Call tracking is a tool that enables companies to attribute offline conversions to marketing efforts, including organic and paid search. Using JavaScript and a third-party tool, marketers can track the profitability of various referral sources.

Tracking phone calls is not a new feature but it's still not widely used by small businesses. Before digital marketing, businesses could purchase additional phone numbers, which could be assigned to an advertising medium like a television commercial or billboard. Some phone directory publishers realized the value in call tracking and provided advertisers a unique phone number track calls resulting from advertising in the phone directory.

The goal hasn’t changed from the days of the phone directory: Attribute profitable action to advertising spend.

The large number of referral sources to your website can cause a tracking problem. Listing a static phone number on your website won't suffice for tracking where traffic is coming from. But injecting a snippet of code and subscribing to a call tracking service solves this issue and adds value to your marketing efforts.

How Call Tracking Works

The first step to start tracking phone calls is a developer adding a JavaScript on each page you want tracked on the site. The call tracking solution then dynamically replaces a text-based number on the website with a variable number based on the referral source. Purchasing a unique phone number for each referring medium is required to correctly track referral sources. Referring mediums can be organic Google traffic, Google AdWords traffic or any other part of your campaign like a banner ad placed on a specific industry-relevant site.

With the JavaScript added to the site and your selected referrals, site visitors coming to the site are served different phone numbers. When a site visitor calls the tracked phone number, the call redirects to your main designated line.The caller is not privy to the redirection.

Let’s now take a look at two variants of call tracking — standard and keyword-level call tracking.

Standard Call Tracking

Standard call tracking is the most cost-effective call tracking option with just the dedicated phone numbers and call minutes driving price. With this option, marketers see which medium sent converting traffic to your site and some caller information:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Time of the call
  • Duration of the call
  • Location of caller's phone number
  • Call recording

Here's a sample report from Digital Third Coast's call tracking solution.

This is some powerful information for a marketer but it leaves out one important detail — which keyword triggered the call?

Keyword Level Call Tracking

If keyword level data is information that you can't live without, you can purchase a call tracking solution that captures which keyword triggers a call. Though, you'll typically pay more for this data. When a call is attributed to a keyword, many, many more phone numbers are needed depending on your click volume. For example, a smaller PPC campaign with under 1,000 clicks/month costs about $125/month for keyword level call tracking. The data can be very useful, but will typically not come cheap.

Information versus Cost

It's important to understand what information you’ll receive through call tracking but it’s probably more important to understand how you’ll use this information.

  • If you want to know how effective your PPC campaign truly is at producing offline leads for your business, look no further than call tracking.
  • If you want to know which hours most of your paid media calls are incoming so you can limit your campaign to only profitable times of the day, then standard call tracking is probably good for you.
  • If you want to optimize your paid media campaign performance based on which keywords help produce calls, you might want to try out keyword level call tracking. Are these the same keywords that trigger online conversions? Are there any surprises? Often, a surprise or two will surface and these little gems can make your long-term ROI improve.

Regardless of which version you choose, call tracking provides some level of insight not obtainable through any of your other marketing metrics. For this reason, DTC highly recommends using call tracking to better understand your marketing efforts for both your SEO and paid media campaigns.