Source Tracking vs. Visitor Tracking: What’s the Difference?

Call tracking is all about helping your business get accurate data for how new leads find you before they pick up the phone to call. Customers rarely answer the classic “How did you hear about us?” survey accurately, or they’ll often provide unhelpful answers like, “I found you on Google.” Without some form of call tracking, it’s hard for businesses to prove which marketing campaigns — online, offline, or both — are providing the best ROI.

While call tracking can seem complex at first, the premise is simple:  There’s a number the customer dials (the tracking number), along with a number to which their call is forwarded (the destination number, usually your primary business number). By analyzing which of your tracking numbers your customers call, you can know with certainty how they’re finding you.

CallRail offers two kinds of call tracking, each of which provide slightly different sets of data. Source-level tracking comes standard with every CallRail account, and is part of our baseline technology. Visitor tracking is the second type, and is an optional addition that’s best for companies that want user-specific data and more insight on how their search term bids and website pages are performing.

In short, source tracking is a way to test your overall campaign effectiveness, while visitor tracking helps better illuminate the > individual paths-to-purchase taken by customers.

Track the source of your calls today by signing up for a free 14-day trial with CallRail.

Form Tracking CTA

What is source tracking?

Source-level tracking is all about knowing which marketing campaigns (either online or offline) are driving the most calls to your business. Use source tracking to test your marketing effectiveness, or to A/B test campaigns. For example, will a billboard ad or a Google PPC ad cause more customers to call? Tracking sources lets you know which channels provide the most ROI for your marketing dollars.

To begin source tracking, you’ll manually create a new tracking number for each individual campaign source (such as newspaper ads, Google PPC ads, Yelp ads, etc.). Then, as customers call those tracking numbers, CallRail will report the source which referred them. Integrate your single source tracking with Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) to dynamically swap tracking numbers on your website. Each tracking number you create can be assigned a source (like Google Ads(AdWords), Bing Organic, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) and the correct tracking number will display when a user reaches your website via one of those sources.

For reporting, source tracking generates side-by-side comparisons of your marketing channels by Source or by Campaign, so you can invest in the channels that perform best for your company:

In this example, Google paid ads and billboards seem to be the best marketing sources for this business and the Adopt Campaign was the most successful at getting calls.

What is visitor tracking?

While source-level tracking is static, visitor tracking is dynamic — tracking the full visitor journey as users navigate to, from, and around your website. Visitor tracking is also the only way you can see conversions in Ads, matching call conversions to your keyword bids.

Visitor tracking uses the DNI integration with a group of tracking numbers (called website pools) to assign unique tracking numbers to individual customers. Once DNI is integrated, create a website pool to create a group of tracking numbers that will accommodate peak traffic times on your website.

Instead of a single tracking number determined by its source, you’ll have a pool of tracking numbers that will automatically rotate for each new visitor on your website. Once a customer calls a tracking number in your pool, the cookies collected from their visitor path will show you which keywords they used to click on a paid search ad to find you, which pages of your website they visited, and which page they were on when they made their phone call.

There are several advantages to having visitor tracking data in your CallRail reporting. First, you can refine your web design based on how new customers navigate your site and the pages that are driving the most call conversions. Secondly, keyword data helps you improve your search engine bidding strategies because you can see which search terms your customers use. Visitor tracking also stores the full visitor path in a caller timeline that you can view before, during, or after a call. Caller timelines include UTM parameters, device type, keywords, website activity, etc. Each time that customer calls or interacts with your website, their caller timeline will be updated:

Pro Tip: In Google Ads, you can customize the Destination URL for each keyword you are bidding on. Over time, having visitor-level data will help you match the right keywords with relevant, high performing pages of your website for a more sophisticated Ads bidding strategy.

For reporting, you’ll be able to view Call Attribution reports by Keyword, Referring Page, and Landing Page. You’ll also have access to Calls by Landing Page and Calls by Active Page reports:

In these examples, “puppy training” was the most successful keyword, Google was the highest performing referring page, and the homepage was the highest trafficked landing page that created calls. Read this article to learn more about how to transition from source-level to visitor-level call tracking.

Ready to start tracking calls or add visitor tracking to your current marketing strategy? Start your free 14-day CallRail trial or update your account by adding the DNI integration to start visitor tracking.