A Cleanse for Your Unhealthy Search and Social Attribution

by | May 14, 2024

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We’ve all got guilty pleasures. For too many performance marketers, their guilty pleasure is an addiction to the shiny low costs of last click attribution.

It’s not easy to snap your fingers and switch to a more robust measurement model, whether that’s MTA (multi-touch attribution) or an MMM (media mix modeling) setup that shows you how to more effectively allocate your budget across channels.

Last click attribution, after all, feels superficially pretty good—nice, low CPAs that make it easy to explain ROI by channel to the higher-ups. It’s also not easy to just snap your fingers and pivot; along with communicating the strategic shift (and how it’ll change your numbers) to your teammates, you need to onboard a martech solution or develop more complicated measurement models internally to see a fuller picture.

It’s a rough enough road to smarter attribution that many marketers who know better have stuck to their comfort zone of last click measurement. We’d like to change that, so we’re laying out steps to cleanse your system of its last click addiction and move toward a healthier marketing approach.

Step 1: understand the dynamics of search and social.

Social media advertising platforms—Meta, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snap, Pinterest, etc.—are all capable of driving discovery and demand, and capturing that demand. 

Search and shopping ads—mostly Google but also Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.—capture intent and demand. Search (especially brand search) capitalizes on demand that was initially sparked further up the funnel. It’s inherently bottom-of-funnel marketing and is very often the engagement closest to the sale, which makes it the channel that benefits most from last click attribution.

But here’s the problem: If you stop spending to generate the demand that search captures, search performance crumbles. That means if you’re sticking to last click attribution that’s telling you search is outperforming other channels by miles, you’ll want to invest more in search and less on generating the supply of demand it lives on.

Step 2: Experiment with social click-through windows.

Social ad platforms will give you options between click-through windows (the duration of time a user has to take a subsequent action after clicking an ad) and view-through windows (the duration of time a user has to take a subsequent action after simply seeing an ad but not clicking). In most situations, a click shows more intent and interest than a passive view and is therefore closer to the eventual conversion event. 

We’ve seen some revealing data and results when we change how we optimize social accounts—in short, switching from view-through conversion bidding to click-through conversion bidding. This tells the ad platforms’ bidding algorithms to go after this more valuable, higher-intent audience. Initially, costs could be higher, but the algorithm will optimize over time to find the right users. I also recommend you run conversion lift tests both before and after you make that adjustment to gauge the effects on incremental costs and volume.

Step 3: Invest in advanced analytics.

If you undertake the first two steps with an open mind, you’ll start discovering the benefits of smarter attribution—and be a lot more eager to invest time and resources into even more advanced analytics, like MMM. One of the strengths of MMM is its objectivity—it doesn’t care about which channel produced the event closest to the conversion, and it doesn’t come with complications like two platforms reporting duplicate conversion events. Its purpose is to tell you, the marketer, where to spend your money effectively, which also negates things like politics and competing agendas across media teams.

Like any change in a regimen, you’ll experience some discomfort, but it’s for a great cause: better, healthier marketing. We’re well-versed in helping smart brands go through this journey and celebrate the end results, so reach out to start a conversation if you need a guiding hand.

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