Beyond last click attribution

Act on attribution

This Google Ads attribution guide helps you to assign the appropriate value to your ads and then take specific actions in Google Ads with an eye toward meeting your customers’ needs and driving more sales. Choosing the right attribution model is only the first step in the process.

Bid to your chosen model

Once you’ve updated your attribution model, your conversions columns will update with stats that reflect your choice. From there it’s easy - optimize your bids to account for the numbers in those conversion columns. By updating your conversion reporting, you make it easy on yourself to gauge performance and set the appropriate bids.

Whether you’re changing bids manually or using a Google Ads bid strategy, the process will remain the same. As long as your conversions column is capturing behavior the way that you want, your bids will be aligned with your ultimate goals for Google Ads. The recommended approach is to adopt a Google Ads automated bidding strategy, like Target CPA or Target ROAS.

As you evaluate performance under a new model, you don’t want to review results on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Your ad- and account-level performance numbers are supposed to change, as you’re changing the way you assign credit. You should be looking for whether or not your entire account is growing.

Evaluate your new attribution model

By now you’ve explored the models and decided what you want to test. Before you commit to any model, though, you want to evaluate whether the results match your expectations.

As you prepare to test, identify your time lag, which we talked about earlier. It’s the number of days between first ad interaction and conversion. It’ll tell you which time periods to omit when analyzing the results of your test. The key to proper testing is minimizing the amount of changes you make. Patience is key while you gather insights.

Testing the incrementality of an attribution model change. Remember - you’re updating the way you count conversions, so these steps will need to be followed across all campaigns that are using the conversion you’re updating:

  1. Change your conversion type to your new attribution model. In your Google Ads performance reports, add the “Current model” columns which match the new model you selected. This will show you your historical data as if you had been using that new model all along.
  2. Establish a control period. Examine ~2 weeks of historical performance with the new attribution model, excluding your time lag from any analysis.
  3. Update your bids based on your new attribution model. This is a crucial step in testing and evaluating your new model's performance. For your test period, you want to set a target CPA which is equal to the CPA you saw in the control period according to the new model. Otherwise, you risk conflating the attribution model change with bid changes, making it difficult to evaluate the results.
  4. Establish a test period after your updated campaigns have run for 1-2 weeks with minimal changes. This 1-2 week period is to allow your account to adjust to the new model. Once performance stabilizes, let the new attribution model run for ~2 more weeks.  
  5. Measure your tests based on both volume and efficiency for all of your campaigns affected by the change. Once your test period ends, wait for your time lag to elapse. This will give you the complete picture of your conversions. Then, compare your test period to your control period. You do this by comparing 2 columns for the test period vs. the control period: the “Conversions (Current model)” and “Cost-per-conversion (Current model)” columns.

If you’re satisfied with the performance of your new attribution model, you can keep it running. When comparing the test period with the control period, more conversions at a similar or lower CPA is the result you’re aiming for. If you’re seeing those results, you can consider updating other conversion types to your new attribution model as well. If you’re not satisfied with the performance of your new attribution model, you can revert to a previous attribution model or try out a new one entirely.

Change ads and landing pages to align with a customer’s place in the conversion path

Once you identify an ad interaction’s place in the user journey, you can modify your ads and landing pages to start a more mutually beneficial conversation. A set of keywords or ads that tend to be early in the conversion path could benefit from a less direct landing page. You could think of these types of interactions as inspirational landing pages instead of the typical transactional pages.

For example, someone searching for “hotels Tuscany” might not be ready to book on her first click. After verifying that a particular query tends to be earlier in the conversion path in your Attribution reports, you can start to speak to her differently, both on the results page and on your site itself. Establish yourself as a trustworthy reference as the first step in a conversion.

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For more on how to optimize ads, check out our guides to improving conversion rates on Display campaigns and optimizing Video campaigns for conversions.

Re-examine early influence keywords, ads, and audiences based on your new attribution model

As many advertisers implement new attribution models, they might notice something strange: things aren’t changing that much. There are obviously places to make improvements and get more success, but there’s far less change than anticipated.

In instances like this, it’s important to re-evaluate early influence keywords and ads you may have cut from your account. As you investigate a new way of attributing conversions in Google Ads, you should also plan on testing (or re-testing) early influence keywords and ads. Experiment with keywords that seemed too broad in the past - you might find out that they can be very good at starting a conversation, but not so good at finishing it. We also recommend reviewing and expanding audience targeting to ensure you’re reaching the right audiences across the customer journey.


Want to learn more about best practices for audience targeting? Check out our guides to reaching the right Display audiences and optimizing Video campaigns for conversions.

Now that you’re changing the way you define success, new keywords, ads, and audiences could have a better chance at being successful. The performance won’t be different than it was in the past. What will be different, though, is how you define and measure success. You should see their new, and true, value.



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