…paid search advertising itself has not failed, it’s that an understanding of how to use paid search advertising as part of an integrated marketing mix for individual companies has failed. Improper use of attribution has led to an obsession with directly tracked results that over time do not build a brand and incremental sales.
From the article “Digital advertising is not the dot com bubble, improper attribution is” from Search Engine Journal.
Direct attribution is the bane of the modern marketer. We groan every time someone tries to reduce our complex marketing strategies to simplistic, purely financial terms.
The obsession with attribution (typically coming from senior leadership) is a fundamentally bad habit, because marketing and sales can’t be reduced to numerical terms without losing a lot of their benefits.
When the toxic idea that everything can be measured, tweaked, and optimized takes hold in your organization it becomes very difficult to innovate in any new direction.
Direct attribution models are based on limited data. We can only know what prospects doing once they’ve taken a specific, proscribed action, such as searching for a particular phrase, clicking on a CTA, or other trackable action…
But what about all their activities which are invisible to our analytics software? You can’t use data to prove your attribution model is lacking if you can’t capture that data in the first place.
If we limit our analysis to the data we can predict, because we can track it, we’ll inevitably miss valuable insights from outside those constraints.
This leads us to measure a very limited portion of our prospects’ real decision-making processes and draw conclusions from insufficient data.
As this article explains, marketers tend to favor low-funnel traffic simply because it’s easier to understand -not because it’s more valuable or impactful.
Lacking the data to prove its value, marketers tend to ignore top-of-funnel engagement; which is the very best opportunity to impact a prospect’s decision-making process. Both good instincts and analysis are required to be successful marketing in this modern age.