Click-Through Attribution: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Click-Through Attribution: What Is It and How Does It Work?

7 Min Read

The digital revolution has transformed the advertising landscape, offering more opportunities to reach a new audience than ever before. But with all the channels out there — each one flooding consumers with different advertisements — it isn’t always easy to track a customer’s path to conversion.

Customers may view and even interact with multiple ads from the same advertiser. Consider a customer who views your ad on their online streaming service. Two weeks later, they make a purchase. Did that ad drive the conversion? 

Click-through attribution, or click-through conversion, is just one of many marketing attribution models you can use to get a better understanding of how your ads are performing. With this information, you can optimize your advertising strategies to create the most impact. 

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about click-through attribution

What Is Click-Through Attribution?

Click-through attribution is a model in marketing analytics that credits a conversion or sale to the last ad click that a customer made before taking the desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. This model operates on the principle that the most recent click had the most significant influence on the consumer’s decision to convert, thereby assigning full credit to that specific interaction.

Beyond the performance of a single ad, click-through attribution also allows brands to analyze the performance of overall messages, campaigns, and marketing techniques. It’s one of the most unmistakable signs of an ad’s effectiveness. Not only were audiences compelled to click on the ad, but they also found it compelling enough to make a purchase. 

Click-Through Vs. View-Through Attribution

In a click-through attribution model, the process of tracking is straightforward. After a user clicks the ad, they eventually make a purchase. 

View-through attribution, however, links the viewing of an ad to a purchase. While it’s impossible to determine whether or not the person “viewed” the ad directly, most view-through attribution models assume that a user sees the ad as long as the ad shows up on the user’s page and they ultimately make a purchase. This can help marketers capture the impact of impressions that click-through attribution may miss. For example, if someone views an ad on YouTube but decides not to click on it immediately, they might still remember the brand and look it up later. 

Click-through attribution measures direct contact. The user sees the ad, clicks on it, and then converts. Unlike view-through attribution, click-through attribution directly confirms that a customer has interacted with an ad, demonstrating that that ad has a clear and immediate impact on the user’s decision-making. 

Ultimately, both types of attribution show how users are responding to your campaign. Click-through attribution measures user engagement with your ads, while view-through attribution assesses your ads’ indirect impact. 

How Does Click-Through Attribution Work?

Click-through attribution tracking relies on pixels — tiny snippets of code that allow you to track a user’s actions, from clicks to completed purchases. Tools like Google Ads and Facebook Ads use these pixels to unlock conversion tracking and other analytics. 

From single to multi-touch models, there are a few different kinds of click-through attribution models that advertisers can use, including: 

  • First Click — Gives conversion credit to the first touchpoint
  • Last Click — Gives conversion credit to the last touchpoint

In addition to conversion tracking, platforms like Google ads can provide other marketing metrics like cost per conversion and return on investment (ROI), helping you fine-tune your advertising campaigns for better performance. 

A detailed attribution report demonstrates your ads’ performance by using data-driven insights to optimize your marketing strategy. With a clearer picture of your average customer’s path to purchase, you can start investing more heavily into channels and campaigns that drive results while eliminating spending on less efficient techniques. 

Advantages of the Click-Through Attribution Model

Compared to view-through attribution, click-through attribution has the advantage of simplicity. It’s a straightforward model that’s easy to track, measure, and understand. This makes it an appealing option for many marketers. 

This model also emphasizes direct interaction between ads and users. While view-through attribution focuses solely on exposure, click-through attribution puts concrete interactions first. It can show clear evidence of the impact of a user’s decision to click, making it a handy metric for assessing the success of an ad campaign. 

Disadvantages of the Click-Through Attribution Model

Click-through attribution isn’t without its weaknesses. The model’s simplicity makes it easy to track, but it may also smooth over the full complexity of ad engagement. 

Users will ultimately be affected by multiple touchpoints. They’ll view and / or engage with multiple ads on different channels before converting. By crediting only one touchpoint, marketers risk oversimplifying the customer journey and missing critical data about other touchpoints. 

Click-through attribution can be a successful model with many forms of digital marketing, but it doesn’t work as well with Connected TV (CTV). Users viewing advertisements on smart TVs or other devices can’t always “click” on the ad, and most won’t pause their content to learn more about an advertisement. 

Examples of Click-Through Attribution 

Let’s say you’re running ads on Facebook and Google search. One customer might see an ad on their Facebook timeline, click on it, and then directly make a sale. This is a textbook example of click-through attribution. With this model, the sale is directly attributed to the Facebook ad. 

However, the customer’s experience can get far more complicated in today’s digitally connected world. Let’s say another customer clicked on your Facebook ad but didn’t immediately make a purchase. They might see your advertisement on Google search and click on it, but only to explore your website. They don’t make a purchase until a week later. 

This customer’s journey involved more than one touchpoint, which can make attribution more complicated. While you can still leverage click-through attribution as part of your advertising strategy, it’s also essential to consider a more advanced multi-touch conversion approach. With a last- or first-click model, the customer’s purchase would be attributed to either the Facebook or Google advertisements, leaving out the impact of the other interactions.

The Rise of TV Attribution

From Netflix to Amazon Prime, many TV watchers are choosing to cut the cord of traditional television watching and turn to the limitless streaming options on the market. 87% of U.S. households have at least one internet-connected TV device, including smart TVs and streaming devices. That number has spiked significantly over the past few years, rising from just 38% of households in 2012. 

The rising popularity of CTV has also attracted the attention of advertisers, and for good reason. CTV combines traditional TV advertising and digital marketing, bringing the best of both worlds together into a powerful format. It’s resulted in a robust digital ad channel — the storytelling medium of television combined with precise audience targeting and measurement

A study in 2022 revealed that CTV dominated the video ad market, accounting for 71% of all video advertising views. In another study, 95% of marketers reported that CTV achieved their performance goals. 

But just like any digital marketing channel, the field of CTV advertising is complex. Traditional attribution models rely too much on key performance indicators (KPIs) like open rates, clicks, and impressions that don’t accurately measure the success of CTV ads. 

Advanced attribution models can track the performance of TV ads across multiple channels. This is critical in a world where consumers often engage across devices and platforms. It can also yield specific and powerful insights that empower brands to constantly refine campaigns for success. 

As a leader in Performance TV advertising, MNTN’s Verified Visits™ attribution model has become the gold standard in CTV. Now, it’s also integrated with Rockerbox’s measurement platform. With this combination, marketers can access the power of MNTN’s highly accurate CTV data alongside their other marketing channels — directly in Rockerbox’s holistic platform. 

Learn more about how MNTN’s integration with Rockerbox can help you drive unparalleled performance with your CTV marketing campaigns, or request a demo to see the results for yourself. 

Click-Through Attribution: Final Thoughts

Click-through attribution may not be a perfect model for performance TV, but it’s still a powerful tool when considering what’s right for your business. Out of all the attribution models, it gives marketers the clearest indication of their ad’s impact on campaigns. 

Whether you want to identify underperforming ad messages or put more funding behind your successful high-conversion campaigns, understanding attribution is necessary to take your advertising strategy in the right direction. Regardless of the attribution model you choose, successful conversion tracking can have a measurable impact on your ad campaigns. 

When you have a clearer understanding of what’s driving conversions, your marketing strategy becomes more dynamic, effective, and personalized. With the right technology to track and optimize the different touch points along the customer’s path to purchase, you can see concrete results — more conversions and a higher ROI.