I believe in the old adage of “Measure and it shall improve.” We get pretty excited around here when we see new ways to improve the measurement of marketing processes. While tracking phone calls has been around for generations, the technology of phone systems and the internet are rapidly evolving. We recently installed a fully integrated system for tracking our phone conversions and we are now working with clients to help them with this process as well.
Phones in many businesses can be the majority of the value created so leaving them untracked is just wrong. As an example I have an Adwords coaching client that has very refined tracking of his phone calls. He knows that for every form that is filled out on his website 8 phone calls are made. This means his cost per lead in Adwords is overstated by almost 8 times the real cost.
History of Phone Tracking
Phone tracking has been around for a very long time. Connecting calls to marketing investments started about the time someone thought of asking “How did you hear about us?” My guess is that was probably shortly after Alexander Graham Bell said; “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” Fast forward 137 years to radically changed systems that allows us to link advertising directly to a phone call.
Today’s technology varies in implementation, but it allows us to dynamically change the phone number given to the visitor on a website based on the source of the traffic. In our implementation we separated the paid and organic traffic from all other sources. You can take this concept even farther if you wish. As the complexity increases so do the costs, but at the most basic level I think every business should track paid traffic separately from other sources. It is very possible to break inbound calls down by campaign, ad group, or keyword although I have to question the value of this. Just because you can technically do it does not mean it makes good business sense to invest the time and money to make that happen. For most small businesses simply knowing the real ROI of your marketing investment is enough for the first generation of this technology.
Implementing Phone Tracking
What happens in this process is that you insert a snippet of code into the webpage and that sets the phone number based on the source of the traffic. The phone call then routes through the service and in our set up it whispers through the phone the word “paid” or “organic” based on the source of the traffic. This allows us to know how the caller got our number and what site they were looking at. We have an industry specific site for Plumbers because they are a big segment of our business, so when a call comes from that website the whisper word is “plumber” or “plumber paid.”
Connecting Phone Calls to Analytics
The phone system also integrates with Google Analytics using virtual pages. A virtual page is one that does not physically exist but is written into Analytics based on an event happening. In this case it writes a virtual page connected to the event of dialing the phone! The Universal version has a concept of a historical path in the data and can connect to prior sessions. This would allow us to see that a person arrived via an ad, read a few pages, came back as direct traffic, then as organic traffic, and then called us. This technology has lots of ways that it can be broken, like the use of another device, but it is evolving quickly and getting better with each generation. Since Analytics can be tied back to AdWords using goals triggered by these virtual pages we can get conversions in AdWords caused by a phone call event.
Phone Call Reporting
The tracking and reporting system allows us to go back and look at the summary of calls and their sources. If we chose to record the calls we can even listen to them as part of this reporting. This can help in the creation of a phone training program. There are many values you can get from these systems.
Phone Tracking System Costs
If you consider a phone call to be an event of value to your business then measuring it should be something you consider. The basic cost of the system we implemented is $75 a month and includes 1,000 minutes. The amount of minutes included in the plan is something to watch out for. In our investigation we found other services that looked cheaper but they either had no minutes or very few so if you had even a modest flow of calls they ended up costing more. The other variable to watch is the cost per line and the number of included lines.
The main point here is that the more we know the smarter we can be in the decisions we make. Leaving a large portion of the conversions untracked can result in erroneous decisions being made by the marketing team.