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What is linear attribution?

Article originally published in July 2023 by Stuart Brameld. Most recent update in February 2024.

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Definition of linear attribution

Linear attribution is a model used by marketers to understand the effectiveness of their marketing channels. It’s a way of assigning equal credit to each touchpoint in a customer’s journey towards a conversion. This means that every interaction a customer has with your brand, from the first ad they see to the final purchase, is considered equally important.

For example, if a customer sees an online ad, then receives an email, and finally makes a purchase after clicking on a social media post, each of these three touchpoints would receive one-third of the credit for the conversion. This model helps marketers to get a broad view of which channels are contributing to their success.

An example of linear attribution

Here is an example of how it works:

Growth Method, a SaaS company, launches a marketing campaign to attract new customers. A potential customer, John, interacts with the campaign in the following way:

1. John sees a sponsored post on Facebook about Growth Method and clicks on it to learn more.
2. A few days later, John receives an email from Growth Method, which he opens and reads.
3. John then sees a Google Ad from Growth Method while browsing the internet and clicks on it.
4. Finally, John directly visits the Growth Method website and signs up for a free trial.

In a linear attribution model, each of these touchpoints would receive equal credit for John’s conversion. So, the Facebook post, the email, the Google Ad, and the direct website visit would each receive 25% of the credit for John’s sign-up.

How does linear attribution work?

Linear attribution works by evenly distributing the credit for a sale or conversion across all touchpoints in a customer’s journey. This means that each marketing channel, such as social media, email, or paid search, receives an equal portion of the credit, regardless of when they occurred in the conversion path. For marketers, this model provides a holistic view of all channels contributing to the final conversion, helping them understand the overall effectiveness of their marketing strategies. However, it does not consider the potential varying impacts of different touchpoints.

Expert opinions and perspectives

Here are how some of the world’s best marketing and growth professionals, and companies, think about linear attribution.

  • Linear attribution is a multi-touch attribution model which splits conversion credit equally across each touchpoint or interaction along a customers journey. – https://www.indicative.com/resource/linear-attribution/
  • “The true benefit of using a linear attribution model is that it take all touchpoints into account. Adopting a linear attribution model is a great way to get started if you’re looking to gain a macro-level grasp of your overall marketing strategy.” – https://www.callrail.com/blog/linear-attribution-models
  • “Linear distributes the credit for the conversion equally across all ad interactions on the path.” – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/6259715

Questions to ask yourself

As a modern growth marketing or agile marketing professional, ask yourself the following questions with regard to linear attribution:

  1. Am I giving equal credit to all touchpoints in the customer journey?
  2. Does the linear attribution model accurately reflect the impact of each marketing channel on the growth of my business?
  3. Am I able to identify which marketing channels are underperforming or overperforming with the linear attribution model?
  4. Is the linear attribution model helping me to optimise my marketing budget effectively?
  5. Does the linear attribution model provide me with actionable insights to improve my marketing strategy?

Here are some related articles and further reading you may find helpful.

Additional reading

Here are some related articles and further reading around linear attribution that you may find helpful.

  1. “Understanding the Linear Attribution Model” – Smart Insights
  2. “The Linear Attribution Model in Marketing” – Marketing MO
  3. “Linear Attribution” – Optimizely
  4. “The Complete Guide to Understanding Consumer Psychology” – Neil Patel
  5. “Marketing Terms & Definitions” – HubSpot

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