How do you attribute conversions in a world with so many channels? It’s a challenge that every marketer faces. If you can’t get an accurate picture of what’s driving conversions, it’s impossible to make the right calls when it comes to budget allocation. The two main attribution models are click-through and view-through attribution. In this guide, we’ll explore how these models work, what makes them different, and when to use them. By the time you finish this post, you’ll have a better understanding of which is the best option for your paid media campaigns. Let’s dive in.

What Is View-Through Attribution?

View-through attribution (VTA) – sometimes called impression-based attribution – is a model that measures conversions that can be attributed to an ad even if the user didn’t click on the ad. A bunch of studies shows how people are influenced by ads they don’t click on directly. VTA is used to measure this impact. For example, you might use video ads to promote your app. A user could watch your ad on Youtube and downloads the app directly from the app store instead of clicking on the ad. Even though the user didn’t click, the ad placement led to the conversion. VTA uses a predefined lookback window. Also known as an attribution window, this is the period of time that a conversion can be attributed to an ad after the initial impression.

What Is Click-Through Attribution?

Click-through attribution (CTA) is used to attribute conversions based on clicks, it usually happens after a user clicks on an ad. When a user clicks and converts within a predefined period, the conversion is attributed to the ad and accordingly to the ad channel. Like VTA, click-through attribution also uses a predefined lookback window to credit ad clicks with conversions.

The Main Differences Between the Two Attribution Models

VTA measures conversions by taking into consideration impressions as well as clicks data, and click-through attribution measures conversions based on clicks data only. But what does that really mean for advertisers? Well, CTA offers a more precise measurement of ad performance. You can see the direct actions that users take after viewing your ad and it makes it easier to establish the direct impact of ad campaigns. However, CTA doesn’t offer a comprehensive overview of campaign performance across multiple channels.

Let’s say that you run a video ad campaign on YouTube. A user might watch your ad and love your product. But they are in the middle of watching something on YouTube. So they head to your website directly at a more convenient time to make a purchase. If you relied solely on a click-through attribution model to measure performance, you might think your ads are not making an impact. This could lead to mistakes when it comes to budget allocation. VTA helps advertisers to overcome the shortcomings of CTA. Even if a user doesn’t click, the conversion will be attributed to the ad impression during the lookback window. You can get a more comprehensive overview of ad campaign performance across multiple channels as well.

A Real-World Example of View-Through vs. Click-Through Attribution Models

Let’s look at a scenario to see how these models look in the real world. You’re running ad campaigns on Facebook, Google Display Network, and Google Search Ads. A user scrolls through their feed on Facebook and watches your ad in full. But they don’t click on the ad. The next morning, the same user sees your banner ad on the Display Network. Again, they watch the ad fully but don’t click. Later that afternoon, the user heads to Google to search for your company. They click your ad at the top of the search results and convert on your website. The search ad gets the last-click conversion. But VTA conversions are also registered on the Display Network and Facebook Ads.

You have multiple platforms claiming the conversion. Without VTA, you might think that search ads did all the hard work. But the other platforms also contributed to the conversion. Even if a user doesn’t perform the action you want them to take immediately, that doesn’t mean they won’t at a later time. Using VTA, you get a clearer picture of performance across multiple channels.

Which Attribution Model Is Right For Me?

There’s no perfect attribution model that will capture every conversion influenced by an ad campaign. But you can use different attribution models for different campaign types and reporting needs. For example, if you’re trying to optimize your marketing mix, a combination of VTA and CTA provides the clearest picture of ad performance. This is usually the best way to gain insight into the return on ad spend (ROAS) for each channel. You can also change the attribution model to fit the stage of the funnel you are targeting in the advertising campaign. 

VTA combined with CTA is generally the best option for brand awareness campaigns aimed at prospects. CTA only or combined with a very short VTA lookback window is the best option for remarketing campaigns aimed at lower-funnel audiences.

Why?

Impression-based ads are important for brand awareness. But ad views are much less likely to make an impact for a purchase-driven cart abandonment campaign. Maximizing ROAS is all about learning what works and making smarter decisions. With VTA and CTA, you can get the data you need to make the most of your ad budget.

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