Google Attribution’s Impact on Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate AttributionEarlier this week Google announced a new version of its free attribution tool. Google Attribution is a  streamlined version of Adometry, acquired by Google in 2014. It’s  Google’s play to move beyond the last-click model currently embraced by most online marketers.

Google Attribution is a multichannel and multidevice attribution tool for small/mid-sized businesses. It was announced at Google’s Marketing Next conference. The product integrates with AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search. By doing that it bring together ad data from across Google to give a more complete view of performance.

It provides online marketers a way to examine the roles different marketing strategies play in customer purchasing decisions. Regardless of device or marketing channel, Google Attribution attempts to create a tighter loop between strategy, ad spend and feedback. To use Google Attribution, accounts need at least 15,000 clicks and a conversion action (minimum 600 conversions) within 30 days.

Last Clicks’ Last Stand?

But trying to move beyond last click is not new. Adobe and others (startups BrightFunnel and Bizible) have been developing tools for years that allow marketers to break the old last-click paradigm.

So what does this mean for affiliates? There are already attribution tools within the affiliate networks as well as third party tools. Most attribution tools are flexible. They can be set up as first-click, last click or to split a commission. Last click was building block of affiliate marketing.

Adam Dahlen, Director of Performance Marketing at iAffiliate Management, says that as long as attribution within the affiliate channel is setup correctly, last-click isn’t necessarily an issue. A common concern of merchants is that coupon affiliates are leapfrogging content affiliates. Based on his experience analyzing affiliate channel clickstream data, this is a fairly uncommon occurrence. It does happen, but not that often.

However, the problems for affiliates starts when a brand’s overall multi channel attribution tools looking at the entire sales funnel (display, email, social, video, affiliate, search, etc) , don’t line up with the internal last-click attribution model used to pay affiliates. When external rules are too complex, it can be confusing and possibly end up devaluing the affiliate contribution.

That’s because purchase scenarios can get complex. Video, social media email, display ads, paid search, and influence from off-line media are often part of the mix. That’s when it gets complicated to follow the customer’s path to purchase and which touchpoints should be credited.

That complexity makes it difficult for merchants to see where to allocate their marketing dollars and implement strategies that drive conversions.

Google Dominance May be an Issue

Another challenge facing Google Attribution, is simply that it is a Google product. Naturally, it’s in Google’s interest to provide visibility into the impact of generic search terms, display impressions or video ads views in the conversion cycle. Many fear that Google’s dominance in so many online areas (especially search) already gives the behemoth too much power and data.

Google Attribution is currently in beta. A  final version is due in the next few months. The paid enterprise version (Attribution 360)  connects with more Google products including DoubleClick Campaign Manager. It also has more sophisticated reports and data import functionality and is still available.