Google Analytics 4 Attribution Models: Complete Guide

Understanding the customer journey and the impact of different touchpoints on conversions is crucial for businesses. GA4 offers a range of attribution models that help businesses understand the various touchpoints that lead to conversions.

This comprehensive guide will explore each attribution model available in GA4 and highlight its unique characteristics and advantages. 

So, let’s dive in and gain a deeper understanding of your customer journey by leveraging Google Analytics attribution models.

What’s attribution?

Attribution, in the context of marketing and analytics, refers to assigning credit or determining the contribution of various marketing touchpoints or channels to a conversion. It involves understanding and analyzing the customer journey, from the initial interaction with a marketing channel to the final conversion, and identifying the touchpoints influencing the customer’s decision.

For example, a user sees a display ad on a website and clicks on it, leading them to visit it. After browsing the website, the user leaves without making a purchase. Later, the user receives a retargeting email campaign and clicks on a product link, which brings them back to the website where they finally make a purchase.

In this example, the attribution model determines which touchpoints receive credit for the conversion. Google Analytics 4 may allocate the conversion value differently depending on the attribution model used.

The purpose of Attribution is to gain insights into the effectiveness of different marketing efforts and allocate resources accordingly. By understanding which touchpoints or channels drive conversions, businesses can optimize their marketing strategies, allocate budgets more effectively, and make data-driven decisions to improve overall performance.

To find the Attribution reports in GA4, navigate to the left-hand side and click on “Advertising” in the navigation menu. Under the “Attribution” section, you will see two options: “Model comparison” and “Conversion paths.” Click “Model comparison” or “Conversion paths” to access the desired Attribution report.

GA4 Attribution Report
GA4 Attribution Report

By understanding Attribution, marketers can make informed decisions about budget allocation, campaign optimization, and channel prioritization. It allows them to measure the effectiveness of their marketing strategies, optimize their efforts, and maximize their return on investment (ROI).

Google Analytics 4 attribution models

There are three types of attribution models available in Google Analytics 4:

  • Data-driven attribution: This attribution model utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze data and assign credit to touchpoints based on their contribution to conversions. The allocation of conversion value in this model is customized and varies based on the specific data. For example, if the analysis reveals that a particular touchpoint significantly impacts conversions, it will receive a higher allocation of conversion value.
  • Paid and organic last click: Also known as the Last non-direct Click, this attribution model attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last click from either a paid or organic source. It helps you understand the effectiveness of both paid and organic channels in driving conversions. For instance, if a user clicks on a paid search ad and makes a purchase, the conversion value would be credited to the paid search channel.
  • Google paid channels last click: This attribution model attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last click from Google paid channels, such as Google Ads. It specifically focuses on the impact of Google’s paid advertising channels in driving conversions. For example, if a user clicks on a Google Ads display ad and then makes a purchase, the entire conversion value would be credited to the Google Ads channel.

It’s important to note that the first click, linear, time decay, and position-based attribution models are no longer available as of November 2023. Therefore, the three attribution models mentioned above (Data-driven attribution, Paid and organic last click, and Google paid channels last click) are currently available in GA4 properties for analyzing and allocating conversion value.

Which attribution model does GA4 apply by default for standard reports?

Currently, no single attribution model is applied by default to GA4 standard reports. Different standard reports in GA4 use various attribution models. For example, the Traffic Acquisition report utilizes the last-non-direct-click attribution model, while the User Acquisition report uses the first-click attribution model.

Although GA4 offers the Data-Driven Attribution model, it is not applied by default in standard reports like the Acquisition reports. However, you can access the Data-Driven Attribution report by navigating to the Advertising section -> Performance ->All channels. It’s important to note that the Data-Driven Attribution report cannot be customized.

Data-driven attribution report
Data-driven attribution report

You can use the standard report section to create a report specifically for the Data-Driven Attribution model. By customizing a standard report using the report library, you can select data-driven dimensions to create a report that aligns with the data-driven attribution model.

How to change attribution model in GA4?

To change the attribution model in Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can follow these steps:

In your Google Analytics account settings, click on “Attribution settings under the “Data display” section.

How to change attribution model in GA4
How to change attribution model in GA4

You will see the available attribution models under the “Attribution model” dropdown. You will notice that the Data-Driven attribution model is the default selection. Select the desired attribution model from the list and click the “Save” button to apply the changes.

UA vs GA4 attribution models

UA (Universal Analytics) and GA4 (Google Analytics 4) have different approaches to attribution models.

UA (Universal Analytics) offered various attribution models, including Last-Click, First-Click, Linear, Time Decay, and Position-Based. These models distributed credit for conversions based on predefined rules and weightings. Additionally, users had the flexibility to choose and customize the attribution model that best suited their analysis needs.

However, with the introduction of GA4 (Google Analytics 4), there is a shift in the default attribution model. GA4 now utilizes the Data-Driven Attribution model, which employs machine learning algorithms to analyze the customer journey and assign credit to touchpoints based on their actual contribution to conversions. This model provides a more accurate and dynamic understanding of the impact of each touchpoint.

It’s important to note that in the past, UA allowed for the customization of attribution models and the creation of custom models, providing users greater flexibility in their attribution approach.

On the other hand, GA4 currently does not offer the same level of customization for attribution models as UA did in the past. Instead, it primarily relies on the Data-Driven Attribution model for more accurate insights into touchpoint contributions.

Overall, in the past, UA provided a range of attribution models with customization options. However, with the transition to GA4, the focus has shifted towards the advanced Data-Driven Attribution model for a more data-informed approach to attribution.

Final Word

In conclusion, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offers a range of attribution models that allow businesses to analyze and measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. These attribution models include Data-driven attribution, Paid and organic last click, and Google paid channels last click.

The Data-Driven attribution model in GA4 stands out as it utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze data and assign credit to touchpoints based on their impact on conversions. This model provides more accurate and dynamic attribution insights, allowing businesses to make data-driven decisions.

Businesses can optimize their marketing strategies and drive better results by choosing the right attribution model and understanding its implications.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which attribution model does GA4 apply by default for standard reports? 

Currently, no default attribution model is applied by Google Analytics 4 (GA4) for standard reports. Different standard reports in GA4 use various attribution models.

How to change the attribution model in GA4? 

To change the attribution model in GA4, go to the “Data Streams” section in the GA4 property settings, select the desired data stream, and edit the attribution settings to choose a different attribution model from the available options.

How to create a custom attribution model in GA4?

Currently, creating custom attribution models in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is impossible. GA4 offers predefined attribution models that cannot be customized.

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