What is Last-Click Attribution and How to Use It

Laura Caveney
21st June 2022

Last-click attribution is a popular choice with marketers, but is it the most effective? We run through what it is and how it works.

Marketing attribution is a tool being increasingly used by marketers to better understand how their work impacts their bottom line.

Last-click attribution is just one attribution model that you can use. But is it the best model out there for your business?

In this blog you’ll learn:

Let’s get started.

🚀 Pro Tip

Want to learn more about marketing attribution? Read our complete guide to attribution to better understand the different models and how your touchpoint data is collected, collated and distributed.

What is an attribution model?

An attribution model is a set of rules that determines how your analytics tool applies credit for clicks, form completions and conversions. Without an attribution model, it would be near impossible to measure the effectiveness of your marketing activity.

Attribution allows you to calculate the ROI of your channels so that you can allocate your budget towards the areas of marketing that have the opportunity to generate revenue growth.

Related: Read our complete guide to marketing attribution

🎓 Pro Tip

Want to learn more about attribution? Well, we’re the experts so we put all our knowledge into one free e-learning platform.

Enrol in Attribution Academy today

What is last-click attribution?

Last-click attribution is the attribution model that measures which marketing touchpoint a customer last clicked on or engaged with before purchasing, and gives it 100% of the credit.

Let’s use an example, to see how it works in practice.

Sara visits your website for the first time via a PPC advert. She explores your site but doesn’t convert.

She revisits via a Facebook ad, but again, doesn’t convert.

tracking customer journeys with Ruler

On her third visit to your site, which comes via an organic search, fills in a form to request a demo. Sara converts via her demo.

If you were using a last-click attribution model, then all of the credit would go to organic search.

Sara's customer journey

💡 Pro Tip

Last-click attribution isn’t the only attribution model out there. Read our full guide to attribution modelling to see how you can use other models to get a better view of your data.

Last-click vs first-click attribution

First-click works in the opposite way to last-click attribution in that it attributes all the credit to the first interaction as opposed to the last.

First-click attribution is great for marketers who want to work out which marketing efforts are kickstarting customer journeys. It helps you understand what’s driving awareness.

Related: Complete guide to first-click attribution

Now let’s look into what last-click does for teams.

Why do marketers use last-click attribution?

There are three main reasons why marketers use last-click attribution:

Last-click attribution is easy to set up thanks to tools like Google Analytics. By default, Google’s attribution method reverts to last-click attribution.

And for many marketers, this makes sense. You want to know what is converting your leads and prospects into customers. Particularly if you work in paid advertising.

Given last-click attribution is so intertwined with Google Analytics, it can be tricky to move away from this model type. In most cases, you would need to invest in a separate attribution tool to better understand how your marketing is working through every touchpoint.

Related: Read the full guide to Google’s Attribution

What’s the problem with last-click attribution?

As we saw in our example, the full credit of Sara’s purchase was attributed to organic search when using last-click attribution.

But there are issues with this.

Data-driven marketing that uses the last-click attribution model is a flawed approach in today’s marketing landscape.

Deciding where to increase or decrease resources based on last-click attribution can have a devastating impact on revenue growth.

Here’s why.

Last-click attribution gives a limited view of customer actions

Last-click attribution is better than no attribution model, but it only gives a very small view of what a customer is actually engaging with.

Take Sara’s customer journey for example.

With last-click attribution, the PPC ad and Facebook ad doesn’t receive any credit, at all.

And so, marketers have no insight that their paid advertising worked. Plus, they can’t calculate their return on ad spend.

Ultimately, this could mean budgets and strategies changing to suit an inaccurate view of data.

Metrics can lead marketers astray

Marketers using last-click attribution will only be able to see how their marketing channels are working to close sales. They won’t be able to see how their marketing affects other touchpoints. But this can lead marketers to rely on the wrong metrics.

Once you identify what works to close leads, you stop looking at the metrics that could indicate how leads are finding you in the first place.

For example, you might write really strong organic content that drives a lot of traffic to your website. But, with last-click attribution, you instead focus on PPC ads that are driving the bottom of your funnel.

It could lead to you neglecting your blog content. And as you neglect the top of your funnel, leads stop funnelling in which reduces your close rate. Keeping a full view of your lead conversions will help you prioritise correctly.

Last-click doesn’t acknowledge the usual conversion funnel

When marketers only use last-click attribution, they assign more importance to marketing channels that are only driving conversions.

Customer journeys are made up of three distinct stages. Understanding each and how different channels fit these roles is highly important.

Some channels will work better at driving new customer journeys, while some work better at ending them. Understanding what roles your channels play allows you to accurately optimise your strategy. With last-click attribution, you could find yourself chasing after metrics that ultimately mean very little.

Remember, you can track every single touchpoint in your customer journey. Download our guide to tracking customer journeys to see how you can better understand the full path from website visitor to customer.

You could find that PPC works to close a lot of customer journeys, but investing in more pay-per-click ads in the hope of starting customer journeys would be fruitless.

Related: Tracking your customer journeys 

How to create a last-click-attribution report

For this, we’ll show you how last-click works in Ruler Analytics.

There are a bunch of reports you can use in Ruler to see how last-click works.

Multi-Touch Attribution - Last Click Ruler Analytics - www.ruleranalytics.com

Here, you can see the source report in Ruler. Ruler pulls through all the clicks, leads, sales and revenue by channel.

This is the best way to see which channels are working to drive sales. You’ll likely spot trends between what drives new leads and what converts into revenue.

What’s best is that you can swap between attribution models so you can see which channels start, drive and end the customer journey.

🚀 Pro Tip

Read exactly why you need Ruler Analytics and how its attribution capability can help you prove your impact and drive more revenue.

How marketers can go beyond last-click attribution

With so many roadblocks in the way when using only last-click attribution, it makes you wonder why marketers use that only, at all.

But businesses tend to struggle to go beyond last-click due to the siloed nature of data.

Think of it like this. In order to achieve full oversight of your customer journey, you need to be able to link your lead and website data to your CRM. But you also then need to link all of that to apps like Google Analytics, Facebook, Google Ads etc.

Achieving that is no mean feat.

While you can easily track lead volume, it’s trickier to track where that lead has come from and then continue to monitor how they engage with your website and content.

Enter Ruler Analytics.

Ruler is a marketing attribution tool that supports marketers to link this vital data.

lead attribution - ruler analytics - www.ruleranaytics.com

Ruler Analytics can allow you to understand your data on a deeper level and get a full customer journey view.

This allows marketers to make smarter decisions when it comes to strategy and budget. Plus, it gives them the data they need to prove what they’re doing is working.

Read more on how Ruler attributes revenue back to your marketing. Or, download our eBook to closed-loop marketing attribution where you can see how to send the data you need, where you need it most.

And remember, if you want to learn more about other models of attribution, then check out our complete guide to attribution modelling.