Many businesses use call tracking numbers to monitor the source of phone leads. They issue a variety of different telephone numbers, and use one on their website, one for each online directory, and possibly different numbers for paid search or offline campaigns. This solution is often sold as an absolute panacea for your tracking problems – every single phone call is accurately tracked, and it’s conveniently reported in an online dashboard.
It is convenient – but it’s also hurting your rankings in local search.
Google and the other search engines scan the Internet looking for information about your company. If the information is available in lots of places, and is consistent across those places, that helps confirm that they have the right data regarding your business (more about getting your business data listed). Other factors equal, if Google is confident your data is correct, it will be more likely to rank your business higher in its local search results.
When phone call tracking numbers are thrown into the mix, your data starts to look confused. Google picks up a variety of phone numbers for your business – and may lower your ranking as a result. The search engines may even think you are operating multiple companies, listing your business more than once – which often results in an even more substantial decline in rankings.
In addition to this main issue, there are two smaller problems with tracking numbers:
- Google has explicitly stated that call tracking numbers are not to be used in Google Places listings.
- Businesses experience problems when they end call tracking or switch providers – an old number can linger for months in many online business information sources.
An additional note: Many of the (offline) yellow pages provide free call tracking numbers. This information could, in theory, find it’s way into the online sources used by Google – but that’s not something I’ve seen happening frequently.
With all the marketing channels available online, it’s important to track the source of phone calls. So how can we do this given the problems with tracking numbers?
One option is simply to ask callers where they found your number. This requires some training for your staff, and will not be 100% accurate – a substantial number of callers will fail to provide any more detail than “the Internet.” Your company will need either a CRM system or simple spreadsheet to keep track of phone call sources.
Many sites, including Google Places, give business owners the option of adding a coupon code. This is an easy way to encourage customers to tell you where they got your information. To get the highest response rate, simply use the source name (ie, Yellowbook, Yelp, etc.) as the coupon code. This option forces you to offer some form of discount – but such a tactic can be a great way to persuade customers to call you anyway. Again, you’ll need a way to track these responses.
Hidden Tracking Numbers