Attribution modeling 101

Attribution Modeling 101: Where Are Sales and Conversions Coming From?

20 March 2023

Attribution modeling shines a bright light on marketing efforts.

Marketing teams will know precisely which channels and touchpoints produce the most conversions. They can then focus on maximizing productive efforts and scaling back less fruitful areas to increase overall ROI.

However, choosing the most effective marketing attribution model for each customer journey stage is critical. 

Yes, the Google Analytics attribution model and email do tell marketers in a general way where sales and conversions are coming from. But those tools often use last touch attribution, which tells teams nothing about how the customer progressed through their sales journey or which touchpoints work best.

To attain the granular view that gives precise information, teams need to know exactly what’s happening at every touchpoint in every channel. Sound complicated?

It’s not difficult to engineer better returns using attribution modeling when teams have a clear understanding of the different types of modeling and when to use them and employ some simple software to make the whole process easy, 

What is B2B attribution modeling?

An attribution model is a rule or rules a company sets that determines which marketing effort gets credit for a sale or conversion. Touchpoints throughout the conversion path are assigned to the model and monitored to tell marketers which pieces of marketing collateral contributed to the customer action. 

Unlike B2C marketing involving one decision maker, B2B customer journeys are often long and nonlinear and involve multiple people using different devices. Each person may also consume other marketing information. The complexity of B2B sales funnels can make predicting interactions and measuring their impact challenging. 

Why is attribution modeling used in digital marketing?

Online marketers are flying blind without attribution modeling. However, using the appropriate attribution model lights up the entire effort. Marketers gain accurate visitor data that enables precise evaluation of every touchpoint in each channel. 

Attribution modeling answers many questions for marketing teams: 

  • How much traffic does each entry point attract?

  • What happened before a visitor converted?

  • What piece of content triggered the conversion?

  • Which marketing channel should a conversion be attributed to?

  • How much time elapsed before the first visit and conversion? 

  • What influence did website referrals, ads, and search have?

  • How should paid search and direct traffic be valued?

  • What’s the value of paid search if we already rank high in organic?

Armed with precise answers to these questions and more, businesses will be able to: 

  • Determine ROI on marketing campaigns

  • Calculate the conversion value of each marketing activity

  • Optimize marketing efforts using a specific set of rules that everyone on the team understands and works with

Without attribution modeling, marketers are pouring their advertising budget into a black hole and hoping for the best result to come out of the other side. When teams have used attribution modeling for a while, they experience many benefits. They may realize that also using simple software can give them even more detailed information about visitors.

How is attribution modeling used within marketing teams?

The B2B customer journey is far more complex than the B2C journey. B2B buying decisions often require the input of multiple people in different departments to make a purchasing choice.

The fragmentation of today’s internet landscape is another important consideration. Multiple sales funnel touchpoints on different platforms are often required to reach and engage target audiences.

Typically, B2B customers spend only a small part of their decision-making time talking with the vendor. They spend most of their time in the highly fragmented online space researching, networking, and talking to colleagues to decide which product they will champion. Then they must build a case for their choice to convince decision-makers to purchase.

Modern sales funnels can be complex beasts

B2B sales funnels have evolved into complex journeys through the fragmented online marketplace. They can require many different content types scattered across various platforms.

The journey begins with awareness-provoking content like strategically placed reviews, social media posts, ads, and organic search utilizing platforms frequented by targeted audiences. All are crafted to drive tire-kickers to top-of-funnel content. 

Blogs and webinars on the company website, YouTube videos, social media, and brand image building all work to narrow that flood of tire-kickers down to likely prospects who move into the mid-funnel, where they look for serious information.

Long-form articles, thought leadership pieces, videos, case studies, and white papers in the mid-funnel are critical for providing in-depth information. The better the information, the easier it is for potential prospects to research and build their case to convince colleagues to move into the funnel bottom to purchase a product.

Without attribution modeling, it’s impossible to determine which content on which platform is producing the best results in the complex sales funnels necessary in our fragmented online world. The data generated by the different types of B2B attribution models is like a bright light enabling marketing teams to constantly tweak and improve campaigns or even design new efforts. 

Overview of typical attribution models

Revenue attribution models, also called marketing attribution models, monitor and assign values to sales funnel touch points throughout the customer journey so that marketing teams know how much revenue each content piece generates.

Knowing the different attribution model types enables accurate decisions in choosing the one that best suits the individual funnel design and will yield the data needed.

Single-touch attribution

Single touch attribution models

Teams glean a limited information set from the single-touch models used by Google Analytics and most email marketing platforms. However, first or last-touch attribution can be useful if marketers monitor an entire funnel as a single unit or a single product or signup page.

First-touch attribution

First touch attribution model

How it works: It attributes the engagement to the customer’s entry point.

Advantages: Teams learn which entry points are attracting the most traffic.

Disadvantages: Teams have no information about the touch point that triggered the sale or conversion, and intermediate points visited. 

Last-touch attribution

Last most important touch model

How it works: It assigns credit to the touch point before the customer’s conversion. This model is easiest to track and often credits the conversion to the tracking platform, which is why email analysis often uses last touch.

Advantages: Teams know which touchpoint triggered a conversion.

Disadvantages: There is no information about the entry point or the influence of subsequent touchpoints.

Multi-touch attribution

Multi-touch attribution model

How it works: It assigns equal value to each touch point the customer visited. 

Advantages: Marketers can evaluate how much influence each channel produces on a sale.

Disadvantages: It doesn’t provide insights into the influence of individual touch points in the channel.

Linear attribution

Linear attribution

How it works: A linear attribution model is a form of multi-touch attribution that assigns equal credit to every touchpoint in a prospect’s journey to conversion.

Advantages: The linear model helps marketers understand which channels contribute to conversions so they can continue focusing on those channels.

Disadvantages: Linear models fail to distinguish which touchpoints were more influential than others in the customer’s journey.

Time-decay attribution

Time decay attribution

How it works: A time-decay attribution model gives credit to all touch points but weighs the most recent touch points more heavily.

Advantages: A time-decay model is useful for longer sales cycles where the most recent touch points tend to be the most influential in the conversion process. This is especially helpful in B2B, where sales cycles tend to be longer than in B2C.

Disadvantages: It doesn’t give as much credit to the first touchpoint, and it’s not very useful for shorter sales cycles

W-shaped attribution

W shaped attribution

How it works: A W-shaped attribution model assigns 30 percent of the credit to the first, the last, and the mid-funnel touchpoint where the visitor became a lead. The remaining 10 percent is spread over the other touchpoints in the channel. 

Advantages: B2B teams discover which entry point, mid-funnel touchpoint, and bottom funnel content produces the most conversions.

Disadvantages: It’s challenging to use if the funnel isn’t clearly defined.

U-shaped or position-based attribution

W shaped attribution

How it works:  A position-based or U-shaped model gives 40 percent of the credit to both the first and last touchpoints that lead to a conversion. The remaining 20 percent is divided among all channels between the first and last touchpoint.

Advantages: Position-based models combine the benefits of first and last-touch models but don’t ignore the middle of the prospect’s journey.

Disadvantages: It doesn’t give as much credit to the middle touchpoints, and it’s not very useful for longer sales cycles.

Custom attribution model

Custom attribution model

How it works:  The marketing team creates unique attribution models. They assign a custom attribution to each touch point, leading to an eventual conversion. These models require an in-depth understanding of customers and their buying behavior. It’s necessary to examine historical customer data to identify behavior trends and to determine which channels have the most significant impact on conversions.

Advantages: Custom attribution models are very accurate as they are based on historical data.

Disadvantages: This model needs a lot of historical data to set up, so new companies cannot use it. It’s also very complicated to set up.

Data-driven attribution

Data-driven attribution model

How it works: Data-driven attribution is like an automatically updating custom attribution model that constantly changes based on analysis of the latest data.

Advantages: It’s accurate because it’s based on historical data and adjusts in real-time. 

Disadvantages: It requires a lot of historical data to set up, so new companies cannot do it. Businesses will likely need to purchase a third-party tool to use it.

How does Leadfeeder do attribution modeling?

Only 2.35 percent of website visitors across all industries convert. Even the best-performing brand sites only convert 12 percent. So what happens to the vast majority of visitors who don’t convert? How can you track and engage them to boost B2B marketing ROI?

Leadfeeder uses multiple attribution models woven into custom modeling that monitors far more than individuals’ actions in a sales funnel. Our easy-to-integrate Website Visitors tool also:

  • Gives teams the company name behind website visitors so you can research and contact decision-makers

  • Reveals the precise behavior of the companies visiting the website so you can identify hot prospects

  • Tells marketers which marketing channels are generating high-value traffic

Software that takes attribution from an individual to a company level is extremely valuable for B2B marketers.

Examples of our attribution models

It’s easy to build a custom attribution model in Google Analytics. We walk you through setting up a custom model in this simple guide. You can also check out the easy-to-use Google Analytics attribution model Grow and Convert — a Leadfeeder user and content marketing agency — uses in their B2B marketing effort.

After you’ve built your attribution model or had it made for you, remember that industry-wide conversion rates are only 2.5 percent. And you can only attribute visitors who convert regardless of which model you use. That means marketing teams are in the dark about who the other 97.5 percent of website visitors are and what they’re doing.

Marketers can fill this huge hole in the data B2B attribution models produce by using Leadfeeder’s easy integration feature to expand your trove of valuable attribution data exponentially. 

Leadfeeder Website Visitors helps you:

  • Find company names and track the behavior of corporate visitors

  • Qualify high-potential leads by sorting out all ISP traffic, leaving only company names.

  • Create filters to segment leads with the highest potential

  • Reveal decision makers and find their email addresses and telephone numbers

The Leadfeeder dashboard lets you track all activities from a single place. 


B2B marketing is challenging because of the complexity of modern sales funnels that must perform well in our highly fragmented online environment. Choosing the most appropriate revenue attribution model to fit your sales funnel design will tell your marketing team which content on what platform in which campaign is producing the most conversions.

Using easily integrated software like Leadfeeder's Website Visitors simplifies attribution modeling and goes beyond conversion analysis to give you critical information about website visitors who failed to convert. You can then target high-value corporate prospects to increase sales and marketing ROI.

Daire Summerville
By Daire Summerville

Head of Growth at Leadfeeder. Daire is a digital growth expert with expertise in Google Analytics, Google Ads, GTM & SEO.

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