Call Tracking

A lot of brick-and-mortar businesses still interact with their customers over the phone.

As a customer, I’d call my neighborhood café to order a cake rather than email them. I’d call a local interior designer to book a consultation rather than fill in a sign-up form on her website. Google knows this and in 2014, they introduced a special type of ad, called the click-to-call ad. 70% of mobile searchers have called a business directly from their ad! Consumers make more than 40 million calls directly from Google ads every month!

Google click to call extension on a mobile text ad

Of course, there is a way to count how many people call you after looking at your ad.

This clever piece of technology is called “website call conversion tracking”. Yes, the low-tech way is to just check your call log and count the number of times the phone rings. However, Google’s tech does much more than that. Besides just counting the number of calls you receive, you can track the specific ads that lead to those calls. Like any other conversion tracking, you will learn which specific keywords, ads, ad groups and campaigns are leading to call conversions. Explore AdWords to see how you can set these up.

Google call tracking explained using a table
Without call tracking, all of the visitors would see the same phone number on the website. You won’t be able to differentiate between the different visitors that come onto your site. You can’t grill each caller about what keywords they typed into the Google search bar! It is costly to set up multiple different phone lines for each type of customer too. This is where Google’s forwarding numbers come in.

How do website call conversions work?

You put up an ad, say, a fancy one with call extensions.

This means that there’s a phone number displayed on your ad, and if it’s displayed on a smartphone, there’s a clickable call button too. A customer sees your ad and decides to call you straight away. He clicks on the phone number on the ad and gives you a call. This call is recorded as a “call conversion.”

Maybe another customer would like to check out your website first. He clicks on the same ad and gets sent to your website. After learning more about your business, he has decided to call you. They’ll call the number displayed on your website and Google records it as a “call conversion”. This call conversion is attributed to the keyword and the ad that drove the customer.

Every user that clicks on your ad or visits your website is presented a Google forwarding number. This is a toll-free or local number. When customers call this number, their call will be rerouted to your business phone number. It is free for you to use Google forwarding numbers. You’ll only be charged the standard cost per click when people click the ad.

Each customer is presented a unique phone number, so that Google can trace the exact set of actions that led the particular customer to your business. Different customers would use different keywords to search for your business, or speak on the phone for different lengths of time, etc. It’s a data goldmine!

Infographic to show how keyword level call tracking works

How to set up call tracking on your own website?

From our experience, the most relevant industries for call tracking would be home services (like plumbers and renovation contractors) and professional services (like tax advisors and lawyers).

If a majority of your business is driven through phone calls, ads with phone numbers are worth a shot.

Data from DialogTech (formerly, Ifbyphone) shows that an average call with a professional services company lasts 8 minutes and has a 5.1% conversion rate!

There are two parts to this guide:
Part 1: Creating an ad that displays your business phone number
Part 2: Tracking the performance of the ads, and recording them as conversions

The process is a bit lengthy, but we’ll break down each part into easy steps.


Part 1: Creating an ad that displays your business phone number

There are two types of ads that direct customers to your phone number:

  • Regular ads with a call extension: This is your usual ad with a link to your website and your phone number.
  • Call-only ads: This is suitable for businesses with little traffic to their website.

Here are the steps to setting either of these two ads up:

Option 1a. Adding call extensions to regular ads

  1. Sign into your AdWords account.
  2. Choose which campaign you’d like to add call extensions to and select it.
  3. Go to the “Ad Extensions” tab.
  4. Select “View: Call Extensions.”
  5. Click the red button labelled “+ Extension.”
  6. Enter a phone number. You can click “+ New phone number” or select one from a list, if you’ve already set one up before.
  7. Select “Report phone call conversions.” You’ll have to specify how long a call should be for it to be reported as a conversion. In our experience, 1 minute is a good number.
  8. Specify other optional settings like “Start/end dates, scheduling” if you want to limit phone calls to a certain timeframe each day. You wouldn’t want anyone calling at 2am!
  9. Click “Save”.

Option 1b: Creating a call-only campaign

  1. Sign into your AdWords account.
  2. Click “+ Campaign” and select “Search Network Only”
  3. Choose the campaign type “Call-only—Ads that encourage people to call your business.”
  4. Specify other settings like Networks, Location Targeting and Bid Strategy, as you would in a regular campaign. Learn how to set up a new campaign in 5 minutes.
  5. Click “Save and Continue”.

Quick Tip

Deciding which type of ad to go for?

We usually recommend call extensions (Option 1a), especially if you have a website that customers can refer to. If you have a great mobile site, or you’re a food-delivery company and a majority of your customer’s purchasing journey occurs over the phone, then you could go for call-only ads. You should also know that call-only ads can appear only on devices capable of making calls.

Part 2: Tracking the performance of these ads

On the first level, you can track the calls as you would do with normal ads (jump to the main section: conversion tracking). You look at the number of phone calls, and click-through rates in your report (This statistic can be found by selecting the following links: Campaigns > Segment > Click Type > Mobile clicks-to-call).

You’ll want to dive a little deeper. This is when the second layer of monitoring comes in—tracking to see which calls result in a conversion. This is a little monster of a process of its own.

First, you’ll need to activate call conversion tracking on your AdWords account:

  1. Sign into AdWords. Click the “Tools” tab, then select “Conversions” from the drop-down menu.
  2. Click “+ Conversion” and select the “Phone Calls” option.
  3. Select “Calls from call-only ads or ads using call extensions.”
  4. Enter a name, value, call length, count, conversion window and category.
  5. Click “Include in “Conversions”” for this data to appear in your reports.
  6. Click “Save and Continue.”
  7. Edit your call extension or call-only ad to include a Google forwarding number. Just check your ads to make sure that it is showing the right phone number.

Secondly, you’ll need to add a snippet of code to your website. Grab hold of the person in charge of your website. He or she will have to do two things:

  1. Add the conversion tracking tag on your web page, similar to conversion tracking tags for regular ads.
  2. Add a Javascript snippet to display your Google forwarding number. This is so that every customer is presented a unique, trackable phone number.


Technical tips regarding implementation for webmasters

  • It would make your life much easier if you paste both pieces of code in the <head> section of your web page. You can convert the Javascript code from Google’s instruction to CSS script, to look like this:
 window.onload=_googWcmGet('number', '1-800-123-4567');
  • Remember to assign a class statement to every instance of the phone number. The CSS class is a ‘number’.
  • Make sure that the CSS class statement is not already used on the page. If so, just add another class statement.
  • Check whether they are properly implemented with Google’s Tag Assistant. This is a Chrome extension that will confirm that Google’s tracking scripts are added correctly.
  • If you want to only assign conversions to actual sales, you should check out Google’s offline conversion import. It allows you to store Google’s unique click ID (gclid) in your CRM and consolidate data between Google and your CRM.

Quick Tip

Remember to test the code to make sure that it is working!

First, you’ll have to wait for an hour before your ads are enabled. Then, run a Google search to bring up your ad and click on the ad. You should see your own phone number replaced with the Google forwarding number.

Quick Tip

If your customer calls in using the Google forwarding number, you cannot view a Caller ID.

In other words, you won’t have the phone number of who’s calling. Remember to ask your customer for it, politely, if you need to call them back later.

Quick Tip

The Google forwarding number only lasts for 90 days.

If your transaction is going to last for longer than that, remember to give your customer your business phone number. Also take note that the conversion reported in your dashboard is only for 90 days after the customer clicked on your ad.

How to optimise your ads using call conversion data?

Firstly, you’ll want to identify which keywords and ads are driving the most phone calls from your website.

This would be the same strategy you’d use for evaluating ads based on other types of conversions. You’ll look at the column on Number of Calls and Conversion Rate. If the conversion rate is higher, that keyword is more valuable to you.

For example, if you’re a florist, you may find that customers calling from your “phone order” page is more valuable than customers who calls from the “general enquiries” page. The keywords directing customers to the phone orders becomes more valuable to you. To differentiate between different calls, you can assign different conversion values to calls originating from different pages on your website.

Then, you may want to evaluate the quality of the calls themselves:

  • Another analysis would be understanding how long calls last. Maybe calls that last longer than two minutes tend to lead to sales. You’d refine your conversion length.
  • You can check where your customers are calling from (with the area code). If most of your customers are calling from the 0114 area code, you should think about targeting ads to Sheffield, where the calls come from.
  • You should also run a quick sanity check. The reports display the status of the calls, whether they were missed or received. If a large number of calls are missed, you’ve got to hire a receptionist!
Screenshot of customising AdWords call details columns
You can customise the report to include all sorts of details about each call. In this screenshot, I’ve selected “phone impressions”, which is the number of times my number was displayed on ads and phone calls, which is the number of times the number is called.

You can optimise your keywords bids to drive more calls by using advanced flexible bid strategies.

For example, Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition bidding) adjusts your bids so that you reach customers who are more likely to call. Target ROAS (return on ad spend) will help you adjust your keyword bids to meet a custom target return.