Remarkable growth is achieved by investing in the best opportunities.
We help you acquire customers with not one dollar wasted. An elite growth team, we unite with your vision, mission, and product to tell your story in all the right places
Because when missteps cost millions, there’s no room for error.
Turn your sea of data into data you can see
Because growth does not exist without data.
In a world where data is overwhelmingly everywhere, we unify and surface the data you need in order to lead. From marketing to product or customer data, we empower you to steer the ship with confidence.
Turn your data from being a read-out to being a roadmap.
A framework for growth that lasts through winter
Long-term, durable growth is a feat to achieve.
But, with our battle-tested framework as your armor, you’ll drive growth that lasts through any season.
We’ll illuminate the path ahead, so you can progress to the destination. Get ready, together we’ll go places.
Before you invest a single dollar, we analyze your data and objectives to ensure that our partnership is a good match.
We Align With You
We hold breakouts with you and internal experts, quickly documenting and understanding nuances and messaging angles for your product and industry.
We Research for You
We conduct two focused research types: external research, which examines your market, competitors, and existing gaps, and internal research, which searches your data for areas of immediate enhancement.
We Deliver your Blueprint
We provide a blueprint with a detailed 90-day plan for growth initiatives, including activation, optimization, or overhaul. On this day, we align, approve, and launch our first campaigns and efforts.
We Have Weekly War Rooms
Throughout our partnership we’ll meet every week to review data, trade notes on progress, and war-room future strategies, ensuring close collaboration every step of the way.
Your Dashboards Go Live
Your key data is visualized in one place, updated in real time, allowing you to track initiatives and confidently make informed decisions. We continually enhance and refine these dashboards over time.
We Iterate and Pivot to Success
Each quarter, we meet to review past performance data and present prospective blueprint. Aiming for substantial growth over incremental, we deliver a path forward we’re all excited about.
We intend to widen the market we address with more attractive offerings for our customers including, for example, new data analysis and decision support solutions for business users, and software solutions scaled to small businesses and midsize companies.
I love it when people go above and beyond what is expected and they do this on their own. Today, Half Past Nine is very much a part of our team - they are an extension of our internal marketing team. We have excellent communication and we rely on their strategic guidance.
They are strategic and creative, and understand our business and goals, working tirelessly to achieve them. They grew our MER and ROAS significantly. Built a strong PPC and paid media strategy and plan. Great execution
They provided strategic advice for when it was best to hire internal resources to take on projects, giving truly unbiased recommendations on what was best for our business. They served as a true extension to our team, giving us a new found superpower to do more, faster!
We were able to achieve a 7x ROI on our investment with HP9. They built a growth plan, and exceeded all goals within 6 short months. / HP9 became so embedded in our company that we truly couldn't function without them. They are an extension of our team/family. A great hard working team, with personable and innovative personalities.
Whether it's webstore functionality, customer management, social and content opportunities, or the big one, paid media, they know their stuff and base recommendations on the numbers and analytics. They helped us nearly double our sales in the first year and have been great partners every step of the way.
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Not all PPC agencies are created equal when it comes to delivering the full potential of your ad budget.
Your PPC (or paid search) strategy is a new customer pipeline that’s essential for sustaining your business growth. It’s the #1 late-journey channel to reach and convert high intent leads - so you can’t afford not to get it right.
The difference between a good and a poor PPC agency is night and day.
If you leave a poorly performing PPC agency in place, the best case scenario is poor budget ROI far below potential. The worst case scenario is business growth or even revenue declining over time. You could lose your job if you're the CMO or paid media owner.
5 Signs That Your PPC Agency Is Failing You
Any one of these 5 signs that your PPC agency isn’t performing should probably be a deal breaker. But if you’re seeing all 5 of these, it’s definitely time to break up!
Do bear in mind - you get what you pay for.
An agency that hires the best talent and delivers results is worth the money. The higher ROI on your PPC budget should adequately cover their fee.
1. They Aren’t Proactive
They behave like “task rabbits” and “yes-men”, following instructions rather than performing like a true consulting PPC partner.
You have to chase for communication or updates and responsiveness is slow.
Deadlines or key dates are missed.
What You Need - A great PPC agency will lead you as a consultant, proactively pointing out what your PPC strategy needs to be successful. A true PPC partner will challenge your preconceptions, guiding you through the process.
2. They Don’t Build a Holistic Strategy
They don’t ask about the objectives, targets and wider strategy your business is trying to achieve.
They don’t take time to understand your brand and your industry.
They don’t track how PPC activity is directly affecting the bottom line.
What You Need - A great PPC agency will take a wider and longer-term outlook on your brand’s objectives and positioning. They will have a view on your competitors, your TAM, key KPIs, and develop forecasting that ties back allocated campaign budgets to expected results. They will set and share clear PPC KPIs that layer into achieving your target business objectives.
3. The Team Is Junior Or Has High Turnover
You only ever communicate with junior account managers and can’t get any of the senior team’s time.
Account managers are thinly spread - you have 1 person assigned to your account and you get the feeling they have too many accounts or are more focused on some other clients.
The turnover (or attrition) of the agency staff you work with is high, and knowledge of your campaign history and set-up suffers as a result.
What You Need - A great PPC agency looks after their talent and carefully manages staff to client ratio, resulting in a high quality service. You have regular access to senior PPC strategists and there is deep knowledge and consistent management of your PPC accounts.
4. Reporting Isn’t Great Or Results Are Unclear
You don’t proactively receive regular reporting on your PPC campaigns.
Reporting accuracy is questionable, or tangible financial results and business outcomes are unclear.
They only report the on-platform metrics provided, or any reporting from outside the ad platform is limited to Google Analytics.
What You Need - A great PPC agency will use their own attribution tools (covering MTA, MMM, incrementality, etc.) to track which ad exposures are most effective for conversion. They’ll report direct business outcomes for the budget invested in your search campaigns and ad groups. They can offer additional support to improve closed-loop reporting so that bottom-line financial results are accurately tracked. Reporting will be clear, the cadence will be regular, and your questions will be answered as part of the process.
5. You Aren't Seeing The Results Promised
Poor ROI performance (after 2 quarters from activation) is the most important sign that you need a better PPC agency, ASAP.
The traffic generated by campaigns is low quality and doesn’t convert.
Brand awareness or vanity metrics are used as an excuse for poor conversion rates.
Ad budget allocation is misaligned for growth, often over-invested in late journey (bottom-funnel) and not feeding a pipeline at the top.
What You Need - The skillet of a great PPC agency will cover full journey planning and matching budget allocation, right through to conversion rate optimization (CRO). All ad touchpoints are designed to work together in a complete journey extending beyond just search. Budget ROI will be maximized in the short-term without sacrificing long-term growth using a full-funnel strategy.
PPC Audit Metrics That Will Tell You The Truth
Ideally, you can use selected KPI benchmarks to tell you how well your current PPC agency is performing.
And if your agency isn’t reporting these, it’s definitely a red flag!
To run a quick and simple PPC audit on your agency, here are the top KPIs that every brand should have visibility on.
(Please note: the guideline benchmarks we have provided below are high-level and can vary widely by industry. Contact us if you’d like benchmarking and KPI support).
1. Impression Share (IS)
IS for chosen keywords is a great indicator of how effective your bidding strategy is, and also indicates the search algorithm’s quality score for your ad copy and landing pages.
If your IS is <20% for all non-branded keywords, there’s definitely a problem. However look for >80% IS for branded keywords, with ~95% being really good.
2. Branded vs. Non-Branded % of Total Spend
Unless you are an extremely well-known brand in a highly competitive environment, you should not be spending >10% of your total search budget on branded terms.
If you are, it’s typically a case that whoever is managing the account is trying to inflate performance. Branded terms will outperform all other terms given that searchers are putting in queries to find your brand specifically. They already have brand awareness and the highest intent.
As long as your brand appears on the first SERP organically, your ad budget is more effectively spent getting in front of users who are:
Searching for your products or solutions but without being brand specific.
Searching branded keywords for your competitors.
3. Click-Through Rate (CTR)
CTR will tell you if your search ad copy is giving the right message to a relevant audience.
If CTR is below 1% then one of these elements is way out of alignment. You want a CTR of at least 3% for your paid results, but ideally 5%+.
4. Conversion Rate (CVR)
Whatever your business model, your PPC agency should help you set up conversion goals on all your search ad landing pages, such as completed visitor actions.
What qualifies as a good CVR varies a lot by industry, however good CVRs for B2B brands is 6% on average, while DTC should look for at least ~3-5%.
In addition to those:
5. For B2B brands - Cost Per MQL
By nature of most B2B conversion processes, you’ll have a longer period between ad click, sales conversion and accounts receivable payments. Closed-loop reporting will have a couple of extra steps, perhaps relying on some manual inputs from the sales team. That’s why B2B brands with offline sales conversion processes need to lean more heavily on MQL generation rather than conversions or revenue for immediate traffic quality and ROI feedback. You’ll need to develop measurable MQL criteria for this metric.
Cost per MQL does vary dramatically by industry vertical. Around $200 to $300 per MQL would be low, and for some can be ~$1,500. Industry benchmarks are an important data source here.
Your agency should consistently monitor first-step and next-step conversion rates for MQLs through the entire pipeline, optimizing for higher quality leads and faster sales cycles through closed-won.
6. For DTC brands - ROAS
As an ecommerce operator, you have the luxury of precisely tracking immediate ad conversions and order values to determine ROAS by revenue results. Just watch out for double attribution across your active ad platforms, especially if your current PPC agency only uses on-platform reporting!
Around $2 in revenue to $1 in ad costs is average. However a 4:1 ratio — $4 in revenue to $1 in ad costs — is a better target that a great agency will aim for.
At Half Past Nine, we work with brands who want more than the standard marketing agency service and are ready to invest in paid customer acquisition more strategically.
We don’t see ourselves as merely an “agency". As our clients will tell you (just check out our Clutch reviews), we continually go beyond what is expected. Our proactive consultancy service:
Brings stronger strategic direction.
Builds complete customer journeys with precisely timed targeting built on intent signals.
Delivers above average paid media results, extracting the full growth potential of your budget.
Learn more about how we help brands scale quickly and sustainably, delivering holistic strategy support as a true agency partner.
Or get in touch for a free scoping call - we’d be interested to hear your objectives and discuss making them a reality.
Knowing where to invest marketing budget to increase contribution margin and overall revenue growth is the #1 pressing challenge for any marketing or growth leader.
As multichannel complexity and media budgets grow, attribution becomes one of those topics we really can’t ignore.
To truly understand the most valuable customer journey design, relying on default attribution reporting within ad platforms or Google Analytics just doesn’t cut it. In fact, it can even do more harm than good due to misattribution and double attribution - a big problem with these uncensored (and self-serving) tools.
The trouble with free on-platform attribution reporting (like Facebook or Google Analytics) is that they are siloed walled gardens that work in isolation with their own limited data sets. Your most powerful and valuable attribution analysis needs to cover everything, directly tied back to revenue results.
Without a proactive attribution strategy that connects all your customer journey and conversion data, optimized customer journey design will remain an elusive mystery. Highly influential channels like dark social or offline interactions are often underestimated or completely missing, while non-profitable campaigns are over-indexed.
The difference in business results can easily stack up to millions of dollars in wasted budget and lost opportunities - especially where larger paid media budgets are involved.
Let’s explore how marketers can master attribution to start hitting revenue targets with much greater confidence and certainty.
The Impact of Not Using Accurate Attribution Reporting
The impact of not using attribution reporting - or using it poorly - is worth understanding. It can have multiple negative impacts on decision-making and overall business performance.
The common consequences are:
Incomplete Customer Insights Cause Poor CX
An incomplete understanding of customer preferences, motivations, and pain points hinders the ability to tailor marketing strategies to effectively engage and convert customers.
This can result in a lack of adequate content personalization and a poorer customer experience (CX), meaning your brand gets overlooked in favor of others by potential customers.
Unprofitable Resource Allocation
Struggling to accurately identify the marketing channels, campaigns, or touchpoints that are driving conversions or desired outcomes results in less effective use of resources.
For example, over-investing in underperforming channels, and underinvesting in high-impact touchpoints, wasting budget in the process.
Poor Revenue Growth and Limited Brand Equity
Incorrect assumptions about the impact of specific touchpoints or channels results in suboptimal marketing performance and missed opportunities.
If marketing efforts fail to engage and convert customers effectively over time, the business can suffer from stunted revenue growth, also putting a cap on brand equity.
Understanding the Challenges for Accurate Attribution
Marketers can’t fully rely on free attribution solutions for the insights they need to drive significant optimizations. Results can be significantly misleading when solely using free on-platform attribution reporting.
On-platform attribution issues:
No Cross-Channel Visibility - On-platform attribution doesn't have full visibility into the performance of other channels, or wider customer journey outside of their own ecosystem, acting as walled gardens. This limited view can make it difficult to understand the true impact of each channel on conversions and ROI (or ROAS).
Double Attribution - When using multiple platforms, there's a risk of double attribution - where more than one platform takes credit for the same conversion. This overlapping attribution may cause businesses to overestimate the performance of certain channels or campaigns, and consequent overinvestment stunts overall marketing ROI.
Inconsistent Attribution Methods - Different platforms apply different attribution rules, leading to inconsistencies in how they assign credit to various touchpoints. This inconsistency can make it challenging to accurately compare the performance of different marketing channels or campaigns.
Tracking Limitations - With increasing data privacy regulations, third-party platforms may face challenges in accurately tracking user behavior across channels. A custom attribution model can help overcome some of these limitations by incorporating first-party data and other tracking methods.
Lack of Customization - On-platform attribution reporting may not be tailored to your specific needs, goals, and marketing strategy. A custom attribution model, on the other hand, can be designed to accurately reflect a business's unique customer journey, allowing for more precise insights into the performance of each marketing channel and campaign.
There is a compelling case for marketers to invest in their own customized attribution solutions. Especially when paid media investments start becoming more significant.
However, accurate attribution modeling isn’t one of the most straightforward tasks for a marketing department to tackle.
There are several hurdles to overcome to extract and benefit from the most valuable insights:
1. Tracking Data Across Complete Journeys
A typical user journey involves multiple devices, channels, platforms, and time breaks between visits, making it difficult to track a complete customer journey path from the first touchpoint to conversion. Cross-device tracking techniques are needed, such as device matching or probabilistic modeling.
2. Data Privacy
Tracking restrictions and cookie limitations can limit the ability to track customer interactions across marketing channels, sometimes requiring workarounds. Yet it's essential to adhere to data privacy regulations, maintain transparency and obtain appropriate consent from customers when collecting and utilizing their data.
3. Offline Data Tracking
Marketers may need to implement strategies such as unique identifiers, coupon codes, QR codes, or call tracking to link offline interactions to specific customers and attribute them properly. However, implementing and managing these tracking mechanisms may require additional resources and operational adjustments, including manual data entry from both customers and staff.
4. Data Quality and Completeness
Ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the data is crucial for building reliable attribution models. Marketers must establish data quality control measures, address data gaps, and perform regular data validation to maintain the integrity of the data.
5. Data Integration
Integrating data from various sources, both online and offline, can be complex. Offline data sources such as in-store purchases, call center interactions, or direct responses may not be easily captured and linked to other digital data. Marketers need to develop data integration processes to build a unified view of complete customer journeys.
6. Attribution Modeling Complexity
Choosing the best-fit modeling approach for marketing goals, and accounting for multiple touchpoints both online and offline, adds complexity to attribution modeling. Marketers need to understand statistical models that can properly attribute credit to different touchpoints based on their real impact on conversions. This requires analytical expertise, plus the budget for necessary data tools as marketing complexity grows.
Types of Attribution Data
Data attribution models are nothing without the data that you feed into them.
There are 2 main sources of attribution data.
1. Software-based Attribution Data
This utilizes digital tracking tools, such as analytics platforms or marketing automation software, to track and record user interactions and automatically attribute conversion actions to specific marketing touchpoints.
Pros - It provides objective and granular data on user interactions and conversions, and enables real-time tracking and analysis of customer journeys. The reliance on voluntary self-reporting and subjective recall is reduced.
Cons - Aside from missing touchpoints that are not digital or easily trackable by software, it can be complex to implement and require technical expertise. You’ll need the right tracking set up for accurate data and reliable insights, and the analytics tools.
2. Self-reported Attribution Data
This is data collected directly from your customers and leads, who share information about the touchpoints that influenced their decision-making process. It’s usually collected via an online form or survey but can also be collected in direct conversation with customer-facing staff and then recorded in a CRM.
Pros - It allows for qualitative data collection, using direct insights from the individuals themselves to capture subjective factors and nuances that software-reported attribution may miss, such as offline interactions or word-of-mouth referrals.
Cons - It relies on individuals' willingness to provide information, and their memory and perception which may not always be accurate or complete. This type of data can be more time-consuming and resource-intensive to collect and analyze.
Hybrid Attribution Data
Combining both self-reported and software-based data sources into attribution modeling is what is known as hybrid modeling. It’s the ideal solution to mitigate the drawbacks of each data type, providing the most fully comprehensive understanding of your customers journeys.
Next, depending on your marketing activity and data tracking sophistication, you’re going to have some of the following types of data sets to work with.
The best way to categorize your data inputs is to split it into channel data and event data.
1. Event Data (What Happened?)
Event data typically includes:
Conversion Data - Conversion data includes information about the desired actions taken by users, such as purchases, form submissions, or sign-ups. Conversion goals need to be set for each journey stage.
Behavioral Data – Any data related to customers' online behavior, such as organic website visits, page views, time spent on site, clicks, search queries, and interactions with specific content or features.
Clickstream Data – This is a record of each click a consumer makes while browsing online. Tracking all these actions can help brands form an accurate understanding of the most effective consumer journey design.
Ad Impressions and Clicks - Ad impressions combined with click data provides information on the number of times an ad was displayed to users, and the corresponding clicks made. This data helps gauge the effectiveness of specific ads.
CRM and First-Party Data - This data provides long-term insights into customer behavior and can include survey responses, purchase history, and any interactions with the brand. CRM data is necessary to link the direct impact on revenue generation and CLV.
Note, there are two common ways to give credit to touchpoints within a conversion sequence: post-click, or post-view.
Post-click Conversion Data- If attribution is done on a post-click (not necessarily last-click) basis, clicked touchpoints will get a part of the conversion credit as long as the action happens within the defined lookback window.
Post-view (or view-through) Conversion Data – Here, the content a user viewed (impressions) within the specified lookback window also gets part credit for a conversion. Most of the advertisers who advertise on multiple channels will have video and social media as part of the conversion journey. These channels usually are not driving clicks, but still contribute to outcomes. This data is more challenging to accurately collect.
The lookback window is how far back a conversion action is included, usually measured in days. So a 7-day lookback window would only include advert impressions or clicks 7 days before the customer converted. In low-cost eCommerce transactions where the selling cycle is short, the most relevant lookback window only might be 7 – 14 days. Whereas for more complex sales like business software, a lookback window of 60 days could be used.
2. Channel Data (Where Did It Happen?)
Channel source data typically includes:
Referral Data - This identifies the source that referred users to your website (or app). It can attribute from the high-level referral sources, such as search engines, social media or email, right down to the specific pieces of content.
Device and Platform Data – This gives information about the devices and platforms used by users during their customer journey. It allows marketers to track cross-device interactions and attribute conversions across different devices. Device data is also helpful for providing location information.
Offline Data - This gives information about customer interactions outside of digital channels, such as in-store purchases, phone calls, word of mouth, events, direct mail responses, etc. Offline data is typically captured through mechanisms like unique identifiers, coupon codes, or CRM systems.
An attribution model is essentially used to link these two types of data together to show which marketing touchpoints deliver the best results.
Types of Attribution Models
There are several types of attribution models to feed your data into. Applying the right modeling for the goal or KPI is key.
A model essentially joins up your event data (what happened) to your channel data (where it happened) to show you the most profitable journey connections.
The difference between attribution models is where they place most credit for achieving a desired conversion goal (like submitting a contact form, generating an MQL or closing a sale). Conversion goals should be set up for each stage of the customer journey to feed attribution analysis.
Multi-touch models attribute results to more than one touchpoint, allowing for the influence of consecutive touchpoints to be considered as part of a process that led to the final conversion.
A model either uses:
Rule-based methodology - Analyzes data in a completely static approach.
Data-driven modeling - Typically uses AI and machine learning to help automatically customize multi-touch attribution based on the influence of touchpoints.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common attribution models:
Last Touch (or Last Click) Attribution
This model assigns all the credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint (or channel) that the customer interacted with before making a purchase or completing the desired action.
When to use it? - To understand which touchpoints are most influential for prompting people to take the final step in completing a conversion goal (e.g., submitting a contact form or making a purchase).
Limitations? – Although easy to use and collect data for, it’s not a great stand-alone model for longer and more complex sales cycles where conversion still heavily relies on the preceding touchpoints, particularly in B2B.
First Touch (or First Click) Attribution
The first touchpoint (or channel) the customer engaged with receives 100% of the credit for the conversion.
When to use it? - To understand which early journey touchpoints are best at first reaching new audience members who will eventually convert.
Limitations? – It ignores the influence that mid to late journey touchpoints have for final conversion. Data accuracy can also be more difficult to assure depending on your data tracking methods and lookback window
Equal credit is given to each touchpoint in the customer journey, recognizing the role of all channels in driving conversions.
When to use it? – To understand how touchpoints and journey architecture work together to nurture conversions over time, including cross-departmental touchpoints between marketing and sales for B2B.
Limitations? – The data collection process is more intensive and may require cooperation with other departments to capture all touchpoints, taking time to implement fully. This may include qualitative touchpoints through manual data entry. Distributing credit evenly doesn’t account for which touchpoints have most influence.
Time Decay Attribution
More credit goes to touchpoints that occurred closer to the conversion event, with the assumption that recent interactions have a greater impact on the decision-making process.
When to use it? – For longer, more complex customer journeys where later touchpoints are most influential. Equally, it can be useful for very short sales cycles where decisions are made quickly and you want to see which touchpoints have immediate effect for impulse conversion.
Limitations? – The influence of earlier touchpoints for creating brand awareness or intent won’t be accounted for.
U-Shaped (Position-Based) Attribution
A higher percentage of credit goes to the first and last touchpoints in the customer journey, while the remaining credit is distributed evenly among the other touchpoints. It's based on the idea that the first and last interactions play a more significant role to create new leads and drive conversions.
When to use it? – When you want to understand which channels generate most new leads, and which drive most conversions.
Limitations? – Again, the influence of in-between touchpoints will not be fully understood, and it requires data collection to cover all touchpoints within the journey.
Equal credit goes to three key touchpoints: the first interaction, the lead creation event (e.g., form submission), and the final conversion event. The remaining credit is divided among the other touchpoints.
When to use it? – To highlight the key journey milestones from early journey, mid journey and late journey.
Limitations? – The influence of intermediary touchpoints is not fully understood
Data-driven models use advanced analytics, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to analyze customer journey data and assign credit to various touchpoints based on their estimated influence on conversions. This can be done by off-the-shelf software solutions specifically designed for marketing attribution. There are two widely accepted data-driven models for attribution: Shapley value model, and Markov chain model.
When to use it? – For more accurate full-journey attribution across multiple touchpoints, providing greater flexibility for integrating multichannel data silos and more balanced weighting criteria.
Limitations? - An attribution software subscription is required, some of which can be costly. How the algorithms are coded and applied is sometimes proprietary information that is not made fully clear or adaptable. Data sources still need to be set up and connected, including offline touchpoints. It can take months of work to fully set up and implement a data-driven model covering all marketing channels.
Fully Customized Attribution Modeling
Custom-built models are also data-driven, but can include as much complexity and adaptability as you’d like. They allow for full visibility and control of the combined data sets, rules and weighting in use. It allows the layering of many rules and granular data analysis so you can deeply understand and drive growth to a level that isn’t available any other way.
When to use it? - For larger media budgets where small adjustments see the $ results impacted by millions.
Limitations? - Fully customized attribution requires a specialist to implement because of the complicated algorithms and calculations, along specialized statistical software and coding. Like off-the-shelf data-driven solutions, it can take several months to fully implement.
Choosing Data and Models to Match Goals
For multichannel marketing across the customer lifecycle, marketers will have several different goals and KPIs, so there isn’t a one-size fits all when it comes to using attribution modeling.
For example, marketing goals will vary by campaign, but also business lifecycle stage. As a business matures and can afford to allocate more budget in demand creation, longer payback periods become feasible in the name of sustainable growth.
For the most accurate results, several rules and weighting criteria may need to be layered together. This requires an understanding of how to choose the most appropriate combination for each goal or data set.
Here are examples of how different goals could affect the overall approach for assessing attribution against KPIs:
Brand Awareness - The main objective is to build familiarity rather than immediate conversions, so attribution models that consider upper-funnel touchpoints using a longer lookback window are most helpful.
Conversion Rate Optimization - Last touch attribution can provide insights into the most influential touchpoints in driving conversions for any journey stage.
Customer Acquisition – With a focus on identifying marketing efforts that drive most new customers, attribution models that emphasize first touch and last touch before sale conversion are a good fit.
Customer Retention and CLV - Attribution models that consider multiple touchpoints over the customer lifecycle are best. Time-based attribution models such as linear or time-decay attribution can help identify touchpoints that contribute to CLV over time.
Cost Efficiency - Attribution modeling using cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-acquisition (CPA) data provides insights into the cost of acquiring customers through different channels.
Channel Optimization - Models like time-decay attribution or position-based attribution can help evaluate the effectiveness of various channels throughout the customer journey.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) - Attribution that uses revenue conversion data along with position-based or data-driven models are most suitable for calculating ROAS. These models can help isolate the impact of an advertising campaign against other touchpoints.
Customer Engagement - Attribution models fed with click data are most valuable. Models like engagement-based attribution or position-based attribution can help attribute credit to touchpoints that generate higher engagement levels.
Campaign or Event Success - Campaign-based attribution or event-based attribution allow marketers to filter conversion data specifically for the corresponding campaign (or event) identifier.
Demographic Targeting - Companies that target audience segments based on demographic data, such as geography, need to be able to filter customer event data for segment-based attribution.
Social Media Influence - Models using multi-touch attribution with social media weighting can help more accurately attribute conversions or engagements specifically to social channels.
Experimentation with attribution models will help you find the most suitable approach for each reporting use case.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Custom Attribution Models
A customized approach to attribution modeling allows hybrid data usage to give the most complete and accurate view of your marketing effectiveness. (Reminder - a hybrid approach combines multiple online and offline data sources, reducing the risk of misleading insights).
With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly.
Here are the 6 steps to create custom attribution reporting that will truly allow you to start optimizing your marketing investments:
Step 1 - Clearly Define Your Goals
Identify the specific objectives that your marketing efforts aim to achieve, such as increasing conversions, driving brand awareness, or improving customer retention. They can be different for each channel or audience segment. As discussed, these goals will guide the rule options for your attribution model.
For each goal, decide what you consider to be a conversion for the journey stages, and whether you will need to include post-view data in addition to post-click data. The type of conversion is important, so you’ll want to identify the conversion events to look at for each specific goal, including the lookback window that will be most relevant.
Attributing marketing activity to revenue is the ultimate aim – this will give you the most powerful information to improve ROI and drive growth.
Step 2 - Identify All Your Data Sources
Start with accurately and consistently collecting all the data you possibly can for all customer interactions across all your active channels and platforms. You’ll need to UTM tag every link that matters, and have tracking pixels installed for all active marketing platforms.
Here’s a quick checklist of data sources:
Social media (organic)
Paid media campaigns
CRM system and revenue data
Third-party data providers
Self-reported attribution is most valuable when free text only.
B2B buying decisions usually involve multiple people, so it’s better to track the customer journey at the account level instead by combining individual user data.
Step 3 - Bring in the Necessary Data Capabilities
Marketers need to have a deep understanding of marketing concepts and principles to be able to set up effective attribution models and make data-driven decisions.
You will need access to strong data analysis skills to be able to set up, manage and interpret the data for customized attribution models. Some technical knowledge is required to select, set up and configure attribution software tools, integrating them with existing data sources and systems. Knowledge of statistics is also necessary to understand, interpret and communicate the results of attribution models.
If in-house attribution data specialists are not in budget (or available), It can be more economical to use specialized data agencies to support you.
Step 4 - Chose + Activate Your Data Tools
Available resources are a big part of your consideration here. You’ll need to consider what is within means for your company in terms of ease of use, data integration capabilities and subscription cost.
There are 2 options here:
Off-the-shelf attribution software
There are several software tools available that can help marketers combine marketing attribution data from different sources.
Tools with in-built machine learning and AI are better suited to help you analyze and weigh the contribution of different touchpoints and channels in your custom hybrid attribution model. This will give you more accurate insights.
Google Analytics (or Campaign Manager 360) are the best known off-the-shelf providers. However, data integration from other sources can be much more of a challenge with GA. Some other off-the-shelf options which offer better data integration capabilities include Northbeam, Wisely, Adobe Analytics and Improvado.
However, the drawbacks are that you’re still handing over power to a platform that uses its own proprietary algorithms, not always allowing complete visibility or flexibility in how rules are applied or data is weighted.
Build your own custom modeling
Depending on your resources, building custom modeling offers the greatest control and visibility of exactly how data is being weighted and analyzed for each scenario.
If you’re doing this independently, you’ll need a data connector/warehouse solution to import and store your data from across your multichannel data sources. Custom coding and statistical tools can be utilized for advanced capabilities, allowing for layered algorithms and models tailored to any specific need or data set, including fully customized weighting criteria for data sets such as self-reported attribution.
The benefits over any other solution is the most accurate attribution possible, with completely granular insights depending on any criteria you’d like, allowing complete flexibility as variables such as channels, campaigns and customer or market dynamic shifts, and fully aligned for any goal you set.
With customized approaches, you can get journey clarity at the individual level. For example, you could isolate a new customer to see that their first website visit was 9 months ago, and they were exposed to 37 ads across 5 platforms. You can also use heat map tools to confirm how channels work together in order to predict where prospects will go next, targeting content messaging accordingly.
Step 5 - Integrate Your Data Sources
Using your selected attribution tools, start collecting and integrating data from your multichannel sources.
This involves setting up data integrations between the attribution software and the data sources, whether through configuring API connections (recommended) or importing data files.
Automate the most relevant model-based analysis into dashboards, reporting on each of your specific marketing goals whether by revenue, channel, journey stage, customer segment, etc.
Step 6 - Test and Iterate
Continuously test and refine your attribution model, adjusting the weights and methodologies as necessary. Monitor the performance of your model and make data-driven adjustments to improve its accuracy and effectiveness over time.
For example, data capture often relies on UTM tags, which requires links to be clicked before they are reported. This means some early-journey channels that rely on impressions rather than clicks (mainly social media and display advertising) will be underrepresented without qualitative self-reported data and weighting adjustments. Lift tests need to be run to help assess weighting criteria.
To test the influence of unclicked impressions, which is common for early-journey touchpoints and channels, you can use lift tests. Lift tests use test and control groups, only showing adverts to the test group. The difference in conversions between the two groups is known as lift, indicating the channel's real impact, and providing a helpful weighting metric. (Audience sample size and segment characteristics are important for statistically valid comparisons.)
Incrementality is a complementary metric to lift.
Case Study: Introducing Custom Attribution Modeling for a 23% Increase in Closed Sales
Over the last year, Half Past Nine has supported a B2B client that wanted to better understand the impact of their marketing activities in order to optimize results.
They originally used on-platform ad attribution alongside Google Analytics to track results, however noticed some discrepancies between what customers told them during sales and onboarding conversations. They weren’t sure exactly how results were differing, or how revenue was impacted.
The goal was to integrate all data sources to better understand their cross-channel results and more impactfully optimize budget allocation. Particularly for paid media, where monthly spend exceeded $300,000.
Through the process of building customized attribution, the client was able to increase closed-won accounts by 23% within a year, resulting in an additional $26M ARR.
Here’s what achieved those results:
1. Hybrid Data Collection Set Up
The first step was to introduce hybrid data collection with a “How did you hear about us?” required free-text field on form submissions on the website (excluding newsletter sign-up). Free-text submissions were then reviewed regularly to group them into themes, allocating one or more categories depending on the number of touchpoints mentioned.
All content touchpoints were reviewed, mapped against the clients audience segments by journey stages, and UTM tagging was inserted where missing.
In addition, we utilized first-party data integration between the client’s CRM and their active advertising platforms to increase the visibility of interactions for known prospects.
2. Custom Model Reporting Set Up
Half Past Nine activated a data warehouse tool with integrations for all available data sources (including closed deal value), and built a custom model for the client that could attribute influence for specific campaign goals.
The model included weighting for missing touchpoints from self-reported responses after they had been categorized. Lift tests were also run for paid media brand awareness campaigns on social media.
3. Adjusted Budget Allocation
New attribution showed significantly more high-intent leads and conversions coming from social media after interacting with staff's individual LinkedIn profiles, and a podcast channel. These touchpoints had previously been missing from the attribution completely.
The end result was the clarity to shift budget allocation to optimize the touchpoints that resulted in most conversions:
More support for personnel to create thought leadership content for their own LinkedIn accounts.
Newly allocated promotional budget for the podcast channel.
Optimization of ABM and paid social campaign performance.
Less focus on organic SEO as a lead generation mechanism.
The Main Takeaways
Marketing attribution is critical to understand the impact of different touchpoints on customer behavior and conversions.
While various simplistic attribution models exist, building customized data-driven models provides marketers with the greatest control and insight accuracy for their attribution analysis. This is essential to ramp up marketing spend with certainty of generating the required revenue results.
Custom data-driven attribution models offer several advantages over on-platform and Google Analytics reporting:
1. Report Against Goals - Marketers can tailor custom models to their specific business goals, customer behavior patterns, and available data sources. This level of customization enables a more accurate reflection of the complexities of the customer journey and the unique dynamics of the market.
2. Understand Touchpoint Influence Across Whole Journeys - Custom data-driven models empower marketers to attribute credit to touchpoints based on their true contribution to conversions, rather than relying on predefined rules or assumptions. And by integrating multiple (hybrid) data sources that include online and offline interactions, marketers can operate with a significant competitive advantage to drive growth forwards.
3. Allow Flexibility For Refinement - Custom models also provide the flexibility to adapt and refine the attribution process as the business evolves. You can more easily incorporate new data sources, update algorithms, and fine-tune attribution rules to ensure the model remains aligned with changing market dynamics and marketing activities.
Implementing a custom data-driven attribution model requires robust data integration and advanced analytical capabilities. However, the benefits of improved accuracy, granular insights, and informed decision-making make the investment worthwhile, potentially adding millions of dollars of additional annual growth. Particularly where larger advertising budgets are involved.
By leveraging the power of custom attribution modeling, marketers can achieve industry-leading business outcomes.
If you need any support scoping, setting up or managing your attribution analytics, the team at Half Past Nine are here to help. We live and breathe marketing data! Just reach out.
Feeling overwhelmed in the jungle of online advertising and wondering what types of online advertising are out there? Or how to expand upon your basic online advertising strategy?
The online advertising landscape is a fast paced, data-driven environment. Trends or software tools can evolve quickly, and users have the attention spans of goldfish. You could sink your online ad budget without much return if you don’t get it right. But it’s also equally possible to drive market-leading business growth with highly profitable ROI results.
In this article we have a quick overview of the six main types of online advertising and the advertising goals they serve best.
But before we dive in, a couple of terms to quickly clarify:
Channels - This refers to different media streams of distributing marketing content. For example, email, social media and search (websites) are all different marketing channels.
Platforms - These are specific apps or software used to reach an audience within a particular channel. It could be Facebook for social, MailChimp for email or Google for search. Some platforms can span channels.
Placements - This is space on a website or app that is allocated for adverts. These allocated ad spaces can vary in size, positioning and multimedia format compatibility.
Advertising network - Networks are a group of websites or apps connected by an advertising platform. The owners of websites or apps sign up to an ad network in order to generate ad revenue. Advertisers can access available placements across the participating network of sites through the one account.
1. Search Engine Result Advertising
Search engine advertising is the sponsored page results that come up when a user searches for related terms or keywords.
Advertisements are displayed at the top of the page above the organic (unpaid) search listings, plus at the foot of a page, and have a small tag to indicate that they’re ads. They use a text format just like organic listings, displaying your page title and a short meta description.
For e-commerce, you can create shopping results ads, or Product Listing Ads (PLAs). They use images and short product descriptions, displayed in a shopping results section at the top of search results.
There are also Dynamic Search Ads, where Google will generate the ad headlines for you based on the website landing page you want to promote, matched to relevant searches. The benefit is matching your ads to more relevant keywords that you might have missed out on your own target keywords list.
You can and should use SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to get your webpages ranking well in organic search results. However, that also takes time and it’s highly competitive. An advertisement will get you straight to the top of the first page. Given that around 90% of users never venture beyond the first page, you get a huge advantage, and will capture a bigger share of the available market demand.
It’s an effective form of advertising for capturing existing market demand, as users are already searching for the product or service. That means conversion rates can be higher for search ads than with other types of advertising. It can rely more heavily on proactive buyers who already have intent to purchase. Or, you can use keywords that target potential customers at the research phase of the customer journey.
These adverts are targeted mainly by the keywords being searched for, but can also filter searches by user location and other variables. The search engine ad manager will ask you to specify which keywords and audience demographics you want to target.
Search advertisements are most often used with a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) model, meaning you are only charged when someone clicks on the ad. This incentivizes search engines to show your ads to users most likely to click. And despite the typically higher CPC against other ad formats, it captures website visitors with a high intent to purchase.
Best for: Conversion of users already searching for your product/service
This type of online advertising is visually driven. It displays image or video ads on a website. Websites (or apps) that have opted into a display ad network get paid to show these visual ads to their visitors.
Display ads can feature images or videos of varying sizes in a wide variety of placement positions. For example, they can be banner images along the top of a webpage, a snippet box running down the right side, or have a central page placement in between text blocks. Users may notice these advertisements follow them from site to site via the use of tracking cookies.
However there are other types of display adverts you can choose for your campaigns:
Retargeting - Retargeted ads are only displayed to users who have visited your website previously, thus demonstrating some level of interest or engagement.
Responsive display ads - With responsive ads, the ad platform creates an instant ad for you that is best matched for the audience and placement. You upload your campaign assets (images, headlines, logos, videos, descriptions), and Google automatically generates ads best suited to individual placements across websites, apps, YouTube and Gmail.
Native ads - These appear to be like the organic (unpaid) content surrounding them, whether articles or social media posts. But more on native ads later.
This type of online advertising is the most likely to be seen as intrusive by users if it’s not well targeted and gets lower click-through rates on average. It can work better for retargeting your previous website visitors rather than seeking new visitors. Or use it to support improved brand awareness as part of a wider campaign that includes other ad formats which are more likely to be engaged with.
If your goal is brand awareness, a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) pricing model is the most strategic choice. It’s more profitable for the publisher, so your ad can be more likely to get available placements over competing ads that are using CPC pricing.
Let’s quickly talk about programmatic buying here, because it’s an important tool when it comes to display advertising. Programmatic buying uses software to purchase online ad space within display networks. It makes the ad buying process more efficient.
A programmatic ad service lets you select your audience demographics (including location), set a campaign and daily budget, plus how much you are willing to spend per click. Real-time bidding is used, with the software determining the best bid to use for your ads. Depending on where your target audience is online, your ads will get placed on the relevant sites when they are the highest bid at the given time.
(As an advertiser, access the display network through Google Ad Manager.)
3. Social Media Advertising
The popularity of social media platforms, with huge volumes of regular users, make them a competitive place to advertise. Over a third of the world’s population logs into a social media platform on a daily basis. On Facebook alone, there are around 2.5 billion active users every month.
The quality of ad service is representative of the market value. Very granular audience targeting and detailed reporting is available to advertisers, along with a range of newsfeed and display placement options. Pricing models are flexible depending on your advertising goals.
Large and highly engaged audiences combined with detailed demographic and profiling information, plus a wide variety of supported ad formats and placements, means that online advertisers can find and convert new customers more easily than by any other means.
Each social media platform attracts different user demographics. It pays to understand the audience profiles so you can invest your budget with the best platform and ad strategy.
Once you’ve captured new customers' interest, encourage them to share their email addresses and follow your organic social media content. This will help you keep them engaged and build loyalty at less cost.
Best for: Finding new customers and maintaining engagement
Native ads are designed to blend into organic content. They work best when topically integrated with the focus of a webpage, news site or social newsfeed. They are more heavily focused on educational or entertaining content vs. traditional display adverts. It can also commonly be called 'promoted content' for that reason.
Native ads can be anything form an article, a video, a product listing or a search listing. They can appear as recommendations, such as ‘Other things you might like’, or “Other users also bought’. It could also be a social media ad that appears as organic newsfeed content if a user already follows the brand.
Apart from industry-specific platforms, users who are shown ‘recommended’ content or product ads are selected based on what they have already engaged with or opted into following. They are much more likely to click on these ads than display ads, and perceive them as relevant and helpful. Users may not release that they are seeing an ad, as they are rarely labeled so.
As long as you produce content that is genuinely relevant and interesting for the niche audience, this type of online advertising proves to have high engagement rates and effectiveness for driving conversions.
Depending on the content type and platform, the most common pricing models are flat rate sponsorships, or CPM. Some publications may offer services for creating native content in-house.
Best for: Both brand awareness and driving conversion
Video ads are (rather obviously) in video format, promoting your business with whichever creative video format you choose.
They can be displayed using a variety of placement options through the well-known advertising networks, which will let you set up video-specific ad campaigns.
Youtube and Facebook ‘in-stream’ ads are most common. That means they appear at the start, during, or at the end of another video, and can be skippable if they are longer than 15 seconds. Social media naturally works well for video ad content given the time users spend watching video there, with the benefit of more granular audience targeting.
Video content generally requires more time, effort and resources to produce than other types of online advertising. However, it gives you the opportunity to use storytelling and engage with viewers on an emotional level, making video a high-impact tool for brand awareness. The use of video has been shown to increase engagement with all forms of content, from websites to emails and more. On average, it achieves the highest click rates for any type of online advertising and is acknowledged as the most effective.
Pricing models for video advertising can vary from a minimum watch time before you are charged, or only if users click on an accompanying call to action or link. YouTube tends to out-perform Facebook for engagement and cost efficiency.
This is when mobile apps that have opted into a display network get paid to show advertisements to their users.
Mobile apps are a huge driver of online traffic. They are now the leading source of online media consumption over mobile websites and provide more sophisticated user tracking and targeting than traditional website display advertising.
Mobile apps can offer video, native and display advertising options, including a range of placements options. For example, in-between game levels when users aren’t interrupted by the ad (interstitial), integrated in the layout of the user interface design, or placed within content.
Pricing models include Cost-Per-Install (CPI) if you are advertising your own app. Or again, CPM and CPV (Cost-Per-View) can be best for achieving more available ad placements, incentivizing publishers to show them over ads using CPC pricing. If you were a larger media buyer, you could consider programmatic buying for optimized cost efficiency.
Best for: Brand awareness, driving sales conversion, and engagement
Biggest platform: Google Ads (Google AdMob for publishers)
That’s a whistle-stop tour of the main types of online advertising available! I hope it’s helped you with a higher level of understanding of the ad landscape before you get into more of the specifics.
Just a reminder, you can also check out our breakdown of the top online advertising platforms in each advertising category. It covers all the major ad networks and platforms for each advertising category, with context for why you might want to use them. It will help you pick out which online ad platforms best fit your brand.
Half Past Nine specialize in online advertising strategy. We help brands build holistic strategy, profitable campaigns and data-powered performance insights. If you're ready to invest in scaling rapidly, we’re always happy to have an exploratory discussion.