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First Click vs. Last Click Web Traffic

Online advertising has been around for quite a while now and has produced mountains of statistics for analysts to pore over and then pontificate on. Tracking the conversion rate of internet promotions to determine the impact that they are having on sales is always a hot topic and the rise in the past couple of years of social media marketing has challenged the way that advertisers now look at the sources of their conversions. Traditionally the conversion rates for internet advertising has been based on a last click model but the huge amount of traffic that is driven by social media sites has put more focus on the importance of the first click in an internet marketing campaign.

To understand the difference between first and last click attributions you have to examine the stream of interactions that led to the sales conversion. In the last click model the sale is attributed to the last link that the customer used to find the page where the purchase was made. Even if the customer had been to the same page a dozen times from multiple other sources this last click got all of the credit for making the actual conversion. First click models track all of the visits by a particular customer and attribute the sale to the first link that brought a visitor to the website. In some models the credit for the conversion may be spread across several links that were used to create a bigger picture of customer behavior.

This wider examination of the source of traffic and the conversions that come from it has revealed some interesting patterns. The first thing that has shown up is the decline in the effectiveness of banner advertising as a source of last click advertising but at the same time it was also shown to boost general visitation rates1. Another statistic revealed that 60% of last click conversions had at least one prior connection with the campaign. These figures show the importance of the clicks that lead up to the last one and the statistics are even more revealing when the influence of social media is taken into account.

Overwhelmingly the source of most last click traffic comes from the search engines but the origins of much of that traffic may have been in social networks, particularly Facebook. The first click attribution from social media sites has been shown to be 88% higher than its last click conversions. This contrasts with search engine traffic which generates a first click value of $3.85 per customer and $2.78 per customer for last click conversions while social media returns an average of $1.13 per first click customer then falls away to only 60c for last click conversions. These differences show the real value of social media marketing as a method of introducing your brand to an audience that then can be enticed to find your business via the search engines later on to make their purchases.

To build a really accurate picture of how your online marketing is working to drive conversions it is important to take the whole stream of customer interaction into account. The first click that raises awareness of your brand on a social site may not return as much revenue as a last click from a search engine but without the first click the last click would never have happened anyway. Even first and last click models don’t take into account the value that connecting on social media or via the company blog may have on actual sales but taken together they all contribute to the customer making that last click before they make their purchase.

1. Appropriate Attribution, Eric T. Peterson, Coremetrics, 2011

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