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I’ve always been a fan of last click attribution in web analytics.  Basically, this means that if a sale or ‘conversion’ takes place on a website, I am comfortable giving the ‘last click’ that brought the visitor to the website full credit for the sale or conversion.

Here are three reasons why I like this approach:

  1. These ‘last click’ sources represent big money-makers for most companies, and so as a first order of business you should lock down exactly what those big money-makers are, and make sure you are getting 100% of them before trying to get fancy with your keyword strategy.
  2. For many businesses, you discover that conversions and sales are made by surprising keywords — regardless of whether you use last-click or first-click attribution.  Again, this means that last-click analysis will give you plenty of room to grow between the low hanging fruit and these more complex terms.
  3. Finally, I’ve never been comfortable with the idea that any web analytics platform would be capable of successfully tracking user behavior across a significant amount of time (or ‘sessions’).  In other words, I felt like the data would be more accurate if you reduced the time between the click and the action you are measuring — ergo, ‘last-click’ would be better than ‘first-click.’  I’m starting to doubt that this third reason is relevant.

But I’ve started to change my mind on this topic recently, because I’ve been seeing more and more companies that are getting 99% of their conversions for keywords that include their name.  If someone types in your business’s name, I refer to this as ‘branded traffic,’ because it indicates that someone is already familiar with your particular brand.  And if 99% of your sales are coming from branded traffic, then this information is basically useless, because it obscures the fact that every single visitor who converted initially heard about you from some other source.

It is possible that by switching to first click attribution, you could peer deeper into a more useful category of traffic — the traffic that is ‘meeting’ you for the first time and that is starting down the path toward a sale or conversion.  Now, first-click analysis isn’t necessary for everyone.  I still stand by the point that you need to discover your most profitable ‘last click’ keywords before you do anything else.  If you fail to do that, you might as well cut a whole in your pocket.

But if you are one of those companies that I have been seeing more and more of lately, where 99% of your sales/conversions are coming from branded/name keywords, then you need to look into some type of analytics model that let’s you learn more about how those customers first heard about you, because those are the keywords that you want to buy more of.

Will Marlow wears several hats — he is certified by Google in both Google AdWords and Google Analytics, and by Microsoft in Bing Advertising.

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