Although utilised by many PPC account managers, the use of last-click attribution is slightly short-sighted. With it the ads that play a role during the early stages of a shopper’s journey are overlooked. Here, ClickThrough copywriter Jack Adams looks at how PPC management tools can help account managers understand the online shopping journey and their online customers more effectively.

The online shopping process can take many twists and turns.

There’s a lot that can happen in the time between an initial search query being made and that all important end result – a conversion – being reached.

A searcher might have a relatively vague idea of what they’re looking for when they start the buying process.

So, for example, they’ll search grey socks – a broad term.

And – hey presto! – they’ll be presented with a whole host of pay per click ads featuring grey socks.

As they get closer to making a purchase – developing a more precise idea of what they want as they go – they’ll probably be more exact with their search query, including a brand, a retailer or a particular style of sock.

They may click a number of PPC ads during this journey.

However, this is something that last-click attribution doesn’t take into account.

Though something adopted by many PPC account managers, last-click attribution can have a negative impact on keyword optimisation.

Searchers are far more likely to include brand terms in their searches just before converting.

Therefore, last-click attribution ignores the contribution of more generic, broader keywords used at the start of a shopper’s journey.

This despite the fact that the shopper may not have even got as far as searching with more exact brand terms if they hadn’t seen PPC ads for the broader, more generic terms in the first place.

Advertisers, through last-click attribution, see this and wrongly assume that their generic keywords aren’t doing the business – with potentially considerable knock-on effects.

As a result they might reduce their bids, or pause these keywords – leading them to miss out on a significant source of traffic, and conversions.

Fortunately a number of PPC management tools, such as Kenshoo and Google Analytics, enable advertisers to look at the wider picture – and in the process develop a better understanding of how their customers search during the shopping journey.

Kenshoo

Kenshoo enables advertisers to see a breakdown of a user’s PPC click journey.

So, for example, if a searcher has made three clicks on three PPC ads for the term, or terms relating to socks over a period of couple of weeks, and has made a conversion worth £10, £3.33 will be attributed to each click involved in the process.

This is known as a linear revenue attribution model – all clicks involved in a path to conversion are given equal value.

It will also break down the types of paid ads a searcher has clicked to get to the conversion point – so, pay per click ads, product listing ads and display banners.

This is fantastic as it allows advertisers to allocate their budgets more accurately to the paid advertising types bringing in the most clicks and conversions.

Google Analytics

With Google Analytics standard text ads, display ads and organic searches are all taken into account.

Again, this is extremely handy, as it ensures that credit can be given where credit’s due.

During the earlier stages of a searcher’s shopping journey, for example, they might see a brand’s display ads, on various websites, or text ads, within SERPs (search engine results pages).

Whilst they might click, they might not necessarily convert.

Having seen these ads, and become more aware of the brand, they might convert following an organic search.

This can all be seen in Analytics.

If the brand were to rely on last-click attribution, they might reduce their budgets on, or even pause, the keywords that effectively played such a vital role in the purchase process – just by raising brand awareness and encouraging shoppers to convert.

Who’s to say the customer would have made the conversion had they not seen these initial ads during the early stages?

Google AdWords

AdWords similarly provides some great insights with view-through conversion reporting.

Using it, it’s possible to track the journey of those that the ads have been displayed to – post-impression tracking.

They don’t have to have clicked on the ads; they just need to have seen them.

From these stats, it’s possible to get a greater overview of which ads have played the biggest roles in raising brand awareness.

Final thoughts

Ultimately it’s clear that last-click attribution is flawed.

Using it is rather short-sighted and is likely to restrict growth in the long-term.

Advertisers using it could end up cutting spend on keywords that contribute to the long conversion process, and concentrating on keywords that only entice those shoppers who know exactly what they want.

With the right PPC management tools it’s possible to get a more beneficial overview of not only which ads are playing their part in the journey from search to conversion, but they also enable brands to get a greater understanding of their customers.

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About the author:

Jack Adams is a copywriter at ClickThrough Marketing, and is a qualified journalist. Jack also has a degree in Journalism, with a specialist focus on citizen journalism, which includes blogs, web content and social media.