Attribution Model Google Ads: 3 Critical Aspects

Amit Phaujdar • Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

Attribution Model Google Ads is the process of understanding and allocating conversion credits to marketing touchpoints located on a conversion path. These marketing touchpoints are usually digital marketing channels like Facebook, paid search, display advertising, etc. A conversion credit can be defined as the amount of credit the algorithm/you assign to a marketing channel for completing a conversion.

This article gives a brief description of various Attribution Model Google Ads and how you can use them for your specific use cases. You’ll also get an in-depth idea of how to establish an attribution model for conversion bidding and tracking, and how to compare models by using the “Model comparison” attribution report.

Table of Contents

What are Attribution Models?

Customers might interact with various ads from the same advertiser on the way to conversion. With Attribution Models, you can pick how much credit each ad interaction gets for conversions. Attribution Models let you fully grasp your ad performance and optimize across various conversion pathways.

For Google Ads, Attribution Modeling is defined as the process of understanding the role of various ad groups, keywords, and campaigns to help you:

  • Start conversion actions
  • Support conversion actions
  • Complete conversion actions

Attribution Modeling differs from Marketing Mix Modeling since Attribution Modeling is executed to measure the impact of multiple online marketing activities on Return on Investment (ROI) and sales. On the other hand, Marketing Mix Modeling forecasts and measures the impact of various offline marketing activities on ROI and sales.

What are the Benefits of Attribution Models?

Usually, advertisers are accustomed to measuring the success of their online advertising on a “last-click” basis. This means they give all the credit for a conversion to the last clicked ad and the corresponding keyword. But this approach sidelines other ad interactions customers may have had along the way.

With Attribution Models, you have greater control over how much credit each ad interaction receives for your conversions.

Here are a few benefits of leveraging Attribution Models for your use case:

  • Align Your Business: You can leverage a model that works best for how people look for what you offer.
  • Reach Customers Earlier in the Purchase Cycle: You can find opportunities to influence customers earlier on their road to conversion.
  • Boost Your Bidding: You can improve your bids based on a better understanding of your bid performance.

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What are the different kinds of Data-Driven Attribution Model Google Ads?

Google offers various Attribution Models to choose from:

Attribution Model Google Ads Types: First Click

Attribution Model Google Ads: First-Click Model
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This model provides all the credit for the conversion to the first clicked ad along with the corresponding keyword. For instance, say you ran a standard search network campaign targeting a keyword for your industry. You generate a click, but the user decides not to buy from you today. So, you run a remarketing ad to them through search again and drive another click. However, this time they got converted in a short period.

In your analytics and data, you will see the credit being given to the first keyword they engaged with. As you can see, the problem here is that the first click got their attention, but fundamentally, it didn’t work. Hence, if it took them multiple keywords to get the conversion, you know that the first keyword that drove the click shouldn’t be deemed as high-intent. Hence, looking at data that tells you that keyword is driving massive conversion rates isn’t quite accurate.

Therefore, it is suggested that first-click modeling be used for the top of the funnel engagement and awareness because here’s what the first-click modeling conveys:

  • You had a compelling call to action.
  • You targeted a good audience.
  • You created awareness.
  • Your keywords were geared towards the right target.

So, if you are a new player in your niche, you would need more brand awareness than the more established competitors you’re going up against. Hence, for the new guys on the block, your advertising goals should be aligned toward the ‘brand-building’ centric. This means you need to assign more conversion credit to ad clicks that steered the wheels into motion for conversion.

Attribution Model Google Ads Types: Last Click

Attribution Model Google Ads: Last-Click Model
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This is the model that runs on default when you set up a campaign on Google Ads. In a Last-click Model, you give the credit for sales/conversions/goal completion to the last-clicked ad or keyword, etc.

For instance, if you’ve run 5 separate ads for the same person, if they finally convert on your display remarketing campaign, that display ad would get the credit for the sale. But this doesn’t depict the whole picture. If you take a peek at your Google Analytics, you would probably see a lot of “Direct” conversions if you are leveraging last-click modeling. This is because a typical conversion journey with digital marketing looks like this:

  • Step 1: User A discovers you through an unbranded search.
  • Step 2: User A reads the blog post that you shared on your social media.
  • Step 3: User A finds you again through an unbranded search.
  • Step 4: User A types your direct URL into their browser and converts.

The takeaway here is that when people are ready to convert, it is generally when you’ve built some solid brand awareness. This allows people to type your link directly and convert. However, it is of little help when you go back to analyze channel data. The last click shows that your ads and social channels didn’t fare that well. But the truth is, they played a huge role in the process of building the awareness that led to the final conversion.

Hence, you should consider a Last-touch attribution model, if the least amount of buying consideration needs to be taken into account. For instance, if you are an FMCG company, like ITC or Brittania, or Walmart, and you sell products that involve the least amount of consideration by a buyer (such as purchasing toothpaste), then you can leverage the last-click attribution model.

This is because you need to assign more conversion credit to the middle and first interactions within your conversion path. 

You can also opt for last-click attribution models if you prefer to keep your campaigns simple and one-off. On the other hand, advertisers would be better off choosing one of the more advanced attribution models that provide a more detailed and sophisticated view — models that take into consideration multiple touch points throughout the customer journey.

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Attribution Model Google Ads Types: Position-Based

Attribution Model Google Ads: Position-Based Model
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In a Position-based Attribution Model, you give 40% of the credit to both the first and the last ad interactions along with the corresponding keywords, with the remaining 20% distributed across the other ad interactions.

The data extracted by this model is deemed more robust compared to first-click or last-click alone since it gives you insight into:

  • Which interaction was responsible for closing the deal.
  • Which first ad or interaction garnered user attention.
  • Which keywords/clicks in the middle helped their journey with information.

Therefore, position-based attribution modeling is a conservative, middle-ground model best suited to find the right combination of closing and awareness. A Position-based Attribution Model helps you know which combination of awareness keywords were responsible for the first engagement and which keywords closed the sale. As opposed to linear modeling, it focuses more on the last and first keywords to do the grinding.

Attribution Model Google Ads Types: Time-Decay

Attribution Model Google Ads: Time-Decay Model
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The Time-decay model of attribution gives more credit to ad interactions that happened closer in time to the conversion. Here, the credit gets distributed using a 7-day half-life. In layman’s terms, an ad interaction 8 days before a conversion gets half as much credit as an ad interaction a day before a conversion.

You can leverage the time-decay model if you’re running time-sensitive promotional campaigns. If you wish to dig deeper into the buying behavior of your customers during a promotional campaign then you would naturally want to assign more credits to the ad clicks that occurred closest in time to the conversions, since these are more relevant than the ad clicks that took place further in the past.

So, selling eCommerce products online where you target keywords through Google Shopping wouldn’t find a lot of benefit from time-decay modeling, since the sales go by quickly. Time-decay attribution model can also be a great model to help you gain insight into the length of your sales process as well. However, for simpler Google Ads campaigns, leveraging a time-decay attribution model is a bit much.  

Attribution Model Google Ads Types: Linear

Attribution Model Google Ads: Linear Model
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The linear attribution model will provide the credit for the distribution equally across all ad interactions on the path. For example, if you ran a multi-level campaign on bringing top-of-the-funnel clicks through search, remarketing through RLSAs, or remarketing through display, your conversion report would assign equal credit to all three.

Linear attribution modeling gives you a better idea about what keywords or channels worked and which ones didn’t. So, if someone doesn’t click your keyword or ad, it won’t get the credit. If you’re planning to run complex campaigns that take people directly from broad organic search terms to converting, a linear model is highly recommended. However, these need to be longer campaigns generated to go after bottom-of-the-funnel traffic from the get-go.

For instance, if you’re selling SEO services, you’d want to start with a broad keyword. Next, you would wish to remarket interested clicks to dig deeper into your website. Finally, you can remarket them with RLSAs.

This three-step approach brings your audience from awareness to conversion, with every step playing a pivotal role in the process.  

Attribution Model Google Ads Types: Data-Driven

Attribution Model Google Ads: Data-Driven Model
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A Data-driven Attribution Model distributes credit for the conversion based on your past data for this conversion type. It differs from other models in that it leverages your account’s data to find out the actual contribution of every interaction across the conversion path. According to Google, opting for a data-driven approach takes the guesswork out of choosing a model.

You can use the Data-Driven Attribution Model if your Google Ads account is consistently receiving:

  • 600 or more conversion actions every month.
  • 15,000 or more ad clicks every month on Google Search.

If you’re still in a fix as to which model should you choose for your use case, you can compare different attribution models and then observe how it affects your conversions and cost/conversion.

To compare various attribution models in Google Ads, you can use the Attribution Modeling Report as follows:

  • Step 1: In your Google Ads account, you can click on the ‘Tools’ tab and then click on the Search Attribution link mentioned under the ‘Measurement’ section.
  • Step 2: Next, click on the ‘Attribution Modeling’ link in the left-hand side navigation.
  • Step 3: Compare different attribution models to each other and then determine, how it impacts your cost per conversion and number of conversions.

You can take a look at the ‘% change’ column to understand whether a particular ad group/campaign/keyword is undervalued or overvalued under a model of your choosing.

If you want to change the attribution model for an existing conversion action, you can execute the following steps:

  • Step 1: Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Step 2: Next, in the upper right corner of your account, click on the tools icon, then under ‘Measurement’, choose Conversions.
  • Step 3: In the table, pick the conversion you want to edit by clicking on the conversion name.
  • Step 4: Next, click on Edit Settings followed by Attribution Model. Pick an attribution model from the drop-down menu, and click on Save.
  • Step 5: Click on Done to finish changing the attribution model.

What are the Best Practices for Google Ads Attribution Models?

Here are a few practices to keep in mind for managing Google Ads Attribution Model changes:

Update your Targets and Bids

If you modify your attribution model, you should also update your targets and bids for every conversion included in the “Conversions” column. If you don’t update them, the modified conversion attribution might lead to under or over-bidding.

If you only leverage manual bidding, performance won’t be impacted (positively or negatively) until you begin to optimize based on the new data. Changing targets needs to take precedence if you’re using Target ROAS or Target CPA bid strategies.

Changes to Expect in “Campaigns”

After modifying your attribution model, you might notice changes to the reporting within your ‘Campaigns’ tab.

  • Time Lag: Google Ads reports conversions based on the date of the ad interaction. Since a non-last click attribution model shares conversion credit between various interactions, each of which happened at a different point in time, the time lag associated with your “Campaigns” reporting might increase. Consequently, you might see a temporary, slight dip in conversions for a few days after modifying the attribution model. To see how this time lag impacts your business reporting, look at “Avg. days to conversion” inside the “Path Metrics” attribution report. You should wait to track the performance until the average number of days to conversion has passed.
  • Fractional Credit: Credit for a given conversion is distributed across contributing ad interactions, based on your selected attribution model. As a result, you’ll see decimals in your “Conversions” and “All Conv.” columns for the first time when you opt for a non-last-click model.
  • Credit Shifts: With any modification, you make to your attribution model, you can see the conversion credit shifting across different networks, campaigns, keywords, and ad groups leveraging that conversion action. 


This blog highlights the different types of Attribution Google Ads you can leverage for your pipeline followed by the best practices to keep in mind to get the best out of them. It also gives a brief introduction to the concepts of attribution modeling and its benefits before diving into the Google Ads Attribution Model types. 

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