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Which SEO Attribution Model Should You Implement?

Not sure which marketing attribution models can provide insight into how effective your SEO strategy is? Learn how to assign credit for different actions to get a better view of the ways your marketing efforts are driving conversions below.

Mar 15, 2024

5 m read

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps you gain new customers at a lower investment cost than other marketing methods. But how do you know what’s working so you can optimize your campaign? That’s where SEO attribution becomes essential.

SEO attribution models pinpoint where the value lies in your marketing. Several frameworks exist, and it’s important to understand how each works to decide which to implement for your campaign.

The Importance of SEO Attribution

SEO attribution tracks the customer journey — how users interact with your content from the moment they arrive to the point of conversion. Most models track touchpoints and actions to do this.

Touchpoints are the points where customers interact with your business, such as by visiting your website, clicking a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, or opening an email. 

Actions, on the other hand, refer to what customers do at touchpoints.

So, why should you track all of this? Well, think of the common scenario where a user first discovers your business through your blog but doesn’t make a purchase. Later, they see an ad for your business while searching for a product they need, and they click on it and make a purchase. Did SEO or PPC drive the conversion?

If you were just looking at the conversion metrics alone, you wouldn’t get the full picture of what drives sales for your business. However, an SEO attribution model helps you refine data further. It uncovers what factors contribute to conversions, including:

  • Keyword optimization.
  • Backlinks and internal links.
  • Content strategy.
  • User experience.

More importantly, SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Attribution shows how you can better leverage SEO as part of your broader digital marketing strategy, including PPC, social media, and email.

The Best SEO Attribution Models

The most important factors when choosing the best SEO attribution method for your needs are the complexity of the customer journey and your SEO goals. If you need to understand how users go from awareness to conversion, a multi-touch model is usually best. A single-touch method hones in on what makes a specific marketing channel successful.

First-Touch Attribution

A first-touch attribution model assigns all credit for a conversion to a customer’s first touchpoint only, making it a single-touch method. For example, suppose a customer discovers your brand through organic search. In that case, the model will attribute organic search as the defining moment that led to a conversion, even if the customer returns through another method before making a purchase.


  • Simple to implement and easy to understand
  • Targets top-of-funnel interactions to gauge the effectiveness of brand awareness campaigns
  • Works for short sale cycles


  • Only looks at the first interaction
  • May misrepresent what drives conversions in longer or more complex sales cycles

A first-touch attribution model is best for businesses just starting SEO or online marketing, as well as those with shorter sale cycles where customers make decisions quickly. For example, clothing retailers or home decor shops may fit these criteria, as customers often click on an ad and immediately decide whether to purchase the product at that touchpoint.

Last-Touch Attribution

Last-touch attribution is also a type of single-touch framework because it assigns all the SEO value in the customer journey to the last touchpoint before a conversion. For example, when a user visits your blog several times through search engines but ultimately buys a product through a link in your email newsletter, last-touch attribution identifies the email as the conversion driver.


  • Simple to implement and easy to understand
  • Highlights bottom-of-funnel activities, helping you optimize landing pages and other conversion sources
  • Tracks the success of direct-response campaigns better than other models


  • Ignores much of the customer journey to focus on the endpoint
  • May lead to under-investment in top and middle-of-funnel marketing
  • Not ideal for businesses with long sales cycles

A last-touch model is best if you need to track the effectiveness of promotions and your business has a short sales cycle. For example, businesses that sell subscriptions often use this model to assess the value of free trial periods.

Hybrid Attribution

Hybrid attribution combines elements of single and multi-touch models, so it allows you to track the value of both marketing methods that raise brand awareness and those that drive sales in new and existing customers. You decide the value of each touchpoint with a hybrid model, reflecting how important specific actions are at each stage of the customer journey.


  • Flexibility allows for easy adjustment to fit your marketing strategy and performance goals
  • Comprehensive view of the customer journey offers a more accurate analysis of what drives conversions
  • Optimization insights of both top and bottom-of-funnel marketing help you refine your overall strategy


  • More difficult to implement and often requires sophisticated analysis techniques to extract the most benefit
  • Consumes more time and resources to manage

Given its flexibility, hybrid SEO attribution best suits businesses that engage in multi-channel marketing or have complex customer journeys. For example, B2B companies often have many stakeholder touchpoints before a sale, and many ecommerce stores utilize several kinds of marketing and need to know how each channel interacts to drive sales.

Linear Attribution

The linear attribution model is a multi-touch framework that distributes value equally across the customer journey. As such, it’s a straightforward model that highlights the role of each marketing method in creating brand awareness, encouraging a sale, and retaining existing customers.


  • Provides a clear overview of the customer journey
  • Avoids under or over-valuing parts of the sales funnel
  • Shows the effect of all marketing methods over time


  • Limited ability to assess the value of key touchpoints
  • Fewer clear insights possible from the data
  • Unsuitable for more complex sales cycles

The major advantage of a linear SEO attribution model — equal touchpoint weighting — also gives it a disadvantage in some situations, as the value of more important touch points becomes diluted. However, the model is one of the best for content sites, news sites, and some smaller retailers, where you may want to track just one goal while assessing all marketing channels.

Time-Decay Attribution

Time-decay attribution models are multi-touch models. However, unlike linear analysis methods, they attribute more value to touchpoints closer to the conversion. If a customer visits your blog a few times and then clicks on a PPC ad but ultimately decides to purchase a product due to a social media post, social media will receive the most emphasis as a conversion driver. However, the model won’t neglect the earlier touchpoints entirely.


  • Highlights the greater value of marketing methods with the most effect on conversion
  • Shows how your middle and bottom-of-funnel marketing tactics work together, allowing optimization
  • Offers a balanced view of the whole customer journey


  • Undervalues top-of-funnel activities
  • More complex than linear models

A time-decay model is best for businesses with complex or lengthy sales cycles, such as companies that sell expensive products customers can’t decide to buy immediately. It helps you optimize long-term SEO but isn’t ideal for measuring the success of brand awareness campaigns.

Tools You Need To Monitor SEO Efforts

It takes time to see the benefits of most marketing strategies, so it’s important that you don’t stop SEO tactics before you’ve had a chance to collect data and measure performance. Even a poor campaign can help ensure your next strategy succeeds and provide valuable data that benefits PPC and social media marketing.

Some of the best tools you can use to monitor SEO impact and attribution include:

  • Google Analytics. You can set goals and conversion actions through Google Analytics that identify which keywords and landing pages drive the most conversions. The platform’s Model Comparison Tool also lets you compare attribution methods to help determine which is best for your needs.
  • HubSpot. HubSpot features built-in single and multi-touch attribution reporting, making it ideal for smaller businesses that don’t have in-house data solutions. The platform makes it easy to determine what marketing channels create leads and sales.
  • Google Search Console. Search Console provides additional data that can improve the performance of Google Analytics and other third-party tools. It reveals the keywords that bring you the most traffic, allowing you to optimize landing pages you’ve identified as important touchpoints.

Crack the SEO Code With a Dedicated Partner

Still not sure which attribution model will serve you best or struggling to implement one correctly? Schedule a free SEO consultation with Victorious, and we’ll help you crack the SEO code through optimization techniques and SEO metrics that match your goals.

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