Home » Google Analytics » Answer 5 Attribution Questions with Google Analytics

Answer 5 Attribution Questions with Google Analytics

Can you answer these questions today around attribution, your users and your conversions?

  • Do I even need to be thinking about attribution?
  • How long does it take my users take to convert?
  • How many visits to my site occur before converting?
  • How is my marketing working together?
  • Am I measuring Display optimally?

I will show you how to answer these questions in under 10 minutes using Google Analytics. First a reminder!

Default Attribution in Google Analytics

Google Analytics uses a last non-direct attribution model in all of its core reports. This means that the last traffic source gets all the credit, unless that last visit was direct and a previous traffic source existed. Most marketers will either use this default model or the default models provided by their marketing platforms such as Facebook, AdWords, or Bing. The majority of these platforms all use a greedy model, where they take all the credit, even if another channel was first or last.

I want to help you understand if these are the right models or if you need to be having a larger conversation around attribution. You will be surprised to learn how easy this conversation can be when you have the data to support it. Let’s dive in!


  • You have to have goals or transactions configured (A Google Analytics must have!)
  • You need to campaign tag your marketing (Otherwise how can you attribute anything?)
  • You need to know the basics of how to use Multi-Channel Funnels (It is easy, I’ll show you below!)

Multi-Channel Funnels 101

All of these questions we are about to answer, we will answer with Multi-Channel Funnels (MCF) in Google Analytics. MCF is by far one one of the more powerful features. In MCF, we have a linear attribution model where every channel shares credit equally. Only in MCF can we see the true impact of direct traffic and easily see in detail all of the touch points our users went through prior to converting. This allows  us to answer all the questions posed above.

As we  walk-through the reports answering these posed questions, it is important to know how to take my examples and make them relevant to your business. To do so, remember and apply this one tip!

Selecting Specific Conversions

In all the MCF reports it is easy to select an individual or even a group of conversions. You will need this to focus on your specific conversions such as purchasing, filling out a form, subscribing, etc. Click the conversion drop down and select whichever conversion is most applicable.

Now we are ready to answer those questions!

1. How Long Do My Users Take to Convert?

How long does it take your users to convert from they time they first found you? This question is essential not just for answering attribution questions, but more importantly in driving your marketing and messaging in the right places and at the right time.

Using the default Multi-Channel Funnel reports you can easily answer the question of consideration. Below you can see for the Google Merchandise store that for users who purchase, 39% do so 1 day after their initial visit. Looking deeper, we can see that 22% of those conversions and 28% of overall revenue comes from users who purchased 12 or more days after their initial visit. Now apply this to your Google Analytics Account: https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/#report/bf-time-lag/

2. How Many Touchpoints Occur Before Converting?

Understanding how many touchpoints occur before your users convert, can shape how your organize your channel teams. Most organizations have their traffic and engagement teams siloed, meaning they rarely work together.

Why is this important? Recently, I was onsite with a client who was explaining how they incentivize their social, e-mail, and SEO teams. They paid commission to these teams based on their targets using the default attribution reports in Google Analytics. Remember the default attribution in Google Analytics is last non-direct touch. What was happening as a result is that each team was fighting to be the last touch and all were heavily offering discount codes, remarketing efforts, and as a result competing with each other.  The business was under the assumption that their customer rarely came from multiple marketing activities, but in 15 minutes Google Analytics was able to show that this assumption was wrong. As a result they reworked their commission model and reallocate a portion of their budget for new cross-channel campaigns.

To answer the question around how many touches your users go through, you go to the Path Length report in Multi-Channel Funnels. Using the Google Merchandise Store we see that 64% of transactions and 70% of revenue occurs from users that had 2 or more visits prior to purchasing. We know definitively that attribution matters, as the majority of users purchasing do so over multiple days and visits. Try it on your Google Analytics Account: https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/#report/bf-path-length/

3. Do I Even Need to Be Thinking About Attribution?

If your data looks like the Google Merchandise’s store where the majority of conversions occur over multiple days and visits, the answer is obvious. However, I do work with some clients where the vast majority of conversions occur from users who take one day and one visit to convert. If your product or offering has a quick consideration period like that, you can use any attribution model in the world, because they will all likely be correct. If your conversions are more prolonged, then you absolutely need to be having conversations and shifts to a better attribution methodology.

You can answer this question by simply using the two techniques above. How long do your users take to convert and how many touches occur prior to converting?

4. How is My Marketing Working Together?

Does your marketing work together? Can you answer these questions?

  • How many of your conversions are from users that came from E-Mail and Social?
  • How many of your conversions are from users who only ever came from Google?
  • Is social more of an upper funnel or lower funnel?
  • For Paid traffic are my brand and remarketing campaigns working together?

You can answer all of these questions easily using the Top Conversion Paths report in Multi-Channel Funnels. Here is a quick start guide for how to use it. Most important item is to change the path length to all from 2 or more, so you look at all conversions, not just assisted conversions.

The magic of the top conversion paths reports comes from when you use the secondary dimension option to add in campaign, keyword, source or any other traffic source attribute you need. The image below shows how easy it is to do a deep-dive into paid conversions as an example. Using the secondary dimension button to add the campaign dimension, while filtering for only conversion paths that involved paid gives you the exact campaigns involved and when they occurred. We can see insights right away by looking through this list. Of the top paths shown, all of them resulted from paid being the first touch, proving that paid traffic is bring net-new convertors to my site.

5. Am I Measuring Display Optimally?

Display can be one of the most challenging channels to understand. Display is typically a mix of upper funnel and lower funnel activities. Upper funnel being the branding campaigns, while lower funnel is usually the remarketing campaigns. What makes this analyzing display so challenging? View-through conversions do. View-through conversions are users who saw your ad, did not interact with them, but later somehow came back to your site and converted.

The question that always comes up is what percentage of those view-through conversions, actually converted because the saw an ad? Had the display ad impression not been present, would they have converted anyways? This is especially important for branding campaigns, where the intent is to bring in net-new users. Google Analytics is one of the only platforms that can unlock the mystery of Display and view-through conversions. If you are running display through AdWords or DoubleClick you can reach out to your account manager and have them enable view-through conversion in Multi-Channel Funnels. Once you do that you can come to this report. The eyeball icon indicates a view-through impression and anything missing the eye-ball is a click-through. This is one of the most powerful integrations Google provides!

This post is just the start of the powerful attribution features that Google Analytics has to offer. With an Attribution Modeling Tool, Data-Driven Attribution, and access to raw data in BigQuery you can leverage out of the box feature or build your own models. In a future post, I will detail where to go from here, but with this post I wanted to provide you everything you need to start having intelligent conversations around attribution and its importance to your business!