately, this is still not available for everyone while you need a minimum of 15.000 clicks and 600 conversions in 30 days. Also, to keep using this model it is needed that you have at least 10.000 clicks and 400 conversions within the consecutive 30 days. As you can imagine this is only for the bigger players in the market.


For sure this model is based on algorithms and is way more accurate then all the other models while it assigns the right credit to your keywords and ads. In this way you are able to optimize your bids based on data.


This model is not available for everyone so this is then also directly the con of this attribution model.

The difference between the attribution models

As you can see, different attribution models have different sorts of priorities. The last click and first click model are opposites. On the other hand, the linear model depends heavily on organic search clicks and keyword placement on SERP.

You shouldn’t use the time decay model if your campaigns are too complex and long. It is quite overkill if your ad campaign is relatively simple. Targeting keywords via Google Shopping wouldn’t receive any substantial benefit from it, as the sales can be too quick. The position-based model, on the other hand, is quite multidimensional as it gives credit to the overall campaign and it’s pieces instead of choosing a specific credit point.

Lastly, the data driven model is one which you won’t have as much control over as the other models due to Google’s own technology and standards that are needed for these insights.

Google Ads vs. Google Analytics attribution

Though many people believe that the dynamics of Google Ads and Google Analytics attribution are very different, in real they are deeply intertwined.

While Google Ads provides data based on the Ad campaigns and keywords that are placed in Ads and campaigns, Google Analytics provides a broader picture.

It includes real time users, organic visitors and organic search engine user conversions. Both kinds of attributes can drive sales if used effectively. It also provides you a broader picture then only focus on Google Ads.

Google Attribution: cross channel en cross device measurement

The customer journey changes and goes more and more thought different devices and platforms. From mobile, to desktop to tablet to finally convert on your desktop during work.

Google has now made it possible to measure the impact of their marketing via all the channels and devices.

In today’s complex digital customer journey, you might have different methods of interaction with the very same person – across social media, video, display, app or your site.

When the targeted person switches via devices, you can still get their information as the same place as Google’s Data Driven Attribution integrated AdWords, DoubleClick Search and Google Analytics.

Which attribution model you choose and when

You should choose your preferred model based on your needs, goals, target groups and your own personal preference.

For choosing the perfect model for your campaign, you should try different models at the first place to see how each of them work with the campaign and then settle for one specific one. However, using Google’s Data Driven model is the new trend in the Google Ads world. Due to its flexibility and ease of use, many marketers are shifting to it.

Key takeaways

The bottom line is, you need to understand your own needs first. First make sure your goal is clear and that you are able to get conversions in the first place. Within our blog about conversion rate optimization we tell you more about how to convert traffic into customers as well. When the conversions are there you can analyze how these conversions happened and what the role was of each keyword within the customer journey.

Mathias Aaftink

Author Mathias Aaftink

Geïntrigeerd door klantgedrag, performance marketing en klantervaring en de manier waarop organisaties daarop inspelen. Met mijn ervaring voel ik me thuis in de wereld van (digitale) marketing en branding. Ik ga nieuwe uitdagingen met veel plezier aan en voel meteen een groot verantwoordelijkheidsgevoel om er een succes van te maken. Projecten waarbij ik mijn ondernemende vaardigheden en mindset kan inzetten geven mij veel energie en dit is waar ik voor u van toegevoegde waarde kan zijn.

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