Tracking Phone Calls from Paid Search Marketing

Louise's picture
Louise Simpson
| 6th July 2012

One of the most attractive features of paid search advertising is that the results are quantifiable. Advertisers are encouraged to implement conversion tracking code that can record your desired outcomes, such as number of online sales, leads or sign-ups that the account generates. This is extremely useful for businesses who judge the success of their marketing based on actions that can be taken online. However, this method is not as helpful if the majority of your sales take place on the phone. How can those advertisers track how many of their inbound calls originate from paid search?

Method 1: Generate a unique number and serve it to PPC visitors

At SilverDisc, when a client wants to track calls we use a call tracking service to generate a unique phone number. When paid search visitors land on their website, we serve the dedicated PPC number rather than their standard business number. This number can also be used in your mobile click-to-call extensions.

The call tracking service provides us with details relating to the number of effective (phone answered) and ineffective (call missed) calls that the number has received, as well as additional data such as:

  • Time of the call
  • Length of the call
  • Ring duration

You also have access to callers’ phone numbers, so you can ring them back if you miss their call. This method is effective in conjunction with Microsoft’s Bing, as well as other online traffic sources, in addition Google AdWords.

Method 2: Use Google’s Call Metrics service

Google’s “call metrics” service assigns a unique number to each of your AdWords campaigns. This phone number will appear in your ad as an additional line of text (on both desktop and mobile). The metrics relating to these calls can be viewed within the Adwords interface. Have a look at the Adwords Help guide if you are interested in the specifics.

The big selling point of this product is that it’s the only way to achieve a dedicated piece of ad-space for your phone number (see below):

A call on this number will cost you a minimum of £1 if the customer manually dials the number from a phone. If the customer clicks the number in the ad (launching a phone call) the cost will be the same as a standard ad click. If you don’t want the number to appear on desktop but still want to use Google’s call tracking in your mobile ads, select “show my phone number only on mobile phones” in the call extension tab, rather than “'Use a call forwarding number from Google to get enhanced reporting and to show a phone number on mobile phone, desktop, and tablets.”

Google’s Call Metrics service gives you access to a lot of the call data that you would get from the first method described above, but Google won’t pass the caller’s number on to you.

The big disadvantage of using this method for monitoring phone calls from paid search users is that it will only track callers that ring the phone number in the ad itself. If a potential customer clicks on your ad and calls you on your usual business number, you will have no way of tracing the call back to your paid search efforts. For that reason, it is best to use this service in conjunction with a separate call tracking service, such as the one described above.

To sum up, if you are running a PPC account and expect the majority of enquiries to take place on the phone, don’t “divert” when it comes to tracking the number of calls your paid search marketing generates. Google’s offering is quite limited at the moment, so let us know if you need any help tracking calls generated through PPC!


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