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.

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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 a 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:

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:

  • 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.

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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.

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.

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