What is call tracking?
is a technology which enables the pay per call business model, allowing the tracking of phone calls to be associated with performance-based advertising, and supplying additional analytic information about the phone calls. Call tracking is a method of performance review for advertising. Wikipedia
If you have been in business long, chances are that you have used multiple phone numbers in order to track specific ad campaigns. Many of us have used this tactic in order to track where our clients are coming from. However, in this world of ever-changing Internet rules and requirements, having your business associated with more than one phone number can damage your local business listing in Google. The more phone numbers you use for tracking purposes, the more you could be penalized.
What it amounts to is this: word is getting around that Google has eliminated one of the best ad tracking tools we have. This would leave marketers and businesses flying blind and this is just not acceptable. Expert marketers and shrewd law firm owners agree that tracking is not optional, it should always be an inherent part of your marketing strategy. Below are some reasons why:
- Third-party tracking sources are not always reliable and it may be hard to tell whether your numbers are accurate. This is especially true if you outsource your marketing and someone has a vested interest in your statistics appearing better than they really are.
- Tracking is very important for anyone or any law firm that relies heavily on marketing. This is one of the main ways you are able to determine whether your efforts are actually paying off. Tracking is tangible and provides more concrete “evidence”, allowing you to decide whether or not you need to take another direction or if the current strategies are working.
- It is also important for law firms to track marketing strategies in order to determine the results-hierarchy of their efforts. This is the best and most reliable way you can prioritize your marketing endeavors, which is important for budgeting reasons as well.
Again – not tracking is simply not an option. Without tracking, you may be hesitant to stop any advertising at all for fear that the tactic you choose to stop may be just be the tactic that is working. This will only cost you money in the long run.
So what do you do?
We consulted one of our web experts, Dale Tincher, CEO of Consultwebs, and he feels call tracking is still a great tool if used properly. He advises that from a local point of view there are some guidelines law firms should follow:
- Never use call tracking numbers in your business listings/citations.
- Call tracking numbers should never be used in place of your office number when listing business information on your website (i.e. name, address, phone…).
Another thing to consider these days is what a specific site feeds. Independent websites often “scrape” information from credible sources like Yellow Pages or Foursquare, so any sites that use the data from these companies will pull that phone number. Using a different, tracked phone number on these sites will then create an incorrect listing on other websites that will have that call tracking number. Not only will this create a bad listing for the firm but it puts the call tracking number out there in other listings that may not immediately be known about. When you do find out about them you then have to take ownership of these listings and fix them. Tincher reports that his company is always finding new duplicates on Google for businesses and it’s usually because somewhere out there is a listing with different information - so it pulls that and creates a new listing automatically. This will remain an ongoing process unless all listings are cleaned up and matched.
It is important to use the local number on all listings. Mixed up name, address and phone numbers cause all kinds of problems. Tincher is seeing solid improvement for clients upon completing a citation cleanup where they go through and correct what is out there. The more variations used the more chances for duplicate and incorrect listings to pop up which can lower overall citation quality.
At the site level, call tracking is fine as long as it is implemented correctly. Keep in mind that the overall goal is to give Google as clear an indication as possible of your true business name, address and phone number (NAP). Consultwebs gives Google a very strong hint by using HTML schema markup on the website that is specifically tailored for their law firm clients (http://schema.org/Attorney).
Mike Blumenthal, a knowledgeable Google consultant, gave the following quote last May:
“On your website is one environment where you have more control and might see some interesting value to using call tracking numbers. But even there, if not done properly, it can cause immeasurable harm to your Google local results. Google uses your website as the authoritative document in tracking your local prominence. Once again the phone number is a critical glue to being sure that the correct site is associated with the correct cluster. Thus it is critical that Google always see your correct local number when they visit and scrape your site.”
So, how can this be done with call tracking? A simple way is to use an image file showing a tracking number displayed prominently for a visitor while being sure that a plain text version of your number is visible to Google in the footer of your site. Even in this situation, Tincher recommends that the footer number and the number listed on your “contact us” page accurately reflect your real local number so as not to confuse Google’s cluster of servers.
Bottom line – with some adjustments you can still use your call tracking system. Pay especially close attention to how your phone number is set up on your web page and be sure to stay abreast of Google’s policies and procedures. If you are still nervous about going it alone, there are always reputable and reliable companies like Consultwebs who can help you navigate your way.