Google removes most of the attribution models from GA4
On April 6th 2023 Google announced the sunsetting of most of the attribution models it offers in GA4. These include First-click, linear, time-decay and position-based attribution models.
Attribution models are most commonly used by marketeers seeking to know more about the efficacy of how they're spending their budget.
What remains is the venerable last click model and the more recent DDA (data driven attribution) model. The latter is an opaque machine learning algorithm which attributes credit across all channels; what isn't clear is how it works and because of that there may be a trust issue at stake.
With DDA Google is "marking its own homework" and nobody knows what score it's giving to it's own advertising services.
For some the loss of first touch and and linear may be acutely felt. While last touch can be seen in terms of demand harvesting (these channels are the goal hangers of the marketing mix), first touch is an opportunity to understand which channels work best in an introductory capacity, something akin to demand generation.
Attribution modelling has always been less about the immediate delivery of answers and more about developing a theses (i.e. which channels work best under what circumstances) and then testing their validity.
The disappearance of these models means the ability to generate and test a hypothesis is reduced.
For some the rise of DDA may simply be a welcome benefit derived from the application of machine learning and AI in the quest to drive revenue growth while reducing workload and improving productivity. But for those people, they must trust that Google will not assign more credit to their own advertising channels than is reasonably due.
Other analytics tools may well use the opportunity to extol the virtue of their products which have not done away with these models.
For those that are fully "in bed" with Google, the performance KPI may come down to a more simple analysis of total revenue divided by total online ad spend distributed over time, with the nuance of which channel is delivering the most revenue being surfaced via the DDA model.
Gone but not gone
With all that said, first touch isn't quite gone in GA4. In it's help file for the User Acquisition report, Google states:
"You can use the User acquisition report to get insights into how new users find your website or app for the first time. The report differs from the Traffic acquisition report, which focuses on where new sessions came from, regardless of whether the user is new or returning."
The implication being that, not withstanding cookie deletion or cross device issues, the User Acquisition report can work as a quasi first touch model and the Traffic acquisition report can work as a quasi last touch model.
If you would like any help learning more about marketing acquisition reporting in GA4 and the insights it gives you in relation to your business, please do get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.