What are Google Ads Attribution Models and How to Use Them

31 Jul 2020 | vividreal
What are Google Ads Attribution Models and How to Use Them

Google Ads attribution models can be tricky to explain, but I’m going to try and explain it in the simplest way possible. There are a few stages involved in a prospect’s journey right from seeing your ad to finally converting. They might interact with a few different ads from the same advertiser. What an attribution model does is, it allows you to choose how much credit each ad (and the keywords associated with it) gets for your conversions.

It gives you a clearer understanding of what ads or channels played the most important roles in conversion. What worked? What didn’t?

Attribution Models – Explained

Think of your ad campaign like it’s a football match. Let scoring a goal be your conversion goal. A couple of players need to pass the ball (or the customer!) around before a player finally scores. With attribution modeling, you can choose which of the players get credited for that goal.

Now imagine a scenario where you are running ads for a local carpet company. Suppose they have 3 ad campaigns: a shopping campaign, a product/brand-specific campaign, and one that drives a lot of top-of-the-funnel traffic on keywords like “carpets”, or “rugs”. 

In such a scenario, you might think that the first two campaigns would be converting more people. But what usually happens is different. People could search for “carpets”, and discover the ads first. They would then remember this ad days or weeks later (or be reminded via a remarketing campaign). They would then search for your brand directly and click on an ad from the second campaign to finally make a conversion. 

As you can see, even the campaigns that drive top-of-the-funnel traffic and are not directly responsible for conversions eventually end up playing a major role in getting conversions!

In such cases, you need to know that these initial ads are working or not. And that is where attribution models come in. 

If you are looking to implement conversion tracking in Google Ads, feel free to talk to our Google Ads experts. We’re here to help.

Types of Attribution Models

Currently, there are 6 types of attribution models. You’ll have to choose an attribution model depending on the type of campaign you are running.

Here are the different types of attribution models available in Google Ads:

Last click

Google Ads has Last click attribution model set as default. This type of attribution model gives all the credit for the conversion to the last clicked ad and the corresponding keyword. 

It’s a good model if you are running simple ad campaigns on Google Ads without diverse remarketing lists. But if you rely on multiple ads for your conversion you have no way of knowing if the other ads are contributing to your conversions or not. This kind of information can help you optimise your campaigns, and isn’t available if you choose Last click attribution model.

First click

This attribution model gives credit to the ad or keyword that first drove traffic to your site. 

This type of attribution model is better for campaigns that are focused on creating awareness. You want to know if the first ads are being clicked on or not. It is great for top of the funnel engagement. This type of attribution modeling lets you know that the first ad that a user clicked on was engaging. 

First click attribution model, however, is not suitable for conversion-centric campaigns. 


If you ran a multi-level campaign focused on driving top of the funnel clicks via search, remarketing via display, and then remarketing via RLSAs (RLSA allows you to customize search ad campaigns for people who have previously visited your site), your conversion report would give equal credit to all three. 

Linear attribution model gives you a good idea of what channels and keywords worked and which didn’t. This would be great for the scenario discussed at the beginning of the article.

Time Decay

This attribution model gives more credit to the click that happened closer to the final conversion. Imagine a user clicked on 5 different ads of yours for over a period of days or weeks. They finally converted on the 5th click. The 5th click, which is the most recent, would get the most credit, followed by the 4th, 3rd and so on. 

This is great if your campaigns usually take long to convert.


This type of modeling gives 40% of the conversion credit to the first and last clicks each. The rest 20% will be divided into the remaining clicks.

This type of attribution model gives you information about which keyword/ad caught people’s attention and which ultimately made them convert. It also gives you details about which of the ads people interacted with between the first and last ad.


The data-driven attribution model uses Google machine learning technology to give credit to the most effective keywords/ads in the conversion process. This is completely based on account performance. However, there’s a high chance that it is unusable for many people reading this. For Data-driven attribution, your account must have at least 15000 clicks on Google search and 600 conversions for a conversion action in 30 days. 

And that’s not it. To keep using a data-driven model, you will have to maintain your clicks and conversions. You’ll need to maintain 10,000 clicks and 400 conversions for every 30 days. Now that’s a lot of conversions. It is obvious that this attribution model isn’t for everyone. But if you do have access to it, it is highly recommended that you use it.

How to Select Attribution Models in Google Ads

  • You can access the different attribution models by going to your Google Ads dashboard and clicking on “Tools”. In the drop-down menu, under measurement, select Conversions. 



  • Now to change the attribution settings for a campaign, select the conversion action. This will open up another window. On the bottom right, there’s an “EDIT SETTINGS” button.




  • Here you can select the attribution model you want. All the 6 attribution models will be available. You can also see if the data-driven attribution model is available or not. 



  • You can also compare different attribution models to see how your campaigns play a role in the buying process. For this, click on Tools on your dashboard and under Measurement, select Search attribution. 
  • Now on the left side, click on Attribution Modeling. You will now be able to test out different attribution models to see how your data changes with each model. This is a great way of finding the right attribution model for your business. 



To sum up, what attribution models do is, they affect how conversions are counted in the “Conversions” and “All conversions” columns. Let’s say you chose “First Click”. The conversions you receive will be credited to the first ad that people click on, before completing a conversion. In your ad reports, the conversion would be counted in the campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords associated with the first ad that was clicked. It gives you an idea on which ad played the most important role in converting a prospect.

If your campaigns generally take time for people to convert, you should probably change your attribution model to get more accurate data in your ad report. If your campaign involves a lot of ads that help with converting a prospect, maybe you should choose Linear or Time decay attribution models.

In the end, it’s all about getting accurate data on which ads (and keywords) are helping you get more money!

If you’re still puzzled about this and need expert guidance, talk to our team of digital marketers. We’ll optimise your ads for the best possible results!


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