Telephone Tracking – 8 methods for tracking calls

by | Nov 18, 2021

How Does Telephone Tracking work?

Before you decide on a particular form of telephone tracking and integrate it in your online marketing campaign, it is important to evaluate the different options and their advantages and disadvantages. We are big fans of telephone tracking, particularly in campaigns where direct ROI values are essential – as opposed to branding campaigns. Telefon-Tracking ​ ​

How Do I Find an Appropriate Telephone Tracking Solution?

As with any tool that you install and use (unless it has been designed specifically in line with your requirements), it is unlikely that it will meet your needs 100%. When choosing software, you should therefore select the one that will help you to achieve your goals.

With this in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What are your goals?
    • What is the exact purpose of the phone tracking tool?
    • What is the precise purpose of the telephone tracking tool?
    • How will telephone tracking help you to achieve your goals?
    • Do you want to use it to manage your PPC bids?
    • Do you simply want to measure your ROI (return on investment)?
    • Do you just want to measure one medium, e.g. AdWords, or do you also want to measure SEO, email campaign results and so on?
    • Does the conversion data need to be imported into software so that further calculations can be performed, and so on.
    •  Should the conversion data be imported into software to enable further calculations, etc…?

Keep it simple when answering these questions. Just because you can measure data, does not mean that you have to. The data needs to be usable.

Telephone Tracking Methods

There are various ways of determining the source of your telephone conversions. With this list, I aim to provide an overview of the different options that are currently available on the German market (note: the first three options are limited, but have been included anyway because they are a form of telephone tracking).

Although this data is designed for online marketing, most tools can also be used for offline marketing.

Although this data is designed for online marketing, most of the tools can also be used for offline marketing.

  • Media-specific telephone numbers
  • A phone number supported by cookies
  • Google telephone tracking – call forwarding
    Google Telefon-Tracking – Anruf Weiterleitung
    Individual telephone numbers (or direct dial numbers)
  • Telephone number pools
  • Conventional conversion tracking scripts
  • Identification codes
  • Further information on telephone tracking

Media-specific telephone numbers

The simplest form of telephone tracking is to set up a specific telephone number for each medium. This means that you have a different telephone number for your flyers, your website, your mail shots and any other source of calls that you want to measure.
How it works
A telephone number reserved for Online Marketing is displayed on the website. All calls to this number are attributed to Online Marketing.​


Advantages
Easy to implement. You get an overview of the number of calls and can evaluate the costs and benefits of the entire promotional campaign. It also allows you to determine the times of day when you receive the most calls. These times would probably then also be the best times for your advertising.

Disadvantages
No way to break down calls by keywords, ads or campaigns.
A phone number supported by cookies

A phone number supported by cookies

This is a simple – yet, in many companies, extremely effective – solution that allows you to trace conversions back to keyword level. It is also the form of telephone tracking used by companies like Reachlocal.
How It Works
When someone visits your website, a signal is sent to your telephone tracking provider containing the relevant data, such as the source of the visitor, keyword, advert, campaign etc. The system now knows that a visitor is on the site and how this visitor arrived at the site. If a call is registered, the system logs a conversion and attributes it to the last known visitor as the source of the conversion.

Advantages
Simple and inexpensive. This solution answers the same questions as the previous method, supplemented by additional data such as keywords, ads, campaigns, etc.

Disadvantages
This form of tracking is problematic if more than one visitor is on the site at the same time or within 15-30 minutes of each other, as the system no longer knows for certain to whom the incoming calls should be attributed.

Google Call Conversion Tracking

Since 2016, Google have been offering a call forwarding service in addition to their AdWords call extension service. This call forwarding service allows you to measure calls via the website. In the past, it was only possible to measure calls directly from Google. With this option, the number on the website is replaced with a Google number. As soon as this number is called, Google logs a conversion. For this to work, you must have a call extension active in your account. Unfortunately, Google measures conversions from clicks via Google ads. The tool does not work for the Display Network (clicks via adverts on partner sites).
How It Works
Whenever your advert is displayed on Google, the Google telephone tracking tool displays a unique number instead of your telephone number. If the person calls this number, Google can allocate the call to the exact keyword, the exact ad group, campaign etc. When someone clicks on the advert, they see a Google 0800 tracking number on the website. The tracking number can also be shown on the website for AdWords visitors.

Advantages
The Google call forwarding service does not cost anything and is available free to all AdWords customers. It works seamlessly with Google AdWords. It is fairly accurate and tracks callers back to keyword level. ​​

Disadvantages
This method is limited to AdWords. It does not count calls that have been generated by visitors who did not reach the website via an advert. The Google tool is easy to install, but we have identified quite a few bugs. Google Support is not familiar with the product and is unable to help in most cases.

The reporting function is weak, e.g. it is not possible to log the number of missed calls, which clearly detracts from the marketing results. In my experience, companies miss approximately 40% of incoming calls. We have also found that the numbers are not tracked if the campaign or an ad group generates too few clicks. The telephone numbers used are shared with many companies. If someone saves the telephone tracking number and calls in two days’ time, the person will reach a different company. Good idea from Google, but unfortunately the implementation is weak with many disadvantages. I can only recommend it if a professional tool is not used.

Reporting is weak. For example, it is not possible to count the number of missed calls, which clearly reduces marketing results. In my experience, companies miss about 40% of incoming calls. We have also found that the number is not tracked if the campaign or an ad group generates too few clicks. The phone number used is shared with many companies. If someone saves the phone tracking number and calls in two days, the person will end up with another company. Good idea from Google. Implementation unfortunately weak with many disadvantages. Can only recommend for when a professional tool is not used.

Individual telephone numbers (or extensions)

You can have a separate telephone number for each keyword, each ad group, each campaign or each account.
How it works
Each keyword, ad, ad group or campaign is assigned its own phone number. As soon as a person lands on the website, the corresponding phone number is displayed on the page.

Advantages
This is one of the most accurate call tracking solutions possible. With this method you have extremely low data loss.

Disadvantages
High costs. If you need thousands of numbers for all keywords, you could have a rather high telephone bill. There is also a certain amount of development and administration work required to implement and maintain this solution.

Number-Pools

An alternative to having individual telephone numbers is to use a telephone number pool. Unlike the option described above, this uses a limited number of telephone numbers and does not statically assign a telephone number to every single keyword or ad group.
Sobald eine Person die Website besucht, wird eine Nummer aus einem Pool von, sagen wir, 10 – 10.000 Telefonnummern auf der Seite angezeigt. Das System des Anbieters speichert, welche Nummer welchem Besucher zugeordnet wurde und im Falle eines eingehenden Anrufs wird für diesen Besucher eine Conversion gezählt. Sobald die letzte Nummer des Pools zugewiesen wurde, beginnt das System wieder mit der ersten Nummer, wodurch alle Nummern immer wieder verwendet werden. Mit diesem System können Anrufe bis zur Keyword Ebene zurückverfolgt werden, wobei weniger Nummern benötigt werden, als im Fall der Individuellen Telefonnummer.

Bei der Verwendung dieser Art von Tracking ist es wichtig, dass der Pool groß genug ist, sodass Nummern nicht neu zugeordnet werden, bevor der potentielle Kunde anruft. In einigen Fällen könnte es passieren, dass der Besucher erst zwei Tage später anruft und dies muss bei der Wahl der Größe des Pools in Betracht gezogen werden.

Vorteile
Tracking bis auf Keyword Ebene, Kosten sind niedriger als mit individuellen Telefonnummern.

Nachteile
Aufgrund der Wiederverwendung der Telefonnummern kann es zu Fehlern bei der Zuordnung der Conversions kommen. Einige Besucher könnten die Nummer sogar speichern und zu einem späteren Zeitpunkt wieder verwenden, woraufhin das System die Conversion dem falschen Besucher zuordnen würde.

Conventional conversion tracking scripts

Tracking systems like Google Analytics offer a wide range of options for measuring conversions. They usually work on the basis that, when a visitor visits a certain page or a certain interaction takes place, the software logs a conversion.
In the case of telephone calls, the conversion (interaction) takes place outside of the website and therefore cannot be measured.

In the case of telephone calls, the conversion (interaction) takes place outside the website and can therefore not be measured.

How It Works
When a person visits the website, a number from a pool of, shall we say, 10 – 10,000 telephone numbers is displayed on the site. The provider’s system records which number has been assigned to which visitor and, in the event of an incoming call, a conversion is logged for this visitor. When the last number in the pool has been assigned, the system starts again with the first number, meaning that all the numbers are reused again and again. With this system, calls can be traced to keyword level, and fewer numbers are required than with the individual telephone number option.

If using this type of tracking, it is important to make sure that the pool is large enough that numbers are not reassigned before the potential customer calls. In some cases, the visitor might only call two days later. This must be taken into account when choosing the size of the pool.

.

Advantages
Tracking down to keyword level, costs are lower than with individual phone numbers.

Disadvantages
Due to the reuse of phone numbers, errors can occur in the assignment of conversions. Some visitors might even save the number and reuse it at a later time, whereupon the system would assign the conversion to the wrong visitor.

Identification codes

You could also create a simple tracking solution by using unique identification codes on the website.
How It Works
If you place a unique identification code on your site for each visitor, which is visible to the caller, a telephone adviser or receptionist can simply ask for the number during the call. A statement like the following could be used: “To enable us to give you the best possible service, please tell us the 5-digit code that you can see on our website.”
Using the new Google AdWords feature, which allows you to import conversion data, this can even be combined with Google Click ID. However, you may also want to include SEO data.

Advantages
This method requires time for the programming, but the costs should be lower than if purchasing a large quantity of numbers that you would have to pay for monthly.

Disadvantages
The biggest challenge is collecting data. It is easy for salespeople to forget to collect data.

Further notes on telephone tracking

It is important to understand that no system is error-free. Compared to Google Analytics and conventional website tracking tools, telephone tracking is a young software and the tools are therefore not yet as sophisticated as some marketing specialists are used to. However, it does provide a very interesting insight that can help you to optimize your campaigns.

In my experience, telephone tracking helps to improve the success rate – even if it does not work perfectly.

Choosing a phone tracking provider

Before you look into the different options, you should consider why you need the data and what the benefit is to you.

You can then review the options and the associated costs. This will make choosing a provider a little easier.

If you need help with telephone tracking, please contact us. Although we are not a telephone tracking provider, we can help you to find or devise the right solution. In addition to the information above, there are technical aspects that need to be taken into consideration when implementing the software.

You can then look at the options and the associated costs. This makes choosing a provider a lot easier.

If you need help regarding phone tracking, contact us. We are not a phone tracking provider. But we can help you find or design the right solution. In addition to the above information, there are also technical aspects to consider when implementing the software.

Nov 18, 2021

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