Live or die? A discussion about the last-click attribution model

In the early days of web analytics, last-click attribution (or 'LCA') was all the rage. Website owners loved finding out where people reached their site from. LCA was a reliable tool for finding out which websites to partner up with, or for understanding more about a customer base. Web savvy website owners could then use the data that they garnered via LCA to optimize their conversion rates and do a whole host of other cool and cost effective things with their websites. But, many commentators are suggesting, these glory days of LCA are no more. In fact, many people are proclaiming that LCA is not just dying: it is already dead. So, can LCA be saved? Is it still useful in the present day? Or should we just all forget about it, and condemn it to the archives for historians of the web to study?

Is there a pulse? One key reason why people are claiming LCA is dead

The main, overriding reason that is being adduced to support the claim that last-click attribution is dead is that LCA is no longer a reliable way of finding out about customers' web behavior. In the heyday of LCA, blogs, social media platforms, and similar online spaces where users could create and disseminate content, simply did not exist. That means that the last website that a given user visited before reaching your site was probably also the first, and only, site that led them to yours. So LCA was a really reliable way of finding out which site was linking to yours. In the present day, however, there are a multiplicity of ways in which a user can reach your website. They could come via a blog, via Twitter, or via another social media platform. This is one of the key reasons why LCA's critics are claiming that it is completely outdated. In addition, the web is just bigger nowadays! There are so many more websites out there, all back linking like crazy, and the simpler tools of LCA, critics suggest, are just not adapted to cope with this increased level and complexity of data.

On the contrary...adapting LCA for modern times, and the future!

Advocates of LCA, however, argue that it is far from dead. They suggest that, when used in a smart, media savvy way, LCA can continue to be an invaluable tool for understanding the people who visit your site. And so, the science (or art?) of 'attribution modeling' has been born. Attribution modeling is basically LCA for a smarter, more complex internet age. Attribution modeling is used particularly in the world of online marketing, to analyze the effect of display ads on the visitor stats and conversion rate of a website. If you have posted a display ad on a search engine or on a partner website, it makes good sense to check up on which of your display ads are bringing you in the most customers, so that you can optimize your marketing strategy. And, many people are finding that using the basic format of LCA, adapted to suit the complexity of the modern web with its SEO algorithms and multiplicity of link building sources, is the best tool for this job.

Live or die? Should you use LCA for your website?

Though some critics are proclaiming the LCA is completely dead, it seems that their predictions have been a little premature. Other website owners and online marketers are still finding lots of potential in this analytic tool. Though one disadvantage of LCA is that it was designed to suit a simple age of web use, people are getting round this by adapting LCA to suit the more specific needs of online marketing in the present day. Perhaps ultimately it comes down to a question of taste, and what works for you. Why not try out LCA for yourself (it is generally free after all!) and see if it helps you to improve your website or online marketing strategy?
Written by Joinville

Joinville is a trading desk and SaaS ad platform that powers digital multicultural campaigns via direct and programmatic media buying.