Google recently announced, on Tuesday, plans to offer its Attribution Modeling Tool through Google Analytics via a public white list. The Attribution Modeling Tool was previously offered through the Google Analytics Premium product at an additional cost. The move to make its Attribution Modeling Tool available through Google Analytics for free indicates that Google is aggressively looking to extend its current analytics and measurement capabilities. Specifically, Google’s Attribution Modeling Tool allows users to:

  • Work with data they’re already tracking in Google Analytics. That means no additional setup or work for your IT department, marketing, or analytics groups. Flip the switch and you’re on. You can input and view values across channels, including affiliates, display ads, paid and organic search, and email.
  • Customize the attribution model. Google Attribution Modeling Tool provides either last-click or rules-based attribution models to their users. Google allows the user to have control of their attribution model, allowing the user to compare various models to each other, including the contributed value of channels, campaigns, and various other dimensions.  
  • Access the Attribution Modeling Tool for FREE. We all love free things. All users have to do is sign up for the tool and the tool is available through the Google Analytics product. If you want more information about the tool, Google is hosting a webinar, which will give an overview of the capabilities.

Google’s Attribution Modeling Tool has big implications on the attribution vendor landscape and, really, the broader measurement vendor landscape. So what does this mean for the attribution market, specifically?

  • Challenges the concept of a standalone attribution tool. Pure-play attribution vendors must step up their games. Google is forcing them into a corner. They need to further develop their measurement tools to be flexible, far-reaching, and usable. By offering its Attribution Modeling Tool for free, Google is taking a firm stance that attribution is an essential option in a marketer's toolkit — but it’s not the end-all, be-all. Attribution must be a part of a larger measurement and analytics tool as an added capability.
  • Puts pressure on the attribution vendors to develop and differentiate their product. Attribution vendors must now clearly communicate their value propositions to the market. They must delineate the benefits of their offerings against Google Attribution Modeling Tool. Why would marketers pay for a tool when Google can give it to them with their current suite of products? This question will soon surface on the minds of nascent marketers and mid-tier organizations that lack big budgets for new measurement tools.
Now, I’ve been covering the attribution space since I started at Forrester, and it’s been an interest of mine for years. I think this is a huge step in this space. However, there are a few limitations to Google’s Attribution Modeling Tool, specifically:
  • The attribution approach is weak. While the attribution approach is still rule- based, Google falls behind in offering a more robust attribution methodology approach. Top attribution vendors provide a statistically driven attribution approach. To become a viable attribution choice for marketers, Google must develop its methodology, be flexible with ingesting different types of data, and provide additional business services support to help marketers understand the power of the attribution tool.
  • The attribution tool cannot consume offline data, such as mobile or point-of-sale (POS). Anyone in this space knows that attribution modeling requires not only ingestion of digital data but the ability to incorporate some offline marketing data, point-of –sale data, and mobile data. At this point, Google’s Attribution Modeling Tool cannot consume offline information. This is a big miss for Google, as multichannel marketers must understand the impact of online activity to offline sales.
Keeping in mind the limitations of Google’s Attribution Modeling Tool, it does provide a huge benefit to the overall attribution landscape. It introduces attribution to a broader market. For digitally focused marketers or marketers who haven’t even thought about attribution, Google’s move to offer its attribution modeling tool for free democratizes the concept of attribution. It’s essentially educating marketers on the importance of measurement and insights and how it can fundamentally change marketing strategy. This opens up a completely new market of attribution users.
Because of this announcement, the attribution measurement landscape was slightly shaken. However, I do think the attribution pure-play vendors still have some advantages: they are data-agnostic, they have far advanced attribution approaches, they have solid agency and third-party relationships, and they still remain the measurement experts in the space. I think, for the advanced marketers, it makes sense to work with a standalone attribution tool — for now. But attribution vendors must not remain complacent with Google’s move to offer its Attribution Modeling Tool for free. Even though its attribution tool is limiting at this time and the methodology is elementary, this move is bold. I fully expect Google to continue developing this offering, along with its core Google Analytics tool.
On another note, I would like to extend my thoughts to those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. I hope you all made it through the storm, and please remain safe.