Helping Win Hearts & Minds on
the Battlefields of Online Media

Phone Call Conversion Tracking

    A call is not a sale.
    It may not even be
    a prospect.


    Since marketing is an ongoing and dynamic process, you hope to get better as you go along, and achieve such things as a better ROI on your marketing budget. So rather than ongoing you'd hope to say your efforts and investment are evolutionary. But unless you can actually see and measure what works and what does not, and to what degree and at what cost, you're at best a blurry-eyed squirrel looking for an acorn.

    And since search marketing is about getting in front of people when they run keyword searches that suggest they might be willing to buy what you have to sell, it'd be helpful to know which specific keywords and which user demographics yield the most sales and revenue.

    Most traffic and sales from search should come from organic, but we can no longer establish a direct relationship between keyword and revenue (whether we ever could is debatable). Google is now hiding all keyword data in organic searches (not provided in Analytics) by redirecting users to a secure page, ostensively to protect users' privacy.

    But not in pay-per-click advertising (PPC). In AdWords we get all the data and can still track on a keyword level. Therefore, PPC offers a broader tracking and measurement value, and can even inform us of where to prioritize efforts and investment in organic search. But only if we take advantage of it. Only if we establish, in PPC, a direct relationship between keyword and sales, or keyword and revenue.

    The benefit of tracking and measuring PPC in itself is clear. The costs are defined, and if we can get some reliable idea of the revenue generated, we have an ROI that can be tweaked and improved, made easier by the ability to operate and track on a keyword level.

    Tracking Phone Calls
    PPC has been wonderful for companies that sell products in a shopping cart. Even when the order comes in over the phone, it gets entered into the web shopping cart and maybe the cart is integrated with the legacy inventory tracking and accounting system. But for local service businesses, most prospects come in over the phone and there is no shopping cart.

    Fortunately, call conversion tracking widely available today. It can be done through Google, and there are many third-party service providers offering the tools. Typically, a bank of phone numbers are applied to various sources, e.g., print ad, TV, website, PPC programs—any campaign you want to track.

    For sources like a print ad campaign, where you can only track the actual campaign source, you only need one number per source. But if you're tracking PPC down to the keyword level, then you need several phone numbers that are dynamically generated from a script inserted in your site.

    Either way, you get a report or go into your control panel to see your results, and you will know that in the month of April you got X-number of phone calls from specific sources that you set out to track. You can get other info, as well, such as the callers' phone numbers, when the calls were made, and how long the calls were. You can even have the calls recorded, if this is useful and you're willing to pay for it.

    Tracking BEYOND the Phone Call
    But wait. A phone call is not a sale. A phone call may lead to a sale, but the fact that it may not means you cannot count it as a sale. For many businesses, the sale is not made right away. A phone call may not even be a prospect. It could be some intern with marbles in her mouth cold-calling for an SEO agency, guaranteeing that they'll get you the #1 ranking on Google for all your keywords! You can denote a phone call as a conversion event and it's certainly much better than nothing, but it's limited. It's not a sale. And it may not even be a prospect.

    That is why we prefer to track phone calls to the sale, and even beyond! We call it Call-to-Sale Conversion Tracking, to distinguish it from call conversion that just uses phone calls as conversion events.

    Similar to what was described above, we acquire a bunch of phone numbers that will rotate dynamically on your site in place of your existing phone numbers. On the backend we define the source tracking set (e.g., PPC, organic, Yelp, a website where you're running a promotion) and create UTC tracking parameters for all the links to your site from the sources we're tracking (at least those that will take them; others just get phone numbers). With PPC advertising we define these parameters down to the keyword level.

    To track past the phone call, we create a browser interface that lets the person answering the phone enter information that can be I.D.'ed to the call origin. So somebody searches for a product or service you offer, clicks on your ad, goes to your website, calls the dynamically generated phone number, is tagged and routed into our system, which fires up a browser window to your receptionist's (or whoever's) computer. Or it is routed in sequence to whoever is available on a designated list. The person answering the phone will see the call coming in, and in the special browser window, he or she checks off or answers specific information—e.g., is it a prospect, type and scope of product/service interested in, location, was a call-back or appointment/appraisal set, etc.

    This profile can be called up from your CRM database and added-to in the future, to track the prospect through all the key points of your sales cycle to the sale, and total revenue and other financial data, and beyond into lifetime-value data, if relevant.

    The data entered by the person answering the initial phone call can be directly passed back through Google Analytics. This was not possible until fairly recently when Google launched Universal Analytics, which provides a more flexible tracking code for collecting data from any digital source or device, including offline—i.e., you can add your offline data directly into Google Analytics.