Beyond last-click attribution

Estimate immediate and long-term business impact of going beyond last-click attribution

By changing your approach to attribution you can identify how your advertising affects people at different stages in the conversion path. This attribution model guide shows you how to do it.


The conversion path can be complex, not only across channels but also devices. Being able to identify which ads actually influenced someone’s decision can be challenging, but it’s crucial to get right. A restaurant owner in a tourist town probably shouldn’t give all of the credit for her customers to the sign hanging over the front door, even if it was the last thing those customers saw before deciding to walk in and order a meal.

Across your Search ads in Google Ads, the default option is to assign all credit for a conversion to the final ad click, which is called last-click attribution. Regardless of how many clicks came before, all credit will be given to the final step in the process. Though that final click may be the key conversion, the decision to make it may have happened in earlier interactions.

By going beyond last-click attribution for your Search ads in Google Ads, you can understand your customer journey and make changes to improve your campaigns. By choosing a more comprehensive model and setting bids based on that data, you can drive more clicks that influence customers on their path. Advertisers who move beyond last-click can generate a greater volume of conversions at a similar cost-per-conversion. Your customers may take a while to make decisions, and changing your approach to attribution can identify how your advertising affects them across all of their crucial, decision-making moments.


Depending on your business, your marketing campaigns might be straightforward. For example, a small taxi service might have a marketing strategy that consists entirely of getting in the cab line at the airport. If your Google Ads account is that simple (for example, bidding on brand terms exclusively), the output of your updated attribution model may not appear to be so different from last-click.

Estimate the immediate impact of moving your attribution model beyond the last click

There’s one big benefit to better attribution: growing your business by investing your resources in the right places on the path to a purchase conversion. If your current conversion paths are short, though, you may need to make multiple changes (for example, a keyword expansion into upper funnel terms or generics) in order to take advantage of the full benefits.

Changing your attribution model is as simple as one click, but take a quick look at your average path lengths and review different attribution models in the Attribution Modeling tool to see how significantly things change based on your current account setup. Selecting a model that values all touchpoints to at least some extent is recommended, though it may be that you need to expand your keyword portfolio to see significant benefits from this approach.



A good exercise is to look at both "Days to Conversion" and "Hours to Conversion" in the Time Lag report. It’ll help you understand customers’ research behavior. The Path Length report is also important. Instead of time to conversion, you can view clicks on the path to conversion. If these numbers are low, however, it doesn’t mean that moving beyond last click isn’t relevant for your business. The reports you view will only reflect what is currently in your account. If you’re running a limited keyword set you may not see a long time lag or path length. We’ll cover this concept more in a later section.


Curious about people navigating across devices? Check out our guide to optimizing for cross-device conversions.

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