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The Path to Classroom: Attributing Results




When you decided to go to school, how did you decide where to apply? Likely, if you decided to apply to “School A”, you had seen multiple advertisements, visited their website, snooped their social media profiles, spoken to recruiters and asked around to your friends and family. With all of that in mind, was only one of these the reason that you applied? Or, was it a combination of all of these to some degree? Deciding how to place weight and credit of an application back to specific traffic sources is a critical piece of your digital marketing.


A Singular Use Case

To explore attribution at a granular level, let’s take a look at one person’s path to application. Jessica recently applied to a Diploma of Forestry. When deciding where she wanted to attend school, she encountered their brand and visited their website in the following ways:

  • Banner Ad on a Hiking Website
  • Organic Search for Forestry Schools
  • Facebook Retargeting Ad
  • Banner Retargeting Ad
  • Branded Organic Search
  • Direct Visit

In Google Analytics, this would register as one conversion from direct traffic. But, in actuality, Jessica visited the website multiple times from different sources. Should they not deserve some credit as well?

Now, let’s take a look at what Jessica was thinking along the way:

  • Banner Ad on a Hiking Website – Discovers the School for the First Time
  • Organic Search for Forestry Schools – Reads About the School’s Program
  • Facebook Retargeting Ad – Accidentally Clicks on the Ad
  • Banner Retargeting Ad – Remembers this School, Which She Had Forgotten
  • Branded Organic Search – Looks Up Admission Requirements
  • Direct Visit – Places Her Application

When we look at it this way, a different picture is painted. In this list, the direct, Facebook, and branded organic visits were not what convinced her to apply. The banner ads and organic search were the main drivers of the decision.

Given that you have hundreds of applicants who all follow different paths to applying for your programs, what is the best method to weight results? Should the last click get all the credit? Or, should it be the first click? Or, should they all share credit? The truth is, that to assume any of these is the right way is to make a large assumption that will skew how you view your campaign results.


Common Attribution Modelling Methods

Keeping in mind that there is no one “end all be all” way to attribute results, there are multiple ways that you can model your data to gain more information. Here is an overview of the five that the majority of schools find the most useful.

Model Definition

Use Case

First Click First click receives 100% of the credit.

Understand the strongest source of initial brand awareness.

Last Click Last click receives 100% of the credit.

Understand what the final driver of the application was.

Linear Each click receives equal credit.

See how all channels contribute regardless of the place in the funnel.

Time Decay First click receives the most credit, with each click thereafter receiving less.

Emphasize brand awareness, without ignoring all of the other sources.

Custom Set % to first click, set % to last click, set % shared by all other clicks.

Create a custom system tailored to your specific program.


Attribution Considerations

Digital tracking has come a long way in the past ten years. Schools like yours are armed with the ability to measure cross-device applications, in-person visits and see on-page user behavior. Even with all of this in mind, there are still some important considerations when working with data.

  • Time – Website cookies and tracking codes may expire before the application process is over. While these will hold up the test of time for months, if your applicant spends years in the decision-making funnel, some data will be lost.
  • Cross-Device – If a user visits on their phone, work computer and home computer, some platforms will not be able to align the visits as being from one user. While login-based systems like Facebook perform quite while platforms that aren’t usually associated with a login like Google run into some issues.
  • Double-Counting – Every platform wants to take credit for a conversion. If a user visits your website through a Bing ad, Facebook ad, and organic Google search before converting, expect all of the platforms to try to take 100% credit in their own system.


The Path to Application Uncovered

Understanding which channels drove your students to apply can help you uncover valuable data. With attribution modeling, you can better understand where in the decision process different sources play and then measure the true ROI of your platforms.

Want to talk attribution and find out about Snaptech’s custom Education model? Give us a call at (604) 677-0742 and one of our business analysts would be happy to talk strategy.