Attribution in Affiliate Marketing

by Ian Rosenwach on 7.21.2009

Affiliate Window Blog » Affiliate Multi-attribution Model Discussed:

This is a blog post from a UK affiliate network about attribution and the “last click wins” model of affiliate marketing.  This means that the site that the consumer last clicked through before completing an action (usually a purchase) gets 100% of the advertiser commission.  Attribution refers to the question of how to credit for the action.

The attribution question in CPA advertising/affiliate marketing is a big one – and an important question in online advertising as a whole.  How do advertisers spread their marketing dollars equitably across the different sites that generate customers?  And how do Publishers get compensated fairly for their marketing efforts?

The ideal ad system would pay based on the impressions, clicks, and actions that all let to a consumer purchase.  Impressions drive brand awareness, clicks drive research, and actions close the sale.  Each of these steps is a part of the same consumer story.

Let’s say I go to the on 7/1 and see an ad for a summer sale at The Gap.  It registers in my mind.  On 7/3 I do a search for “gap coupon” on Google.  I see a few good offers, click through a few to research, but don’t buy anything.  But – each click takes me closer to the completed action.  The next day  I stop at a Gap store and try out a new suit.  It feels right, I like the style, but then remember the coupon that I saw online.  I write down the product details at the store.  When I get home, I repeat the “gap coupons” Google search and click on a site.  From this site, I click through a 10% coupon to  When I get to I input the product details, find the suit, and apply the 10% discount at checkout.  The last click gets paid the full commission amount.

In this scenario the consumer path is spread across numerous sites, but these sites are all part of different, closed networks.  They don’t talk to each other and therefore cannot be tied back to the same consumer story.  It’s still early, we’ll see how the online ad industry innovates to compensate based on the consumer journey.

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