Attribution Windows on Meta vs. Google: Why Does It Matter? Should You Be Using a Shorter or Longer Attribution Window? Explained!

6 Minutes

Feb 20, 2024

What is an attribution window? 

Simply put, the number of days between an ad view or click to action is your attribution window.

Consider scrolling through Instagram and stumbling upon an ad that catches your eye. You click on a call to action but don’t make an immediate purchase. Instead, you decide to purchase the product 4 days after the first ad click, the window of time it takes for you to convert in this scenario is your “attribution window.” This is based on tracking methods that typically involve cookie placements on your devices.

The customer events measured against an attribution window are not limited to purchases as the window may be reviewed against other conversion events such as add to carts or form sign-ups.  Some ads may not have the intention of having the customer click the ad at all, in these scenarios, you would use a “view-through” conversion instead of a “click-conversion”. 

What do you need to know about attribution windows?

Since it may take customers multiple site visits before they decide to convert, attribution windows can help advertisers distribute credit across more than one channel.  While attribution windows help you understand which ads are performing, there are some caveats:  

  1. When a window is set for too long – the initial ad that a user saw could have nothing to do with their subsequent conversion. A different touch-point may have been the reason for the conversion, which would then produce inaccurately attributed conversions.
  2. On the other hand, if a window is set for too short of a time period (1 day) – the ad may not be given proper credit given the conversion took place outside the attribution window. Consider your customer life cycle journey for your product and service, and how long the average user would take to become a paying customer.
  3. When implementing attribution windows for the same account across different platforms, it is important to set a similar window since when it comes to analyzing your data, it may be skewed if you were to have different attribution windows from each ad platform.  

Attribution Windows on Different Platforms 

To begin, attribution is typically split between two different variations:

  1. Click-through: 
  • When a person clicks on your ad and immediately takes action
  1. View-through: 
  • When a person sees your ad and doesn’t take action right away, but converts within the attribution window 

Meta Attribution Windows

Data reporting on attribution can fluctuate if the proper window is not set. Here is a complete list of the attribution windows Meta offers:

  • 1-day click – optimized for people who are likely to take action within the same day
  • 1-day click or view – optimized for people who are likely to convert within 1 day of clicking or viewing your ad
  • 7-day click – optimized for people who are likely to take action within 7 days of clicking the ad
  • 7-day click or 1-day view (default) – optimized for users who are likely to convert within 7 days of clicking your ad or within 1 day of viewing

Google’s Attribution Models & Windows

In comparison to Meta, Google’s platform is more diverse, which is reflected in the attribution windows offered to advertisers. The default length of an attribution is set for 30 days – but can be as short as one day and 90 days at the longest. You may be wondering why you would want to choose a window as long as 90 days – but consider what you are selling. For example - high ticketed items always involve more purchase decision time vs. low ticket items.

If you are selling items such as clothing, these shorter attribution windows are better at distributing credit to the correct ad that leads the user to convert. On the other hand, an item such as a car benefits from a longer attribution window since your users may take more time before converting. 

The only attribution model Google uses that Meta did not used to offer is ‘data-driven,’ which distributes credit for the conversion based on your past data for the conversion action. 

Where Google differentiates its linear model (‘even credit’ on meta) is that 40% of credit goes to the first and last ad interactions and corresponding keywords, with the remaining 20% spread across other ad interactions during the customer journey. 

Similar to Meta’s time decay model crediting the touchpoints that lead to the actual conversion, Google differs in that credit is distributed through a 7-day half life. For instance, an ad interaction 8 days before the conversion event gets half as much credit as an ad interaction 1 day before conversion. 

How your attribution window ties into your business 

Optimizing your attribution windows for your business can be difficult, as it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are some optimizations you can make to attribution windows depending on your business – 

  1. An idea to first build on your business would be mapping out your customer’s journey. When mapping this out, keep in mind the various touchpoints, interactions, and channels within the conversion funnel. 
  2. Once mapping out the main touchpoints of your customer’s journey, you could build on this by ensuring that the model you set should be actionable. Whether you choose a longer or shorter window – there should be a clear purpose behind why you chose that certain window. 
  3. The quality of your leads should be the next focus when properly setting the attribution window that best suits your goals. This could generally mean the rate at which your leads turn from active users into paying customers. You may be tempted to focus on a quick, singular conversion that comes through – but focusing on this one event can result in you forgetting about the customers that you convert later down the funnel.
  4. Another thought you should keep in mind is knowing the importance of your campaign objectives when selecting your attribution models. Let’s say you’re running a campaign on Meta marketing your latest clothing brand. In this scenario – you are looking more towards the top of the funnel, and therefore may opt for ‘first-click’ since the ad you ran on Meta is what drew your customer towards your page. 
  5. Finally, being flexible is important when choosing your attribution window. This can fluctuate, where you may find that a particular ad may perform better for a traffic-based campaign than a conversion campaign, and vice versa.

Why Attribution Models Matter

Attribution windows are the time frames that are set by advertisers to properly distribute credit to the ads that lead the users to convert. They can be tricky in that if you set a window that is either too short or long for your ad, this can potentially result in accurate data. The two different variations of attribution – click-through and view-through are the first step in determining which window is best for you. This process is then further refined by you selecting which time frame would suit your product. 

If you choose Meta, the options are a tad more limited, with attribution only expanding as far as 7 days whereas Google allows this attribution to expand as far as 90 days. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but just a note to keep in mind for your business. Each platform offers unique benefits to you as an advertiser to connect to your customers at the right place and time, with the right ad.