When Should You Use a Google Tracking Number?

AdWords is an expensive undertaking.  Much of the value of hiring a manager like ourselves is to have some peace of mind knowing you’re spending your dollars wisely and getting the best ROI possible. As a AdWords management company we’ve primarily focused on working with local businesses.  In doing so we’ve found that the needs of our clients don’t always align with the technical solutions Google offers. Google tries its best to provide ways to track or increase your ROI for its users but unfortunately many times those tools are best suited to large businesses, national brands, or ecommerce websites.  For example, it offers conversion optimization automated bidding and dynamic ad targeting. And recently, they’ve started making end-roads into call tracking.

Why do AdWords call extensions exist?

AdWords has often given you the ability to add call extensions to your ads.  Call extensions are basically enhancements to your standard text ad that includes a phone number inline with your ad copy.  But originally ( yes, we’ve been around long enough to remember the good ol’ days) we were allowed to put phone numbers inside of the hardwired ad copy.  Our thought was that it was just good practice but also hopefully someone dialed straight from the ad without clicking and spend our client’s money. Google took that ability from us and insisted we use call extensions instead. The removal of phone numbers within ads occurred as mobile smartphones became more ubiquitous. As users began using their smartphones for searching Google refined it’s user interface and integration of its paid platform.  Google also enabled the ability for a “click-to-call” ad where the user can call directly from a search ad on their phone.  The merits of that function are better left for deeper discussion later on, but the concept here is that integrating call extensions into ads allowed Google to leverage the unique ability for smartphones to take one less step in contacting a business.

Click to Call is great for local services

For plumbers, lawyers, bail bonds, etc click to call can make a lot of sense.  Users may need to talk to someone quickly to find out more about the service and rates and their interest in the website may be minimal. Similarly, these are the folks that may also just call off desktop ads and go down the list without ever really clicking an ad. But there’s always been a problem. Tracking.  How do you know if a phone call received is from your paid ads? Ever since the incorporation of call extensions there have been two solutions available to small businesses. 1) Use a Google Call Tracking Number 2) Use another tracking number in tandem with script on the site and/or a landing page The pros and cons of each choice depend on what you feel like you value more as an advertiser. Option 1: Use A Google Tracking Number Google actually calls these “Google Forwarding Numbers” but they basically track calls and are reportable back to the AdWords interface.  The unfortunate component of this option is that the tracking number Google uses is a toll-free & dynamic number.  This means that a local customer will see a toll free number for a local intent search.  Our concern is that this will be less appealing than an ad with a local area code and therefore we’d lose business.  Additionally, the number will change each time so any return visitors or follow up calls may be difficult. However, this allows an easy way to determine effectiveness of campaigns.  Google is building call details into flexible conversion settings to tell an even better story about the type of call generated off the ad.  For some businesses which may not rely on hyper-localization this may be more appealing. Also, you never have to pay for another phone line as your cost is built into the click cost. Option 2: Use a 3rd Party Tracking Number This option is more expensive.  You need to buy a dedicated number or sign up for some sort of call tracking solution.  SB Search uses Marchex to track phone calls for its clients.  However, while more expensive using a call tracking platform can give you very detailed insights into your campaigns and calls.  Ironically, Google’s tracking solution doesn’t give you keyword level data. But many call tracking platforms can give you super detailed information about what keyword associated with what ad text drove a phone call.  You should expect to pay at least $99/month for a solid platform that can do this. The con of this option is that you cannot get AdWords integration data automatically, and still, any “click-to-calls” give you almost no data beyond the fact that a call came through.  You would have to have a local number dedicated to each adgroup if you wanted to get the same type of information Google’s solution gives you on Click to Call instances.

What’s the best call tracking solution for a small local business?

Given the constraints, costs, and value of tracking calls I tend to prefer using a client’s standard local phone number.  If we use call tracking I believe a 3rd party platform is best because you can record calls and order new ones easily.  For the click to call problem I feel that in tandem with the other tracking measures we can rely on the “click type” segment to tell us how many click to calls we’ve had…sure we can’t tell how long each of those lasted (because we’re not using Google’s phone number) but we can assume the person actually clicked and the phone number came up.  I’ve relied, in the past, on running tests to how many click to call click types resulted in tracked phone calls on our 3rd party platform ( I paused all other ad types and tracking numbers).  What I found was that the conversion rate of click to calls click types was about the same as those that came to the site then dialed a tracking number from the landing page; which is about 40%-50% for most home services. However, I have found success in using Google call tracking for some local clients.  The overall take away is: 1) Use Google Forwarding if you have no access to 3rd party tracking but want to get a sense of overall performance 2) Use your local number in call extensions and measure “click to call” click types (segmentation) if you have very few other forms of marketing out there 3) If you find value in getting a better sense of conversions look into investing ~$100 per month extra for great call tracking We here at SB Search are more than happy to find the right, flexible, plan for your business and needs.

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