There are a number of ways for a visitor to arrive at your website and then buy one of your products or services. A visitor may go through a process like this:
In this scenario, the conversion would be attributed to the comparison website because that is the last channel that the visitor used. Despite the first touch point being from organic search, it doesn’t get any credit from the conversion (known as “attribution”).
This is a problem because the organic search should at least get some credit for attracting the visitor in the first place.
This is the problem that multi-channel reporting aims to solve. It brings in the concept of a channel assisting with a conversion, even if it wasn’t the one that ultimately led to a conversion.
The importance of multi-channel reporting
Imagine that a user discovered your website by clicking on a paid search ad, a few days later they came back via a link they saw on Twitter, then the next day they found you by searching for your brand and clicking on an organic search result and during this visit, they buy your product.
There are three touch points here:
First touch – with this option, the paid search ad would get 100% of the credit for the customer buying your product because it was the first touch point for them.
Last touch – this option means that organic search gets 100% of the credit for the customer buying your product because it was the last touch point before they converted.
Last touch not direct – some analytics platforms will not include direct visitors when doing multi-touch attribution. Imagine in our scenario above there was an additional touch point where the customer purchased after typing in the address of your website, organic search would still get the credit.
Time decay – this option is a little more complicated. The credit for the sale is split between each touch point, but not equally. The touch point that occurred closest in time to the conversion will get most of the credit, in this case, organic search. Then Twitter will get slightly less credit because that touch point was a few days before, then finally the paid search ad will get the least amount of credit because it was the longest from the point of conversion.
Linear – this option will split the credit equally between all touch points. Therefore, in our scenario, each touch point would get 33% of the credit for the conversion.
There are various attribution options that are possible in multi-channel reporting, some of these are set by default and some will be set by using tweaks to your tracking setup. It will depend a lot on the analytics platform that you use.
Analytics isn’t just about organic & paid search, there are multiple channels that can be fed into a dashboard. This is actually essential in the world we live in where there can be so many touch points with your customers, so it is very helpful to know which of those touch points are working best for you and which ones may not be worth pursuing.
Here is a video from Google Analytics that does a good job of explaining how multi-channel reporting and tracking works with them: