The Right Ways and Wrong Ways To Use Call Tracking

McKay Allen

Jan 03, 20144 min read
Right Ways and Wrong Ways To Use Call Tracking

McKay Allen is the Content Manager at LogMyCalls, the editor of and the host of the popular LogMyCalls Marketing Webinar Series. Today, he discusses the right ways and wrong ways to use call tracking.

McKay addresses how it works, and the misconception that call tracking can harm SEO.

What is call tracking?

Call tracking is basically Google Analytics for the phone. It tells marketers which ads, campaigns and keywords generate phone calls and which don’t. It closes the loop on marketing spend. For example, it will tell marketers which keywords produce calls and marry the online behavior of a web visitor to a phone call.

As marketers we all face the same problem: attribution. There are holes in analytics, holes in the data. Call tracking closes the loop and allows SEOs to get credit for the leads they drive their clients and in-house marketers to better manage their resources.

Advanced call tracking solutions can even analyze the content of the phone calls — the actual conversations — using speech recognition technology. They can extract data like lead score, whether or not a sale was made, whether or not an appointment was set, and even if the sales rep missed an opportunity on the call. Marketers use this data in a variety of ways.

Aren’t phone calls secondary for most marketers?

Not really. There are literally only two or three industries that truly don’t get a meaningful number of phone calls. But for the vast majority of businesses — even B2B companies — phone calls matter a lot.

According to BIA/Kelsey, 64% of businesses say phone calls represent their best leads they get. In fact, local businesses rely on phone calls as a lead source almost exclusively. For example, you’re going to call the tire shop, plumber, insurance agent, dentist, etc. before you make an appointment.

It takes four web leads to generate the revenue generated by one phone call. Sure, callers are less common than web leads for some businesses, but they are more likely to buy, and they are lower in the funnel.

And, don’t forget mobile. Google says that a staggering 70% of all mobile business searches result in a phone call. That’s a gigantic number of phone calls to businesses.

So, do phone calls matter? Yes.

How does call tracking work?

The best and most common way to use call tracking is via Dynamic Number Insertion or (DNI). The default number on your website, landing pages or product sites, remains hard-coded into the site and remains the same (thus, not impacting NAP and SEO). DNI displays a unique phone number temporarily and dynamically via a snippet of Javascript. This allows marketers to determine which source, ad or URL generated the web visit that generated the phone call.

For example, if you visit from a Google search you would see a different phone number than if you typed into your browser. This dynamic Javascript technology is used by hundreds of thousands of businesses across the country to gather call analytics.

What types of marketers use call tracking?

SEO and SEM agencies use call tracking the most voraciously. But any marketer that wants to track what happens when someone comes to a website — landing page or any other page — will implement call tracking.

There has been a lot of discussion about call tracking and SEO recently. Some say call tracking hurts SEO. Does it?

Call tracking, when used correctly, does not hurt SEO. When used incorrectly, call tracking can and likely does hurt SEO.

The reason some marketers believe call tracking hurts SEO is because of NAP. Google demands that a business name, address and phone number remain constant across all of its web properties — be they directory listings or websites. Well, call tracking by its very nature requires the use of different phone numbers. Thus, some local marketers conclude call tracking will harm NAP and thus destroy SEO.

There are several points to make here:

  1. These local marketers are right that using call tracking numbers that are hard-coded into sites and/or placed in directory listings of any kind (including Google+ local) could harm NAP and SEO (though no concrete data exists on the subject). Using call tracking numbers in this way is an incorrect usage of the technology. And frankly, call tracking providers have done a poor job of explaining this over the years.
  2. Call tracking does NOT harm SEO when Dynamic Number Insertion is used. Numbers can be temporarily and dynamically displayed using Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI), on any website, landing page or web property without harming NAP and SEO. This is widely understood and universally accepted.
  3. The problem is that some local marketers have selective hearing. They hear "call tracking" and "SEO" in the same sentence and they freak out. They stop listening.
  4. Many SEOers rely on call tracking as the predominant way they gather marketing ROI data.

I could rant about this all day. If you’re interested in further reading, check out our 33 page White Paper on the subject. This White Paper is the most substantive treatment anyone has ever given the SEO and call tracking question.

What are the right ways and wrong ways to use call tracking?

The wrong ways are to use call tracking in any way that would damage NAP. For example, just changing the hard-coded number on your website to a different number will confuse Google and hurt your SEO. Also, switching out the phone number on Google+ Local or any director will confuse NAP.

The most obvious "right way" to use call tracking is with DNI. Again, a snippet of Javascript simply temporarily displays a unique phone number dependent on the source of the visitor. NAP is not harmed.

(This is the same method, by the way, that landing page A/B testing services use, dynamic content tools use, and website optimization and even analytics providers use to optimize and test. It doesn’t harm SEO).

The bottom line is this: there are perfectly safe ways to use call tracking. The data call tracking provides is simply too valuable to run screaming for the hills because you heard somewhere sometime that call tracking could hurt SEO. If used correctly, it cannot.

Author Photo
Director of Content and Communications at Convirza, McKay Allen has been emphatically touted as a Marketing Jedi by Direct Marketing News. He is a true force-of-nature on the Lead Generation scene, unstoppable in fomenting breathless client interest for his clients. McKay has been published all up and down the mainstream marketing spreads, including: Search Engine Journal, Mobile Marketer, Target Marketer, Search Engine Watch, PPC Hero, Technorati, and numerous others.