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  • Jill Quick

Attribution Across The Customer Journey

What does attribution and the customer journey have to do with each other?

Right, as marketing folk we -know- that our customers take their own unique journey, and their intent at each stage of their journey will change –only– when they are ready to move to the next stage in the relationship.

The problem is that reporting and Return On Investment (ROI) for our marketing skews to the last channel, campaign or page that scored the goal. So that interaction, ends up getting all the credit. Let’s call them your quarterback, see every high school drama, ever made.

Lately, we have been doing some talks that dived into how you can use Google Analytics (GA) to measure user intent and the effectiveness of your campaigns at each stage of the journey, as well as highlighting some freaky little quirks within GA that may have cost you dearly.

What does attribution and the customer journey have to do with each other?

When we talk about attribution, remember it’s just a fancy way of saying who gets the credit.

Who do we attribute success to?

We need to make sure that when we’re reporting on how our marketing channels are working for us, that we don’t make bad or biased decisions on that data. By that I mean just focusing on the superstar channels, that score most of the goals. *cue shameless plug to our Attribution Explainer*

Now, let’s imagine you have just scored a Goal on your website. High Five! That could be a physical sale, or someone filling in a form. Either way, someone did the thing you need them to do – in order for your business to survive. Always a good thing!

So, who gets the credit for scoring the Goal?

The answer will depend on the attribution model you are using. Or rather, which model Google Analytics is using in your reporting.

Now, in our hypothetical example, in our lovely picture. If this were a typical customer journey, the Acquisition reports in Google Analytics will give all of the credit to the Last Non Direct channel. Which is fine, but it does make the other channels look a bit useless when you read the reports.


It may seem obvious, but you can’t do any attribution if you don’t have any goals setup. Something we like to do here at The Coloring in Department is build dashboards in Data Studio. Now, provided you have more than 1 goal (you can have 20!), you can then select a mix of macro and micro conversions, as well as a heat map to help visualize the conversion rates across the goals that you have set up. If you list the sources, you then get to see how well your marketing is doing to drive your conversions. It also helps to show the role of that channel for you.

If you do this, your reports begin to paint a visual picture about the role your marketing channels plays in contributing to the growth of your business. And, it helps to manage the expectations and roles of your marketing.

For example, social media may be amazing at getting people to watch a video, and sending a newsletter will get them to sign up to a free trial. Don’t judge the success of all channels in the same light, they may not be the closer, that may not be the role of that channel.

Attribution Reports

When you are in Google Analytics you get some really useful information, like which channels assisted in conversions, what the value of these assisted conversion is, how long it takes people to covert, and top path to purchase reports.

I like these reports because they help level the score card. We want to be a little fairer, a little more balanced, when reporting on our marketing channels.

The Assisted Conversions report in particular is going to show you how your marketing channels are assisting in driving conversions for you. This report became available, circa 2011, because people were making bad decisions on Google Ads. I remember being in a meeting with a client who said that, when they looked at the acquisition report, that paid search only accounted for two conversions, and that it cost them about £500 in Paid Search spend.

So, they were going to get rid of it. But – when they had a look at the assisted conversions report, it showed that the paid search channel actually assisted in 98 sales. So, that meant if they had closed off the budget of £500, assuming that it is only contributing to two sales, they would have actually been saying bye bye to 98 sales. Paid Search for them was a channel that started the journey, it was brand awareness, an exposure channel. So, it’s a great little report, but how do we get these metrics and dimensions into a Google Data Studio report.

Now, for a slight challenge with Data Studio…

Data Studio (and I do love it very much) does not let you pull in my favorite reports, which are found in Multi-Channel Funnel reporting. There is a work around though. You need to use Google Sheets.

In this example, we have the top half of the report being pulled in from Google Analytics. Number of users, sessions, revenue. Lovely. We then have the Default Channel Grouping (DCG) listed with revenue next to it. Remember, the DCG is going to give 100% credit to the last non direct channel.

We want to make the report a little balanced. Using Google Sheets with the Google Analytics Add-On we can pull in the assisted conversions for our marketing channels. Yippie. Let’s talk through the steps on how to implement this, shall we?

What you need:

You need to fire up Google Sheets and get the Google Analytics Add On. Once you have this loaded, you can select from the top navigation in Google Sheets <Add-Ons> and then select ‘Create New Report’. Give your report a name and use the dropdown to select the GA Account, Property, and View that you want to use. Keep the Metrics, Dimensions and Segments empty . Click on ‘Create Report’.

You end up with a sheet that looks like this.

You still need to do some tinkering here to get our Google Sheet to do what we want. For some reason rows 13-17 are squished together, so you need to click on the arrows to expand the row. In row 14 where it says ‘Report Type’ you need to type in mcf. This is super important. I banged my head against the table for ages trying to work out how to pull this in Google Sheets. You must change the ‘Report Type’ to ‘mcf’ in order to pull in the MCF API which is different to the core reporting API, which powers the Acquisition Reports.

Now, we need to type in the MCF Metrics and Dimensions in row 6 and 7. These are not the same as the typical GA Metrics and Dimensions, we need to specifically use the MCF Dimensions and Metrics Reference.

When you know which MCF Dimensions and Metrics you want, type them into row 6 and 7. You can add more than one Dimensions and Metrics to each row. In this example we have 3 Metrics, Total Conversions, Assisted Conversions and Conversion Value. In the Dimensions row we have the Basic Channel Grouping and Day.

When you are happy with your selection, head to the top of your Google Sheet and click Add-On. Select Google Analytics > Run Report.

You should get a message that looks like this.

Once it has run the report you will find your data inside a new tab.

To get it inside Google Data Studio, log in, and select Google Sheets, which is already listed as a connector, and select the name of the Google Sheet file that has your MCF data in it. Then, work as normal in Data Studio and create your tables, charts etc. whatever takes your fancy. If you enjoyed this post, you should check out our GA online course. We have a whole module dedicated to getting your attribution grove on!


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