What is call tracking?

Call tracking is the process of determining how callers found your business. Marketing and sales teams can use call tracking software to attribute phone calls to the specific marketing channels that led callers to ring your business. By knowing what makes your phone ring, you can measure the success of advertising campaigns and optimize future marketing strategy.


In this guide, we’ll cover:

The importance of tracking inbound calls

Businesses take and make calls daily, but without call tracking, businesses gain little more than who’s calling and why. While some businesses still ask the classic question of “How did you hear about us?” to see how the caller discovered their company, the caller isn’t likely to give you their first true interaction with the business.


By using call tracking software, businesses benefit by being able to tie inbound calls directly to the marketing channels and campaigns that the caller interacted with before dialing your phone number.

Benefits of call tracking include:

Marketing smarter with call attribution

Call attribution gives marketers the data they need for call-related conversions to determine which sources are driving the most calls and the most qualified leads. This information can lead to better optimized and more targeted campaigns for marketers.

The following are call tracking features marketing teams should utilize to optimize their marketing campaigns and improve their spend:

  • Dynamic Number Insertion: Dynamic number insertion assigns a unique phone number to each online source and then displays that phone number to visitors who arrive at your website via that specific source.
  • Visitor-level tracking: Visitor-level tracking uses dynamic tracking to give you the full visitor journey as users navigate to, from, and around your website.
  • Source-level tracking: Source-level tracking uses a single, unique tracking phone number for each marketing campaign you want to measure. This is best used for traditional, offline marketing.
  • Google Ads call tracking: Google Ads call tracking uses conversion tracking that shows you how many potential customers called your business after seeing or clicking one of your paid ads.
  • Multi-touch CPL report: Multi-Touch Cost per Lead report gives you a calculated cost per lead for each of your Google Ads, social ads, and more - allowing you to measure which advertising campaigns and keywords are driving the most cost-effective leads.
  • Call Attribution report: Call attribution provides insight into the marketing sources and interactions that are driving traffic and generating calls.call-attribution

Improving the customer experience

Call tracking isn’t just about knowing where your inbound calls are coming from; it’s also about knowing how those phone calls are handled. With so much competition and buyers expecting more from businesses, personalizing the customer experience is crucial to winning customers over. And many times, it begins with a phone call. Call tracking and analytics provides valuable insights into the customer experience and customer journey, allowing you to measure, report, and improve on more than marketing performance.

The following are call tracking features customer facing teams should utilize for a better customer experience:

  • Whisper messaging: Whisper messages are a brief greeting that informs the person answering the phone which marketing campaign prompted a phone call before they’re connected to the caller.
  • Call recording: Call recording allows businesses to record incoming and outgoing telephone calls for use in training, marketing, and other analyses.
  • Call monitoring: Call monitoring is the process of listening to live or previously recorded calls in order to audit the performance of call representatives, improve sales or marketing efforts, and score the call for leads.
  • Custom IVR system: IVR systems allow businesses to route every call to the right person, every time.CallRail's-Call-Flow-Builder
  • Automated call scoring: Call scoring is an evaluation of phone call data against a defined performance standard, usually for the purpose of scoring customer service agents.
  • Call by Day & Time report: Call by Day & Time reporting provides details on the number of calls received each day, allowing businesses to understand peak call time throughout the week and staff appropriately to reduce missed calls.calls-by-day-and-time-report

How does call tracking work?


Modern call tracking works using cookies and dynamic number insertion to track online activity and campaign level call tracking to assign each offline marketing piece its own tracking number. Phone calls that come from these unique call tracking numbers will forward to your main business line.

Location based businesses can also set up a main line tracking number to ensure that calls to their main line are tracked. This all-encompassing tracking allows businesses to work toward a better overall picture of their marketing efforts and what's driving leads.

You can then see which marketing channel and marketing campaigns are generating more inbound phone calls. In addition to tracking the source of the call, you’ll also gain access to call metadata such as:

  • Caller’s name, number, and location
  • Call recordings
  • Call transcriptions
  • Visitor timeline (timeline of every interaction the caller had with your site and marketing efforts)

Who should use call tracking?

Call tracking works for practically any industry, including automotive, marketing agencies, home service professionals, and even those industries that require HIPAA compliance. Large enterprise businesses trying to track sales and marketing data and small businesses looking to improve their local SEO both can benefit from call tracking software. Essentially any business that is running multiple campaigns and looking to see where their traffic and leads originated. Small companies with no website who get their business solely by word of mouth are probably the only category of business that does not need a call tracking platform to learn where their business came from-they can benefit the most from the "How did you hear about us?" method.


How much does call tracking cost?

The price of call tracking software varies greatly depending on your business needs and use cases. Call tracking plans are usually separated into multiple tiered plans and can start at as little as $30/month or as much as several hundred dollars a month.

Like other SaaS applications, call tracking software is subscription based and is typically billed monthly. It is important to note that while some call tracking providers do include phone numbers and monthly minutes in their initial fee, other providers do not and charge per phone number and per minute from the start.

Questions to ask when looking into call tracking software providers

  1. Is the solution HIPAA, PCI, or GDPR compliant?
  2. Does the solution integrate with my martech stack?
  3. Can the call tracking solution offer call recording and transcriptions?
  4. Does the call tracking software offer AI powered call analytics to
  5. Do you offer both toll-free and local phone numbers?
  6. Can I take my phone numbers with me if I discontinue the service?
  7. How responsive is their support team, should I need it?
  8. Does the software enable call monitoring for quality assurance?
  9. Does this call tracking vendor have auto response so I don’t miss any leads that come in by text or go to voicemail?

Call tracking FAQ

1. When did call tracking start?

Call tracking in some form has existed since telephones were first invented and used for business. While it was rudimentary compared to current methods, businesses have been asking, "How did you hear about us?" to first time callers for a century. By asking their customers how they discovered the company, business owners could attribute the client to a specific action or marketing campaign.

Fast forward to today, and many businesses still use the "how did you hear about us?" method to determine what is driving the most calls and new customers. However, depending on a customer’s word and memory as to how they found your phone number could lead to misattribution.

Asking a caller how they got your phone number leads to information about which of a company’s campaigns are performing well, but it could also lead to misattribution. Chances are that the customer probably had more than one touchpoint before converting and making the call. Their answer to how they got your information is typically the last touchpoint they encountered. This is called Last Touch Attribution and gives 100% of the credit for a sale or a conversion to the last touchpoint a customer encountered.

2. How has call tracking evolved?

Early call tracking software allowed marketers to set tracking phone numbers for their marketing campaigns and count how many calls each campaign brought in. Each type of campaign–online and offline–got it’s own tracking number. Newspaper ads had a different number than billboards or radio ads. And PPC ads had different numbers than those from the company’s website. The number the customer called showed which source drove the conversion.

All these sources face the last-touch attribution problem. These days customers are likely going to encounter a business’s sales and marketing efforts multiple times before they actually pick up the phone. A customer might see a Facebook ad, search the business on Google, click a PPC ad, and then see a retargeting ad later in their online experience. How can marketers attribute the weight that all these encounters deserve?

The solution is multi-channel lead attribution. Modern call tracking software uses cookies and dynamic number insertion to track online activity and campaign level call tracking to assign each offline marketing piece its own tracking number. Location based businesses can also set up a main line tracking number to ensure that calls to their main line are tracked. This all-encompassing tracking allows businesses to work toward a better overall picture of their marketing efforts and what’s driving leads. The whole journey would be tracked of the example customer who started with a Facebook ad and ended with retargeting. The marketers would know that more than just one element was part of the reason that user finally converted and made the call–a far cry from the “How did you hear about us?” days.

Check out our 10 year anniversary celebration where our team talks the evolution of call tracking and beyond.

3. What is dynamic number insertion?

Dynamic number insertion (also referred to as DNI) is a call tracking feature that assigns a unique phone number to each online source and then displays that phone number to visitors who arrive at your website via that specific source.

4. What marketing channels should I use call tracking for?

To really get a sense of any campaigns success, call tracking should be used for both online and offline efforts.

Offline efforts Online efforts
Yellow pages Google Ads PPC
Direct mail Microsoft Ads PPC
Print ads Organic search results
TV & radio commercials Online directories
Flyers & brochures Social media pages
Billboards Web referrals

5. Does call tracking affect local SEO?

In short, no. Call tracking numbers do not affect local SEO and NAP consistency. It's a common misconception that call tracking can undo all your local SEO wins. If done incorrectly, it can interfere with your NAP consistency. However, CallRail's Advanced Guide to Local SEO, DNI, & NAP Consistency shows that, when set up and modeled correctly, local SEO will not be affected by call tracking numbers.