Google Adwords Attribution – Introducing Effective Click Optimization


This blog post is in conjunction with the post How to do Attribution Modeling in Google Analytics – Ultimate Guide. If you have not already read this post then I would highly recommend you to read it.  It is a good starter guide to understand the various aspects of attribution modeling in Google Analytics (and beyond) and it will help you greatly in understanding the present post.  Today I will talk about how attribution modeling can be used to solve real life problems.


Say Good Bye to ‘last click keywords’ optimization and Welcome ‘Effective Click Keywords’ optimization

The advent of attribution modeling has fundamentally changed the way we look at the data for good. Up to now we have been managing PPC campaigns by bidding on last click keywords (keywords which completed the sales). This has to change because it is sub-optimal way of optimizing a campaign. To be most effective we also need to invest in keywords which initiate or assist in sales. Different keywords (first click keywords, middle click keywords and last click keywords) work together to create a sale. Yet we focus only on the last click keywords. Not good.

It is quite common for visitors to refine their search queries to get the product they are looking for and it is also quite common for them to return to a website via a branded keyword (as it is easy to remember) before making a purchase. Since by default, Google attributes conversions to the last clicks, branded keywords end up getting tons of undue credit for sales. Consequently branded keywords campaigns seem to perform so well in PPC. But these campaigns are still not producing optimum results because our whole optimization efforts are directed towards last click keywords and we now know, that different keywords work together to create a sale. So why single out only the last click keywords?


If you keep adding more of one unit of production to a productive process while keeping all others units constant, you will at some point produce lower per unit returns. This is known as the law of diminishing returns (which I have explained in great detail in the post: Thinking of investing more in a marketing channel? Think Twice.)


So in case of PPC, if you keep optimizing for last click keywords (in our case branded keywords) while ignoring first and middle clicks keywords (collectively known as assist keywords) you will at some point produce lower per unit returns. This means your cost per acquisition at some point will start rising and your profit on sales will start declining. Then the only way, to remain within your CPA targets is by tweaking (add, pause, delete, change bids) last click keywords. But this is sub optimal way of optimizing a PPC campaign as you are optimizing only a small part of the conversion process.


So what is the solution?

In order to strengthen your PPC campaigns you also need to bid on keywords that initiate or assist conversions.  In this way you can stay away from the point of diminishing returns and remain within your CPA targets much longer. To identify keywords to add to your paid search campaign, look for keywords in your multi channel funnel reports that are high performing conversion initiators or completers.   Follow the steps below:


Step-1: Go to Assisted Conversions Report, select your conversion type (I selected ecommerce transaction) and then click on the ‘Adwords’ tab.

Note: It is very important that you select the right conversions before analyzing multi channel funnel reports. In the present case i am optimizing keywords for transactions and not for user engagement. That is why i selected ecommerece transaction as conversions.

Step-2: Select ‘Adwords Keywords’ as primary dimension and then sort by ‘Assisted Conversion Value’ column to find high performing conversions assisting keywords.

Step-3: Compare all the high performing assisting keywords against the keywords you are currently bidding on in your PPC campaigns. Add the keywords which are missing, to your PPC campaigns and then bid on them.


Step-4: Now click on ‘First Interaction Analysis’ tab and then sort by ‘First click Conversion Value’ column to find high performing conversions initiator keywords.

Step-4: Compare all the high performing conversion initiator keywords against the keywords you are currently bidding on in your PPC campaigns.  Add the keywords which are missing, to your PPC campaigns and then bid on them.


Say Good Bye to ‘last click CPA optimization’ and Welcome ‘Effective Click CPA optimization’

Sorry to disappoint you but the CPA that you see in your Google Adwords report is not your actual cost per acquisition. It is the cost per last click conversion.  So if you ignore first and middle click keywords and optimize PPC campaigns on the basis of cost per last click conversions than you won’t get optimal results and sometimes even loose money. This is because if a keyword is not completing a sale, it may be initiating a sale or assisting a sale (Always Remember That) and if you stop bidding on it because its cost per last click conversion (the so called CPA reported by Google Adwords) is too high or it is not completing any conversion then you will loose money.


Similarly the conversions reported by Google on Adwords interface are last click conversions. So if you overlook the role of prior keywords in the conversion process then you are missing the big picture. I wish Google comes up with multi channel funnel reports like functionality in Adwords.  Till then you need to do lot of toggling between adwords and analytics reports to understand the true role played by your targeted keywords in the conversion process.


Please share your views on ‘effective click optimization’.

Other Posts you may find useful:



Himanshu Sharma About the Author: is the founder of which provides SEO Consulting, PPC Management and Analytics Consulting services to medium and large size businesses. He holds a bachelors degree in ‘Internet Science’, is a member of 'Digital Analytics Association', a Google Analytics Certified Individual and a Certified Web Analyst. He is also the founder of and

My business thrives on referrals, so I really appreciate recommendations to people who would benefit from my help. Please feel free to endorse/forward my LinkedIn Profile to your clients, colleagues, friends and others you feel would benefit from SEO, PPC or Web Analytics.



  • Joana

    Hi Himanshu! Good post. How do you attribute conversions to offline touch points? We do lot of advertising in trade magazines and industry events and it is hard to justify their ad spend without any attribution model in place.

    • Himanshu

      There is no straight forward answer for this. IMO the best attribution model for you is the Time Decay Model esp. when you run offline campaigns.

  • odlasb

    You always give me more to think about attribution modeling. Nice to see you writing posts more frequently.

    • Himanshu

      Yes it is a long way from one blog post per month to one blog post per week. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

  • Amalia

    Hi Himanshu! Fantastic Post. The google analytics MFC reports are really awesome. I think effective click optimization can be a huge step forward in implementing multi touch in PPC. Looking forward to improving my PPC campaigns performance now.

  • Mridul Sharma

    Awesome post. Thank you for giving such deep explanation. I didn’t know about attribution modeling until i read your posts. I think it is a very difficult topic to understand and a newbie like me is going to struggle. I manage PPC campaigns and your advice can help me. Thanks again for the great write up. Looking forward to see more posts from you on analytics.

  • Rahul

    Bookmarked this post and the other one on attribution modeling. Keep up the good work.

  • JasonGASA

    Many thanks for this excellent post. Can we see a similar post on SEO? I mean applying effective click optimization on seo campaigns.

  • Jitender

    Wow Himanshu Ji aka the attribution Guru. Love this post. So well though out.
    I have to read it twice to understand what really is going on here lol.

  • Arnab

    Hi Himanshu,

    I have been following your post for quite a bit of time. I liked your post but eventually I think you missed out on one point. The data that you get from this manipulation, you need to compare the same data against Matched Search Query for Organic as well as Paid. The retention and Bounce Rate will determine how a particular keyword performs in Organic and Paid Search Scenario.

    Based on these you can fine tune and tweak keywords for best possible ROI. Let me know if you did understand my point. BTW, your post was nice.

    • Himanshu

      Hi Arnab,

      The ‘adwords keywords’ in the multi channel funnel reports include both organic as well as paid keywords.

  • MarwickSEO

    Awesome Post Himanshu. You have come up with a really solid concept for consideration.

  • Steve Lubahn

    Excellent article on a more effective way to view assisted conversion data in Google AdWords / Google Analytics!

    • seohimanshu

      Thanks for the kind words Steve.

  • Pravin

    Great article.Very informtive