Marketing – How to Track Conversions By Telephone

July 10, 2012 by  Filed under: Marketing 

Conversion tracking is the process by which you can associate conversions (the completion of a certain action) with specific visitors that arrive at your website. In a general sense, conversion tracking also applies to offline media as well, but for our purposes in this article we will only look at it from an Internet perspective. One of the most common uses of conversion tracking is in the management of a paid search account, where the data is used to improve account performance by allocating more of the budget to the best performing ads and keywords. But no matter where the traffic comes from, you want to track it. You want to know exactly where your converting visitors are coming from.

The more specific and well-defined the conversion, the easier it is to track. For instance, if your website sells products, you can track revenue in dollars back to the exact search queries that generated the sales. But it gets a lot murkier when you provide a service where the actual sale takes place offline, such as with a law firm or other service business. The typical law firm website will have one or more contact forms for getting in touch with the firm, but there is no monetary transaction taking place. You cannot track a particular number of dollars back to the search queries that generated them. You can, however track that a conversion (form submission) took place.

It gets even more difficult when your visitors call you instead of filling out your contact form. Now there is nothing at all that ties the conversion to a specific query…

… unless you use call tracking!

Call tracking is an old direct marketing concept, but one that works very well for online commerce. The idea is that you give a different phone number to different groups of people, so that you know who is calling you based on what number is called. In traditional direct marketing, this was a good way to split-test different offers or sales messages. You could take your list, divide it in half, present each half a different offer with its own phone number, and then measure the calls to each number to determine which half worked best. This same idea can be used with online marketing.

To use call tracking with search marketing, you have to have a call tracking service – basically a company that can supply you with lots of phone numbers. It really doesn’t make any difference what the phone numbers are. Numbers may even change dynamically for the same ads or keywords, depending on how the system works.

There are call tracking services that can be used with paid search platforms that can track calls back to specific ads or keywords. They can vary significantly in their cost and sophistication. Basically, the more granularity and detail you want in your reporting, the more it is going to cost you. A different number may have to be used for every single keyword and ad, which can result in the necessity for a lot of phone numbers. But again, the more detail you have, the better.

A typical price for call tracking will be a flat rate per number, possibly as low as $1, plus a per-minute fee, which may be a nickel or less. But if you are tracking calls all the way back to keywords, you might need 500 – 1,000 numbers (depending on the size of your account), so even if you only average one hour of calls per day, you would still be looking at a fee well north of $500 per month. So using call tracking at a detailed level requires a serious commitment to improving your online advertising performance.

Call tracking does not have to be done at a keyword level to be useful. Tracking at an ad level is a great way to test ad copy. Online, conversion rate is a much better guide than click-through rate for measuring an ad’s effectiveness. Minus a tracking phone number, you do not have a true conversion rate in many cases.

Displaying a different phone number on your website depending on where the visitor came from requires the use of a script to be placed in your website code. The complexity of the script will depend on what it is intended to do. One very simple script that we have used recently is demonstrated below:

if (document.referrer.indexOf(‘’) > -1){

document.write(‘(615) 123-4567’);


else {

document.write(‘(615) 765-4321’);


The above script would be placed on your website exactly where you want the phone number to appear. Obviously, this won’t work if your phone number is contained in a graphic (although the script could be modified to work in that fashion if you created a separate graphic for each phone number option). All this script does is check to see if the referrer (the previous destination) of the current visitor is a Google AdWords ad. If it is, we show one phone number. Otherwise, we show the default phone number. This script would only be used to compare the number of calls generated from AdWords ads to other media. But even if this is as far as you go, it’s WAY better than doing nothing at all!

AdWords also has a phone extension option that will let you place a tracking number (provided by Google itself) that appears directly on your ad. This is another way to track ads. If you use the phone extension, a contact form with a conversion tracking script, and an on-site call tracking service as discussed above, you will have all your bases covered and should be able to do a pretty good job figuring out where your conversions are coming from.

Certainly the call tracking concept can be applied to offline media, since that is where the idea started in the first place. Let’s say you want to test two different sales letters. You would simply purchase two different call numbers and use one number for each sales letter. Assuming the letters were sent to approximately equal groups, then you would know which letter was most successful by which phone number received the most calls.

Call tracking is a very powerful and fundamental marketing tool that is applicable to both online as well as offline media. It is a tool that can provide solid data as to an ad or campaign’s effectiveness when there is no other data with which to make a decision. Depending on the complexity of your call tracking needs, it is also a marketing tactic that should not break the bank.

Jerry Work is a partner in Work Media and Virtuoso Legal Marketing, sister Internet marketing companies. He has over 15 years of experience in the fields of website design, ecommerce and marketing, and has worked with companies ranging from solo law firms to multinational corporations.

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