Apr 82010

Attribution Management: The RKG Solution

In the last couple of weeks we've detailed both the challenges of attribution management and some of the approaches used to address these problems. Today, we outline our approach.


As we see it an attribution management system needs to meet the following criteria:

  1. It must be comprehensive, incorporating information from all tracked marketing initiatives;
  2. It must be sufficiently robust to give directional confidence;
  3. It must provide actionable insights;
  4. It must be reasonably priced


RKG's system tracks across all media using the advertiser's existing web analytic system tracking parameters. It smartly parses organic traffic into brand and non-brand buckets, and ties into our paid search reporting and bid management at the most granular level.

Additionally, we incorporate data from display advertising platforms for view-through data and offline direct mail programs to better understand the interplay between marketing channels.


We provide both a flexible heuristic system, and custom-built advanced statistical models for those who feel the need for the latter.

We have a sales-based reporting interface, with interesting path analysis reporting, detailed attribution reporting, and "what if" scenario modeling for those using the heuristic controls. At this point we do not intend to fold cost data into the reporting interface as pulling in redundant information would add significantly to the price tag without materially improving the product.


A beautiful dashboard that controls nothing is a waste of time and money. We see no value in staring at attribution data day-in day-out. The attribution data should be fed to the platforms that actually manage marketing programs so that the focus can remain on the core marketing activities, not on the data correction mechanism.

We believe the actionable insights will be largely limited to paid search, comparison shopping engines, and affiliate programs. Direct mail, display advertising and email already have much more accurate mechanisms for testing their value, namely hold-out tests. The results of those tests can help tune the model, but the models probably shouldn't replace a sound testing regime.

RKG's system exports order-level attribution to advertisers and their agencies at the most granular level provided by the web analytics tags. This allows the managers of those programs to drive by the appropriate metrics.

With our friend Kevin Hillstrom, we can also offer consulting projects to provide forward-looking guidance on more complex questions of marketing mix.


Because the attribution system itself manages nothing, we don't think huge ongoing fees for the SaaS are justifiable. We charge a fair price for our work.

Consulting arrangements with Kevin will be priced by the job.


We think we've built the right-sized solution for the problem. What do you folks think?



6 Responses to "Attribution Management: The RKG Solution"
Brian Fosse says:
Congratulations on getting your attribution service to market - I know it has been in the works for some time. Based on your track record I have confidence that the attribution algorithms are top notch. A few of my initial thoughts: -I would like the ability to attribute profit rather than just revenue(requires ad spend and COGS data) -Since the system uses a client's existing analytics tagging, the quality of that tagging will impact the value of the attribution greatly -Paid search attribution is the primary input for managing bidding of paid traffic sources. I would like a service that suggests bid modifications for search engine campaigns. Bonus points if it also utilizes the engine API's to push the bid suggestions out. Prior to utilizing this solution I would want to... ...have confidence in my current analytics platform ...have the capability to manage the output of the attribution service Based on the cost (both $'s and management of the other pieces) there seems to be a fine line between adopting this service and completely handing off management of paid search to your consulting services.
Brian, thanks so much for your terrific feedback and kind words! To be clear, we can absolutely do this as a function of margin, not just sales. The hard part is incorporating granular advertising cost data -- broken out by day so that reports could be drawn for any time window -- dynamically from all the different potential API interfaces. This involves a mountain of code and duplicates what many folks get through their Web Analytics platform. Our thinking is: instead of building a redundant dashboard, why not feed "corrected" order attributions to already existing dashboards? This would require the WA platform to be able to integrate the corrected attribution data appropriately. That should be pretty straight forward for them given that most already offer attribution solutions of their own. We could add to our reporting interface a "punch in your ad cost data for each channel over the selected period" option to facilitate the true ROI analysis, but that may not be useful. The paid search piece is integrated into our platform, and at this point our platform is only available to our full service clients. We've kicked around the idea of building a license-able version of our paid search platform, but can't figure out how to make it "user-friendly" without ripping out all the power. You're right that the WA tagging has to be reasonably solid for this to be helpful at the most granular level for all programs, but even if every email and affiliate comes through with the same tag, you should get good channel-level directional guidance. Right now, we're only offering attribution services to our paid search clients, and we're kind of pricing it as a loss leader for our core service offering. Does this address your concerns? Thanks again for the excellent feedback!
Brian Fosse says:
Thanks for the clarification George. As an added service for you clients I believe this will empower them to increase ownership of attribution and have a better understanding of the value each channel brings. Good job.


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