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Why Organic Search is Undervalued By Nearly All Attribution Models

Why Organic Search is Undervalued By Nearly All Attribution Models

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We often hear, ‘SEO is dead’. This phrase, however, has been coined by people who don’t understand or appreciate the user journey in its entirety, according to marketing manager at Call Intelligence platform Response Tap, Lucy Hardaker.

A marketer who attributes value to channels smartly will continue to discover the fundamental part organic search plays for your business.

Customers are fickle, they are busy and they are conscious of cost and value for money. With all the information people instantly have available to them, today’s decision-making process and buying cycle is complex, which is why attribution is more important than ever.

In order to know exactly which channels and techniques are driving sales and leads to your business, you need to look at the whole picture. Map out the average customer journey as accurately as you can.

For example, a customer who is looking to book a luxury cruise holiday is not going to book the first cruise they see. They will look around multiple websites, scour social media channels, search for deals through search engines, read review websites and click on digital adverts targeted to them. Within this journey, organic search could contribute heavily to a customer coming across your website.

Let’s say from an initial search for ‘Mediterranean cruises’, you haven’t ranked highly organically but they click on your PPC advert, they stay on site for 10 seconds before leaving.

After some more thought on their cruise holiday, they go back online but this time search for ‘Cheap Mediterranean cruise deals’, for which you rank first in the organic results and they click through from this organic result to your site. They still don’t purchase though, they instead look at the prices on your website, before leaving to look around your competitors to compare.

As they look at competitor sites, they click on a retargeting advert from you, as it’s for an offer they didn’t see on your site previously, before leaving again. After much consideration, they come to your website directly days later and book their cruise.

So which channel in a scenario such as this gets the most credit? This depends on your attribution model. Your chosen method also determines what value is placed on the organic search activity. This is crucial given that organic search ultimately drove the conversion.  

If you used:

  • Last interaction model: the direct channel would receive 100% of the credit. This is probably the most inaccurate of all models.
  • Last non-direct click model: the direct channel is ignored and all credit will go to the retargeting ad, despite coming in at a later stage, completely ignoring the organic journey.
  • Last AdWords click model: This would again give all credit to the retargeting advert, with organic still not featuring.
  • First interaction model: The initial PPC advert would get 100% of the credit. It did drive the user to the site initially, but only for ten seconds.
  • Linear mode: this is the first model that would attribute any credit to organic search. Using a linear model, all four channels - paid, organic, retargeting and direct - would each be given 25% of the final value.
  • Time Decay model: this would credit the channels closest to the conversion the most, so organic would receive some value, but as it was the second interaction, it would have less weight than retargeting and direct.
  • Position-Based model: Using this method, 40% is assigned to first and last interactions. This wouldn’t help organic here, as the first entrance was paid and last was direct. There would be some credit assigned, but only 10%, despite it being the main driver.

In this case, the best model would be linear. This way, organic search would receive 25% of credit for the conversion so it’s not being overlooked, and rightly so.

Understanding that organic drove the conversion allows you to build upon that for the future. When you attribute the right channel, you’ll be able to then show the value it provides in reports and it’ll assist future decision making when it comes to targeting.

Understanding the user journey and the evolution of your customers’ behaviour instead of looking at end revenue figures, is what has resulted in SEO becoming just one element of the wider term of digital marketing.

If your role is SEO, then you can ensure the value of your work is recognised by making it measurable through the best attribution model. Most importantly though, knowing the part each channel played accurately will inform your strategy, so you can drive even more conversions.

Ultimately, marketers must be able to see their true ROI in order to run a successful campaign and prove their worth within their business.

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Lucy Hardaker

Lucy Hardaker

For the past eight years Lucy has been leading marketing campaigns for some of the biggest martech and web hosting businesses in Europe. At Lead Forensics she headed up content marketing strategy and following this at UKFast was Marketing Campaign Manager. Now as Marketing Manager at ResponseTap, she dedicates her time to sharing the benefits of Call Intelligence with some of the biggest enterprise companies in the UK

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