Understanding Attribution In Google Analytics

In Google Analytics the most common attribution type is last click attribution. This is usually the default, for example in acquisition and AdWords reports. This means that the last marketing activity gets all of the credit for the conversion.

However, it is not always the last marketing activity which was the most useful for the conversion. Google Analytics utilises a basketball metaphor to explain this. In last click attribution all of the credit would be given to the basketball player who scores, even though the other players have assisted in the process.

In this article I will outline some of the ways of understanding and crediting the whole conversion process.  

Multi-channel funnel reports

Multi-channel funnel reports allow you to answer the questions you have about how your marketing activities work together. In this report, channels are credited according to the roles they play in conversions. The assist interactions for your conversions are clearly demonstrated in a flow- like structure.

Although Google Analytics does automatically create some channel groups such as direct, display, organic and referral, it is a good idea to customise the default settings to better fit with your marketing activities.

It is worth noting that to use multi-channel funnel reports you do need to have first set up goals or e-commerce in your account and that only interactions in the last 30 days are included in conversion paths (although you can adjust this).


Google Analytics Attribution

The attribution report

Google Analytics attribution modelling is a really useful tool which helps you to understand which of your marketing techniques are working best and most frequently resulting in conversions. It basically works by assigning credit for a conversion to a certain marketing activity. This allows you to understand what is providing you with the best return on investment.

The attribution report allows you to compare attribution model data (3 attribution models at one time).

The attribution models you can compare are outlined below.


model comparison tool attribution

Attribution models:

  • The last attribution model assigns all of the conversion credit to the last channel. This is the default setting in Google Analytics.
  • The last non-direct click model assigns all of the conversion credit to the last non-direct channel, assuming that a direct click comes from a customer who has already been won from a different channel.
  • The first interaction model assigns all of the conversion credit to the first interaction that your user has with your site. This model is useful for businesses which run campaigns to raise initial awareness of their brand or products.
  • The linear model assigns equal credit to each interaction. This model is useful if your campaign is designed to maintain awareness and contact with your user or customer throughout the complete sales cycle. Many marketers now prefer the linear attribution model to the last attribution model.
  • The time decay model assigns most of the credit to the interactions closest to the conversion.
  • The position based model assigns different credit dependant on position. So the first and last touch points receive most credit than those in between. This could be useful if your business places equal importance on raising initial awareness and the marketing activity which directly led to conversion.
  • If none of the above attribution models above suit your business goals or model, then you can also design custom attribution models using Google Analytics and choose exactly what part of the conversion stage gets assigned the most credit.

attribution models google analytics


It is really important when assessing your marketing activities to think of the process as a whole. Focusing only on the last click only could lead to you making mistakes with your marketing strategy. By using multi-channel reports and attribution reports and modelling you can ensure that you consider and analyse your marketing strategy from start to finish in order to make the best data led decisions for your business to succeed.

Ed Brocklebank (aka Metric Mogul) is an analytics and digital marketing consultant. He helps business of all sizes become more data-driven through measurement, strategy and activation. He works as a Strategic Analytics Director at Jellyfish in London, as well as delivering training on behalf of Google and formerly General Assembly.