What You Need to Know About Call Tracking & Local SEO

Over the past few years I’ve read several blog posts and local SEO articles warning about the use of call tracking numbers. The headlines of these pieces range from a general warning like “Be Wary of Call Tracking Numbers in Local Search” to more expressive headlines like “Why Call Tracking Numbers in Local SEO Make Me Angry”. Still others purport to give you “The Truth” on call tracking for local SEO.

So, why all the fuss about call tracking and local SEO?

First, because call tracking is seeing widespread adoption by data-driven SMBs and their marketing agencies; and second, because certain companies have used call tracking in ways that can be risky to local SEO visibility.

Why is call tracking being adopted by data driven marketers?

Working in local SEO for the past several years I’ve seen call tracking become the most valuable means of measuring a local search campaign’s effectiveness. Click-to-call functionality on mobile devices is behind the recent surge of inbound phone calls to local businesses across North America. Scores of surveys and studies show that customers are calling local businesses directly from search results and directories, without ever visiting the business’s website. Measuring ways that marketing dollars come back in the form of paying customers is becoming big business. These are just a few of the circumstances that have been driving the adoption of call tracking technology.

How have companies been using call tracking in ways that are risky?

The problems with call tracking and local SEO others have written about have more to do with ill-advised uses or practices than the technology itself. There’s nothing inherently contradictory about tracking phone calls with software and carrying out a successful local search campaign.  Below I’ve summarized a few things to be curious about as you begin to use call tracking for your local SEO efforts.

  1. NAP Consistency:  The most cited concern by far in the various ‘warning’ pieces about this matter has to do with the consistency of a business’s Name, Address, and Phone number around the web. Because some search engines use consistency of this information as a ranking signal, it’s important that the phone number is the same around the web. This includes directories like Yelp & YP in addition to maps listings on Google+ Local and Bing Local.  Avoid this problem by using your existing phone number or by updating all your citations across the web with your new call tracking number.  Keep in mind it’s completely free to port an existing business number into CallRail. How to port your phone number to CallRail.
  2. Phone Number Ownership:  Who owns the phone number that is being displayed to your prospective customers? If you don’t own it, then make sure the ownership is portable in case you decide to part ways with the company providing the number to you.  All of CallRail’s numbers are portable. More info here.
  3. Existing or Repeat Customers:  When you begin using call tracking for local SEO, you need to remember that many existing customers rely on a search engine to provide them your number when they call your business. Avoid counting existing customers in your campaign metrics by focusing on a metric like “First Time Callers”. If your marketing agency is using call tracking to measure performance, ask them for a report that shows first time callers instead of total call volume. First Time Callers is a better metric for finding out how many new customers your local SEO campaign is producing.  CallRail’s main dashboard can quickly filter for First Time Callers by clicking on “All Calls” and then selecting “First Time Callers”.

Want more info on how to setup call tracking for local SEO?  I recently worked with Mike Blumenthal on a conservative guide to using call tracking for local search.