11 Oct 2011

Tracking Phone Calls for Better AdWords ROI

October 11, 2011PPC Advertising

We can thank the Internet for giving us the resources to track enormous amounts of data. Unfortunately, the only reliable data that is easily tracked is that which comes from direct online activity. When the customer leaves the site to complete a transaction, whether it be over the phone or in-store, it becomes increasingly difficult to track where that customer originally came.
Fortunately there are five ways to track phone calls from your website. You can either code in-house or hire outside vendors. You just need to be aware of the cost and potential data loss that may result depending on which method you choose.
Static & Dynamic Phone Numbers

One way to get accurate data is by using unique phone numbers for each ad group, keyword, campaign or entire account. If you choose to take this route, you’ll have to decide whether to use static or dynamic numbers. Static numbers take less work, but you will have to hard code the numbers to be specific to a page. This means that you have to be aware of the different ways people can navigate to that page. If there are multiple ways to access the page from other sites then you will not get the most accurate tracking about which sources led to certain phone calls.

If you choose dynamic numbers, you will have to be careful about isolating the numbers and making it possible to decipher from which pages the calls were triggered. Some people add an additional set of parameters to their links in AdWords, while others choose to attach cookies so that they can see the clicking paths users have taken to access information. When done correctly, this is the most accurate way to track phone call traffic, however, the set-up is demanding and it can prove to be costly if you hire an outside vendor.
Phone Extensions

Your next option is very similar to the aforementioned except you use unique phone extensions instead of entire unique phone numbers. Be aware that the static and dynamic rules are still applicable, along with additional guidelines. Make sure that your service allows you to use multiple extensions before selecting this method. If this is doable, then this option can prove to be less expensive, and just as efficient as using entirely unique numbers. Do take note that some customers may be deterred by having to enter extensions after making the initial call.

Code Identifiers

You can avoid some of the costs of buying multiple phone lines and using Code Identifiers instead. This method relies on having a trained person or automated service at a calling center that directs calls based on fixed codes that appear underneath the main number on a website. This method can save money, but human error can affect the overall accuracy of tracking.

Confidence Factors

If you find that your PPC campaigns are already generating a significant amount of phone calls, then you may want to consider utilizing Confidence Factors. Confidence Factors refer to tracking the clicks and certain parameters (such as time stamping). Using these factors you can measure the likelihood of each keyword instigating a call. If you have thousands of keywords and only one phone number this is a good method. Over time, you may even be able to distinguish where keywords have more success geographically, or by other demographics. In order for this method to work, you need to already be trafficking a high level of phone activity, otherwise significant data loss will occur.

Phone Number Pools
If you are not already generating thousands of calls, but you like the approach of using Confidence Factors, then you may decide to use phone number pools to track your keyword or ad group success. The selection of phone numbers will be smaller than the total number of keywords/ad groups/campaigns that you are tracking, so when a click occurs it will be assigned one of the phone numbers in the pool for a limited amount of time. After that time lapses, the number will return to the number pool to be used by the next keyword that spurs a click. Depending on the amount of traffic you are currently drawing you may need to buy several numbers, which can lead to high costs up front. You may also have a large error rate, but as your pool of numbers grows larger, your margin of error should lessen.
AdWords Call Metrics
At the very least, you may just choose to enable Call Metrics within your Google AdWords accounts to retrieve Campaign level data. It is easily set-up within your AdWords account and gives you certain call statistics such as call duration and caller area code. There is a fee for these calls, but at a dollar each it may be the most affordable call tracking option available to you. For a more detailed description of AdWords Call Metrics, check out the blog article: Google Charging for Call Metrics.
Much like the rest of your AdWords Account set up, your method for tracking phone call traffic is highly customizable. Depending on where you currently are in your campaigns you may decide to embark on finding a more detailed summary, or you may choose to get basic feedback about what campaigns are triggering more calls than others. From here, you can hone down your approach to make sure that you are using the most effective keywords to gain conversions.