First Click VS Last Click Attribution – Who Gets Paid?

Have you ever lost affiliate sales before or having to split affiliate commission? Well, this has something to do with first click vs last click attribution in affiliate marketing. Here is how this works in details:

First Click Attribution

First-click attribution is a method of giving credit for a sale or conversion to the first touchpoint or marketing channel that a customer interacted with. It's one of the key mechanics in affiliate marketing that beginners need to learn

It focuses on the initial interaction that sparked a customer's interest in a product or service.

For example, imagine a customer's journey to buying a pair of shoes online. They first see a Google Ad (1st click), then read a blog review about the shoes (2nd click), and finally click on a Facebook ad (3rd click) before making the purchase.

In first-click attribution, the Google Ad would receive all the credit for the sale, as it was the first touchpoint in the customer's journey.


Finds what sparks interest - First-click attribution shows which marketing channels grab people's attention, like finding the first clue in a treasure hunt that leads to more exciting discoveries.

Encourages getting new customers - By looking at the first touchpoint, first-click attribution helps marketers focus on ways to attract new customers, like planting seeds that will grow into a beautiful garden.

Simple to understand - First-click attribution is easy to figure out because it only considers the first interaction. It's like knowing the starting point of a race.


Doesn't show the whole journey - First-click attribution is like only watching the beginning of a movie and not seeing the rest of the story. It doesn't give the full picture of how customers decide to buy things. This is where last click attribution matters.

Might not value later steps - By only looking at the first interaction, first-click attribution may not appreciate other important steps that help make a sale, like not giving credit to a soccer player who helped set up a goal.

Unbalanced marketing efforts - First-click attribution can lead to focusing too much on getting new customers and not enough on other parts of the sales process. It's like giving all your attention to planting seeds and forgetting to take care of the growing plants.

Last Click Attribution

The concept of last-click attribution, a model that gives credit for a conversion to the last touchpoint the customer engaged with before converting.

It's like giving the last person in a relay race all the credit for winning the race, even though there were other people involved. 

For example, the user has gone through 7 different affiliate websites researching a product for over 2 weeks, but eventually a YouTube video with the affiliate link actually convinced the buyer to convert.


Finds star players - Last-click attribution is like picking out the best players on a sports team. It shows which affiliates are the best at getting customers to buy things, helping marketers focus on and reward the top performers.

Makes tracking and payments easier - With last-click attribution, you only need to look at the final click before a purchase, which makes it simpler to track and pay affiliates. It's like giving a prize to the last person who touched the ball before scoring a goal, without needing to share it with others who helped.

Boosts competition - Last-click attribution encourages affiliates to step up their game and try harder to get that final click, like runners racing towards the finish line. This can lead to better results overall.

Helps make better choices - By looking at the last click, marketers can make smarter decisions to improve their campaigns and give more support to the most successful affiliates, like coaches focusing on their star players.


Misses the bigger picture - Last-click attribution doesn't show the whole story of how customers decide to buy things. It's like only seeing the last part of a movie and not understanding how everything began.

Creates unbalanced efforts - By only giving credit to the last touchpoint, businesses might spend too much money on that channel and forget about other important parts of the journey. It's like watering only one plant in a garden while letting others go thirsty.

Wastes resources - Using just last-click attribution can lead to putting too much money and effort into the last touchpoint, even if other parts were important in helping the customer decide to buy. It's like building a strong roof but ignoring the rest of the house.

Maybe Unfair - In affiliate marketing, last-click attribution can make affiliates compete for the last click instead of working together, like players fighting to score the winning goal instead of passing the ball to create better opportunities.


Why Do Marketers Still Use Last Touch Marketing Attribution?

This method is flawed, but some organizations still use it because they have strict rules. It is hard for them to change to a better method of marketing attribution for three main reasons:

  1. The organization's structure makes it difficult to change.
  2. The marketing team is used to getting bonuses based on the last click attribution, so they don't want to change.
  3. Different departments in the marketing team don't share customer data, so it's hard to understand how customers interact with the company.

One alternative to last touch attribution is multi-touch attribution, which takes into account all touchpoints in the customer journey, not just the last one.

This method provides a more holistic view of how marketing efforts impact customer behavior and allows for more accurate attribution of revenue.

How Does Cookie Duration Affect Click Attribution?

Cookie duration is how long a tracking cookie stays active on someone's device after they click an affiliate link. It's like a timer that affects click attribution, deciding when the affiliate can get credit for a sale.

Cookie duration matters in click attribution because:

  1. It helps decide if affiliates get credit: A longer cookie duration gives affiliates more chances to earn money, like having more time to complete a task. With more time, customers are more likely to buy something, and the affiliate gets credit.
  2. It affects which programs affiliates choose: Affiliates might pick programs with longer cookie durations, as they offer better chances to earn money. Programs with shorter durations might not be as interesting to affiliates, like choosing between two games where one has a longer time limit to win.
  3. It changes marketing plans: Affiliates need to think about cookie durations when planning how to promote products or services. They might focus on items that are more likely to sell within the cookie duration, like choosing to sell ice cream on a hot day instead of a cold day.

To learn more about cookie duration here