Call Tracking and Local SEO – 5 Myths Busted
We use call tracking – a lot! And over the years we’ve noticed that both clients and members of the Local Search Forum tend to ask the same questions about call tracking. With that in mind, I decided to poll the team here at Sterling Sky to come up with our top 5 myths about using call tracking with Local SEO.
Myth #1 – Using a call tracking number on your site will your hurt NAP
This question comes up a lot since NAP consistency has historically been seen as a significant ranking factor. Over the past few years, Google has gotten much better at understanding the core elements of a business so having a few NAP inconsistencies isn’t as bad for ranking as it once was. However, when it comes to call tracking none of that even matters thanks to something called Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI).
By using DNI (sometimes referred to as a number flipper) you can change the way a phone number displays on your site for a user, depending on how they entered. For example, if they entered your site by clicking an ad they’d see one number but if they entered through an organic click, they’d see a different number. DNI doesn’t change the way your phone number is coded on the site so Google’s bots will see your local phone number, meaning it won’t hurt your NAP consistency.
Myth #2 – It’s a bad idea to use a call tracking number on your GMB listing
While people also think that using a static call tracking number (a number that doesn’t flip) on a GMB listing will be bad for NAP inconsistency (I’ll cover this later), that’s not the main question we’re asked. It’s a common misconception that using a tracking number on a GMB listing is against Google’s Guidelines. The guidelines state “Use a local phone number instead of central, call center helpline number whenever possible.” but it doesn’t say anything specifically about call tracking numbers. Also, notice “whenever possible” meaning that there are times when you can use a non-local number. You’ll see this a lot with chains, where they use a central toll-free number on all their listings. We’ve used call tracking numbers on our listings for years and have never run into guideline issues.
Going back to NAP consistency, the way you add the tracking number to the listing is important. It’s best practice to add the tracking number to the primary phone number field and then add the local business number as a secondary phone number. Doing this makes sure that Google understands that the local number is still associated with the business.
Myth #3 – Call tracking data isn’t accurate because it will count existing clients as new leads
This is partially true. If you get a new client through an ad using call tracking, their cookies will make them see that number every time they enter your site in the future. So it’s safe to assume that they’ll likely call that tracking number again. Since they’re no longer a new lead, you need to make sure you’re not counting them as one. There are different ways to do this depending on which call tracking software you’re using. We typically use Call Tracking Metrics and in their system, you want to look at the “Period Unique” or “Globally Unique” data. These 2 data groups only count the unique callers (for that period or since you started using tracking), so using the example above, that person who found you in an ad will only be counted once. If you’re not sure how to only see data on first-time callers using your call tracking software, contact their support team.
Myth #4 – If my clients saved my tracking number, they won’t be able to reach me if I ever cancel the service
While I don’t recommend canceling call tracking altogether since it’s important for any type of online marketing, there are times where you might want to switch providers for a handful of reasons. When you cancel with a call tracking provider, you need to release the phone numbers back to them since technically they own them. This can cause issues if a client has that number saved. While there’s no real way to get around this, it’s not usually as big of a problem as business owners often think it will be. Everything is so accessible online these days and people don’t typically save phone numbers like they once did. Personally, I don’t have the phone number for any business saved on my phone. If I need to call my dentist, nail salon, chiropractor, etc. I google their name and call them from their GMB listing. Now, what about the people that did save your number? Again, things are so accessible online so if a current client gets an “out of service” message when they call that canceled number, the next natural step would be Googling your business name. Once they do that, they’ll find your current phone number. Another way a business can get around that is by making sure to include your local number in all messaging that goes out to your clients. This can be in email signatures, a welcome email, mailers, etc.
Myth #5 – I should create a separate tracking number for each of my directories
Sometimes marketers can get a little tracking crazy and will be tempted to add a call tracking number to local directory sites. Going back to NAP consistency again, this scenario can cause issues and we don’t recommend doing it. This thread on the Local Search Forum does a great job explaining this. Darren Shaw states:
“I don’t think there is much benefit to putting a tracking number on all your listings. It would cost quite a bit in call tracking fees to make a number for each site, and the data you get back will basically be ‘no one is calling from this directory'”.
There are some instances where you might want to use a tracking number on one or two top directory sites. For example, if you’re using a paid service and want to track ROI. Other than that, you should always use a local number on directory sites.
If you’re still on the fence about including call tracking in your Local SEO (or any marketing) plan, give it a try. Most call tracking software services will offer you a trial period and if they don’t have one on their site, contact them to see if they’ll give you one. We’ve found that using call tracking is essential for calculating ROI, identifying opportunities, isolating issues, and so much more. The data you collect through call tracking will make you a much better (and smarter) marketer.
This Post Has 16 Comments
I recommend trying call-tracking on your website first to get a sense of what the cost will be. Depending on the type of business, when adding a call tracking number to GMB, the cost for CallRail (etc) can quickly skyrocket.
Agreed – we’ve definitely seen cases where the volume of calls was so high we decided to turn it off after a couple months.
Good idea on call tracking, it’s something I need to add to my “What it takes to rank in Local SEO for 2020” article over at SERPWoo. Mind if we use that?
You want to reference this article? I’m fine with that as long as it’s credited 🙂
Call tracking can be a dilemma depending on the business, as Justin says. We include it as part of a higher end package of services. Clients like hearing the call recordings and it certainly helps to prove ROI. We can point to conversion rates and Lifetime Value of a new customer to prove our worth.
The key, I think, is asking enough questions early in the sales phase to get an estimate of what type of phone volume to expect. Then price this add-on service accordingly. Otherwise, as Joy alluded to, profit margin can take a big hit.
Thanks for sharing – this answers a lot of questions 🙂
As always, the information you deliver is gold. Thank you So much! I truly appreciate the work you do. I have read your article and found very important information.
What about if you use a service like Moz that links/integrates with GMB? Should the phone number used in Moz be the tracking number or the local number? I’m just concerned about the NAP consistency when using a service that pushes data elsewhere. Thoughts?
I would still use the service but I would disconnect the GMB integration. If you use a tracking number in Moz, it will likely feed that tracking number to all the directories which you do not want. If you disconnect it, you can still use the number directly through GMB but feed your normal number to the directories using Moz.
Yes, call tracking sounds interesting if it helps conversion rates. Thanks for the post Nikki.
This was a whole world of new information for me. Thanks for the insight.
Three remarks regarding #3:
– cookies expire, but existing clients might still be there (and could then be counted as new leads)
– users change devices/browsers, which also leads to new cookies and hence duplicates
– users coming through brand terms will be counted as regular SEO-leads already on their first visit (something you would never do for instance in an SEA-campaign), even though the origin of the lead might be a recommendation, a TV ad etc.
I am still not convinced that reliable call tracking for SEO is really possible…
Get this! After reading Myth #3 I got curious. I went over to Call Tracking Metrics to find out if they could upload an existing client list of phone numbers to the system to ensure new clients were tracked correctly. You can! …on both the Marketing Plan and Contact Center plan. It’s called the “Contact List” feature. This way you can really show your worth to your client and identify new calls you are driving to the business. Just as a disclaimer, I am not an active user of Call Tracking Metrics or affiliated with them. But the information in this article combined with their system seems like a win win!
Unfortunately, your Myth#2 saying you can use a call tracking number in the primary then place your actual business number in the secondary does not work. We were given this blog by CallTrackingMetrics.com when we were concerned about stepping on our NAP. So we went ahead and followed what it said and IMMEDIATELY, our account experienced a “hard suspension”.
In reviewing the GMB Guidelines (https://support.google.com/business/answer/3038177?hl=en), we found it specifically states:
* Do not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or “refer” users to landing pages or phone numbers other than those of the actual business, including pages created on social media sites.
When we brought this up to our account rep at CallTrackingMetrics, they told us that “you can remove it from the listing, but still show it on your website when people come from the GMB to your website.”
We are looking into that option but are troubled knowing how hard it is to get GMB support these days considering we just took this new client live first of the week.
One last note, you would think Google would have a “confirmation” of sorts, whether post-submission of the “Resinstatement Request” that you would get an onscreen confirmation or an email confirmation. We received neither, which makes elevates our frustration with this as a whole.
This is a big lesson learned!
Posting so that others don’t have to experience this.
For the record – Joy and the SterlingSky team are great, and we continue to follow them and their advice. Something could have changed since this post – so again I post it to warn others.
I just brought this up to Google because suspensions are a bit insane right now. I’m hearing stories of people making a single edit (like a phone number or category) and causing a suspension. In the past, I only used to see suspensions happen if you changed many things at the same time. I think it’s a bit counter-intuitive that Google wants people to utilize GMB and yet when they do, they get suspended. As far as the policy on phone numbers, I have never seen them enforce anything regarding tracking numbers. They (Google) also use them themselves in Local Services Ads so you shouldn’t have an issue getting the listing reinstated with the tracking number. Also the turnaround time on suspensions is pretty fast so if you submit the reinstatement form, you should hear back in 48 hrs.
Thanks, Joy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I believe Google could use some help with their “reinstatement process” – as once you submit that important form, there is “no confirmation” via on-page, nor email – which is insane. So I do hope they received my request.
I appreciate all you and your team do. It’s great to see your company growth – and that Wes Michy joined your team. He’s a true gem. Keep up the great work.