How to Track Last-Touch Attribution in Google Analytics

Data Tutorial Marketing Analytics

Marketing attribution is a very useful tool for understanding how your users interact with different channels before coming to your website. This is very useful for valuing your marketing channels and understanding your customers’ behaviors. This tutorial will explain how to track marketing attribution in Google Analytics, specifically looking at last-touch attribution.

You can also click through to learn about tracking first-touch attribution and multi-touch attribution in Google Analytics.

What is Attribution?

Each time a user visits your site, they come from somewhere - by clicking on a search result link or clicking through an ad or even directly typing the URL to your site. These are known as marketing channels. Knowing where your traffic comes from, and where the valuable traffic comes from, is key to valuing your marketing strategy and to understanding your users. You can learn more about marketing attribution.

What is Last-Touch Attribution?

Last-touch refers to the last channel that a user interacted with before converting on your site. It is also known as last-click and last-interaction.

For example let’s say Laila searches for sweaters on Google and clicks through a search result for sweaters.com. She browses for a while but doesn’t immediately purchase. She continues searching and browsing online. On a lifestyle blog about choosing the best sweater, they also mention sweaters.com and she clicks through. She’s still not ready to purchase, but she signs up for the newsletter. The next day sweaters.com sends her an email that she clicks through - and this time she makes a purchase.

This example involves three channels before making a purchase: organic search (Google search), referral (the lifestyle blog) and email. The last touch is email.

Why is Last-Touch Attribution Important?

Last-touch attribution is critically important because it tells you which channel closed the deal. While other channels may have been involved, none of them were enough to get the conversion. Laila didn’t convert through organic search or through the referral, it was the email that seemingly triggered her purchase.

Most attribution platforms, including Google Analytics, default to giving credit to the sale to the last-touch, the closing channel.

How to Track Last-Touch Attribution in Google Analytics?

Before you can track any type of conversions in Google Analytics, you have to have goals defined. You can refer here for more information on setting goals. In our sweaters.com example, we’re using the purchase as a goal. But we could have set many goals - signing up for the newsletter could be a goal, viewing multiple sweaters could be another, and so on. Conversion channels for each goal can be tracked independently.

Note that in the example videos we are using the Google demo account which is of a Google property. If you want to follow along and have the data look the same, sign up for the demo account here and in the date range in the reports select 1/1/2018 - 2/10/2018.

To set up last-touch attribution in Google Analytics, follow these steps:

  1. In Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions - Attribution - Model Comparison Tool.
  2. In the conversion dropdown, select the goal that you’re interested in measuring, in this example we’ll look at Goal 1: Purchase Completed. Right below you’ll notice that Last Interaction (last touch) model is selected by default.
  3. In this model, looking at the channel breakout below, we see that Direct accounts for over half of all conversions (1,660 conversions) with Referral accounting for roughly one third (973 conversions).

In this report you can select other models if you wanted to change from last-touch. You can also click into the individual channels to see the channel breakouts with the model you’ve selected.

Conclusion

Marketing attribution allows you to understand user behavior and the value of your marketing channels, but you have to understand the different attribution models to get the most out of your tracking.