Top 5 Tips For Interpreting And Acting On Attribution Reports

With the glut of data available today, measuring the return from your marketing program can be a difficult task. Columnist Eric Dezendorf has some key tactics for tackling attribution reports.


How do you accurately measure the return on your marketing initiatives? Marketing attribution, or using analytics to assign credit to a marketing touchpoint — whether done through a traditional last-event model or a newer real-time, algorithm-based model — can be scary to look at if you’re a beginner.

With so many different charts, graphs and information to crunch, one can get lost trying to make sense of it all. Beyond that, changing one ad can alter the effectiveness of all of your placements.

So how is one supposed to make the best decisions when faced with such a daunting amount of data? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when reading your attribution reports and attempting to maximize your marketing dollars.

1. Use A Top-Down Approach

Trying to jump right to the most granular level or most detailed report can be a daunting task that can drive the user mad with data.

Instead, start with a clear goal in mind like, “I want to look at my incremental conversions earned with display advertising.” Starting there can give you a direction to help you use your analysis time wisely.

2. Track The Most Meaningful Conversions

Most marketers use many different tags to track pages on their site. Decide before diving into your data which conversion point you want to optimize. It might not necessarily be your purchase confirmation page.

Remember that changing your display marketing to optimize for one type of conversion might negatively affect another.

Determine which is the most important or most valuable, and optimize based on that particular set of data. Worry about the other conversion types later.

3. Don’t Be Afraid Of Red

I’ve yet to come across a marketer whose placements are all successful. It’s more than okay to have placements that are failing. Those are just opportunities.

Many users get turned off when they see that their entire display prospecting campaign, or something similar, is unsuccessful — but don’t fear! This can be a great place to start optimizing.

Drill down into the different campaigns and ad groups, and usually you can identify the problem placements at the lower levels and begin making optimization decisions from there.

4. Focus On Only A Few Placements At A Time

Attribution is done from the ground up, so declaring that you are going to raise your display budget by five percent can be a useless exercise.

Since earlier you decided to start at the top, you can now drill into your marketing and identify a handful of placements or campaigns that you want to tweak each week. This way, you keep a control group and can better understand the trends and results over longer periods of time.

Though starting at the top can help drive you into the right area, it is truly only at the most granular level that you can effect the greatest change.

So make sure that any decisions you make cut down to the lowest level. It’s there that your users see your ads, so it’s there that you need to make the edits and use the reports and tools to predict how things will change.

5. Identify The Metric That Means Most To You

Is it CPA? Is it marketing spend? Is it total attributions? Whatever it is, pick that metric, and make sure you’re using it across all reports to make your decisions.

Jumping from report to report and focusing on different metrics can cloud your judgment in making the best optimization decisions.

You’ll have your own tips and tricks to making the most out of your reports. But the above can be a starting place for you to navigate some of the more complicated reports you can find in a sophisticated, comprehensive attribution platform.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


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