Google Data-Driven Attribution

Back in September 2021, Google announced that data-driven attribution was the default attribution model for all new Google Ads conversion actions starting in October. “To help all advertisers take advantage of better attribution and improve their performance, we’re removing the data requirements and adding support for additional types of conversions.”

It sounds all fine and good, but we’re finding it’s not all fine and good for all advertisers.

First, here’s a quick reminder of attribution and, more importantly, data-driven attribution. Attribution is the practice of giving value to a touch-point in a searcher’s journey to a conversion. For Google Ads, it’s splitting up the value of a conversion and any reported revenue across multiple ad touches. Attribution is hard when privacy settings prevent cookies from getting set, when cookies are deleted, or when people change devices. 

Data-driven attribution (DDA) is Google’s answer to this – to use conversion modeling from machine learning to fill in the gaps. DDA has been around since 2016; you could turn certain conversions onto DDA if you met data requirements. Those data requirements have dropped several times since DDA launched, initially from 600 conversions and 15,000 clicks in 30 days, to 400 conversions and 10,000 clicks in 30 days, and finally to 300 conversions and 3,000 ad clicks in 30 days (to be honest, I love the three repetition) in October of 2020. If you had a conversion that met that threshold, you could switch to it.

Since then, Google has been pushing DDA as a better attribution model, and so in September, they made it the default attribution type and said they removed that threshold. But here’s the issue we’re seeing with it now.

Since Google made DDA the default conversion model, we’d been setting up new conversions as DDA attribution instead of Position, Time, or Linear based, as was our standard. But then we started seeing that clients have round number conversions. This usually doesn’t happen – you usually see fractional conversions attributed across different campaigns.

We reached out to our Google support team, and they said it’s because the conversions didn’t meet the data requirements, and so they were defaulting to last touch. 

But wait. Google said, in their announcement in September of 2021:

“To help all advertisers take advantage of better attribution and improve their performance, we’re removing the data requirements and adding support for additional types of conversions.”

So Google’s support team says there are still data requirements. Let’s check the support docs on DDA – there are those pesky 300/3,000/30 requirements again.

And wait, what’s this?

“Depending on data availability, the last click and data-driven attribution models can have the same results in certain situations.”

Um – CYA, maybe?

And finally, there are regular emails to our agency, where we will get lists of clients that Google considered “strong candidates” for switching to DDA, with this lovely line:

“You don’t need to take any further action for any conversions you’d like us to switch to the data-driven attribution model; we’ll make the switch for you on or after 6/22/22 (as long as a conversion continues to meet the data requirements).”

Hey, look – those darn data requirements again! Checking the clients on the list would show that most don’t meet the data requirements, and many never even come close (some have as few as 50 conversions in a 30-day period).

So here are my questions:

  1. How is Google determining which accounts are “strong candidates?”
  2. Why are there still data requirements if Google announced in September 2021 that they were doing away with them?
  3. And finally, why is last touch still the default for when DDA data requirements aren’t met, even though, in Google’s words, “last-click attribution will increasingly fall short of advertisers’ needs”?

In my opinion, DDA should not be the default until Google figures all these things out.

If you haven’t set up your conversions yet on Google, don’t use DDA. Use Position, Time, or Linear, but not DDA and certainly not last touch. And further, if you’ve set up your conversions recently and used the DDA default, I’d suggest checking if you are meeting the 300/3,000/30 requirements and, if not, switching your attribution.

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