What Is First Click Attribution In Affiliate Marketing? (vs Last Click)

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Dale is a former electrician that has since gone on to generate over $1 million in all-time affiliate commissions & become officially recognized as a Super Affiliate by the world's largest affiliate marketing training platform. Alongside running his own affiliate marketing empire, he now also teaches affiliate marketing to others through the Commission Academy platform.

As you begin to sign up for new affiliate programs as an affiliate marketer, you’re likely, at some point, to come across the term first click attribution.

But what exactly is first click attribution? And how does it differ from last click attribution?

More importantly, as an affiliate, which is better? And which will help put more money in your pocket?

If those are some of the things you’ve been wondering, you can rest assured you’ve landed in the right place, as on this page, we’re going to uncover everything you need to know.

So let’s dive in & start with the most pressing question first.

What Is First Click Attribution?

In short, first click attribution in affiliate marketing means that the affiliate commissions for a sale will be paid to the affiliate whose link the purchaser clicked first.

For example, let’s say you have Affiliate A & Affiliate B.

Affiliate A is doing paid advertising & promoting a garden lawnmower via ads in Google Search.

A searcher looking to buy a lawnmower clicks on the ad to learn more & visits the sales page via Affiliate A’s affiliate link but isn’t convinced enough to make a purchase, so he/she proceeds to look for a review before buying.

This is where Affiliate B comes into play because Affiliate B is writing product reviews & has written a review about this lawnmower.

The user reads Affiliate B’s review & then decides to make the purchase by going through Affiliate B’s affiliate link.

Now, typically, under the last click attribution model, Affiliate B would get the commission.

However, in the first click attribution, Affiliate A gets the commission because it was Affiliate A’s affiliate link that the user clicked first, even though they clicked Affiliate B’s before buying.

Pretty simple, right?

The affiliate whose link the buyer clicks first gets the commission.

However, as you can imagine, there are some pros & cons of using this method of attribution.

So let’s take a look at what they are.

First Click Attribution vs Last Click Attribution

Firstly, let us start by pointing out that last click attribution is the more common method of attribution & for want of a better word, the “default” that most programs use.

In reality, first click attribution is quite rare when it comes to affiliate programs… But should you come across it, you need to know what’s best.

And to determine what’s best for you, you need to figure out at what part of the customer purchase lifecycle the people are that you’re promoting to.

For example, is your audience right at the beginning of the lifecycle? Meaning that they know roughly what they need but haven’t yet narrowed down a product?

If so, then first click attribution could work well for you.

That’s because, at that stage, it’s very unlikely the user will have clicked anybody else’s affiliate link & it’s quite likely they’ll click another after yours (to get additional opinions).

A good example of content that promotes to people at the beginning of the purchase cycle would be a “best of” list or a “how to” guide.

If the user is reading those types of posts, chances are he/she has a rough idea of what they want but hasn’t yet started browsing specific products.

And then you have the flipside, which is the end of the customer purchase lifestyle… And a good example of this would be a product review.

If a user is reading a product review, then the chances are they’ve already heard about the product & clicked on affiliate links.

At this point, they’re just gathering opinions before making a final decision.

So if you’re marketing your affiliate links via product reviews, you’d likely find yourself having very poor conversion rates through the first click attribution model.

In that instance, the last click model would work best for you.

Why Do Some Affiliate Programs Use First Click Attribution?

Whilst it’s rare to come across affiliate programs using first click attribution, there’s no doubt that you will come across one from time to time.

So what’s the deal? Why do some affiliate programs use first click attribution?

Well, basically, affiliate programs deploy first click attribution in an attempt to deter affiliates from simply profiting from writing reviews.

You see, many companies spend lots of money on paid advertising & whilst they may make a profit, that margin may be very thin.

In other words, they need to keep as much of the profit as possible.

And often, when people see ads for companies online, they end up searching for reviews before making a purchase & clicking through affiliate links.

So those affiliates writing the reviews technically aren’t generating any new customers, yet they’re still taking a percentage of the sale.

And as you can imagine, companies don’t like that.

So first click attribution can be used to put a stop to that. If affiliates write reviews, they won’t benefit financially unless they actually drive new customers & sales.

But in the same breath, companies are wary about using first click attribution because they know that most affiliates don’t like it… And affiliates (good ones) aren’t easy to find.

So companies have to weigh up if saving a bit of money from “leecher” type affiliates that write reviews is worth losing out on getting new affiliates overall.

More often than not, they lean towards it not being worth it & so that’s why the first click attribution model is relatively rare in affiliate marketing.

The Bottom Line

As you now know, first click attribution in affiliate marketing is designed to alter which affiliate gets credited for the sales that are generated.

So hopefully, this page has helped you to learn something new & if you’d like to continue your learning, why not check out our free affiliate marketing course?

In it, we uncover how you can build a thriving affiliate marketing business or take your existing one to new heights & turn yourself into a super affiliate.

So if you haven’t already done so, be sure to sign up for our free training before you leave.

But as mentioned, hopefully, this post helped you out & taught you something new. If you happen to have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below.

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3 thoughts on “What Is First Click Attribution In Affiliate Marketing? (vs Last Click)”

  1. I am so confused!!! First you say “ Firstly, let us start by pointing out that first click attribution is the more common method of attribution & for want of a better word, the “default” that most programs use.”. Then you say, “ so that’s why the first click attribution model is relatively rare in affiliate marketing.”. Which is it, rare or common?

    • Oh my goodness, I am so sorry. I have made a typo & written it the wrong way around. I am correcting that now, please forgive me. First click is definitely the most rare of the two, and last click is the default used by most programs 🙂


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