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Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 1
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In quite a few campaigns I need to track phone calls made by "manually keying" phone calls.  Not everyone is searching on a mobile phone; and if they are using a desktop/mobile computer, many are more likely to key the number they see on the screen into their phone - whether it be a desktop phone or cell phone. 

 

Until recently I was operating under the misunderstanding that by using a fixed Google voice # in the banner of a landing page and/or site, that would be accomplished.  But i recently learned that is not the case.  So I investigated a little further and learned that I should be using Google tracking numbers, which display temporary tracking numbers pulled from a rotating pool into the ad extension (call extension).  I was also under the impression that i could imbed html into the site which would also display a forwarding number from a rotating pool, making calls to that number trackable even if the number weren't "clicked" to call.  

 

However I just spoke to Google support and learned that even if I imbed Google tracking numbers into the banner of a website, they will still only track calls which are made by clicking on the number -- NOT the calls which are made by manually keying in the number. If this is correct, it creates a major problem with my ability to track conversions in campaigns.  Surely, it must not be?

 

So my question: is there a way to track ALL calls generated by an AdWords campaign, INCLUDING those which are keyed into a phone without clicking on the site? In many campaigns, around half of the traffic is from desktops and laptops which are not equipped to make telephone calls from clicks (no Mic; speakers not working, etc). So if i cannot track calls coming in from manually keyed phone calls, i'm not effectively tracking conversions. 

 

Out of interest in this general topic, I went through a sales presentation from one of the leading 3rd party provider of call tracking a couple of months back, and it seemed they could do this.  But now I'm wondering if perhaps they glossed over this important detail, of tracking manually keyed phone calls. Hopefully either Google, or a 3rd party provider is able to do so. 

 

This is a topic where my knowledge is more lacking than I thought, so I would appreciate someone filling me in as to what the actual capabilities are.

 

TIA

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Re: Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 2
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@Steve B;

A few scenarios here: lets start from the network: display network call extensions are shown only on mobile (not laptops or desktops...) - hence no reporting whether ad clicked or not;

For Google  forwarding number to work  a click is essential - so Google can  assign /track  the call back to the ad.  If the number is "keyed" Google can't  track the call back to an ad. Even if  a forwarding number shown on the website, a click must precede  the call (and in this sectarian - the conversion is not recorded - just the click).

So if you are tracking calls from desktops, a 3rd party product is the solution

https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2453991?hl=en

[edit] typo

 

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 3
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Thanks Moshe.  I'm pretty sure when you said "a clock is essential" you meant click, right?  I want to be sure because one way to attribute manually-keyed calls, when using a phone # bank with unique numbers, would be to correlate them in time with a Google search query event. That would likely required a shared reference clock; so might not work unless it was all done by Google.

 

Sounds like Google does not track ANY calls as a result of a call being made. The only tracking is via clicks on call buttons (mobile) or phone #'s inserted into landing pages or headers, correct?  If that is the case then i now have a strong reason to pursue a 3rd-party solution for many of my campaigns - those where valuable leads come in by phone calls generated from desktop/laptop PPC ads.  Many campaigns for services have leads coming in by phone where the value of a sale is thousands of dollars, and the close rate is 75% north. So if I'm not optimizing the campaign for those down to the keyword level... that's not good.

 

I feel like I should have figured this out sooner!  On the other hand, i'm getting the feeling that most PPC pros don't really understand this rather significant limitation in AdWords conversion tracking yet. Even Google support reps, i must have asked them about it ten times over the past 18 months; and none of them were able to definitively answer the question. That is quite unusual, in my experience, since they are so well trained; it led me to suspect there was an "aha" lurking for me, with regard to my understanding of call tracking.

 

I'm eager to learn more if others have insights or observations to share! imho this is an IMPORTANT topic for anyone who wants to optimize AdWords campaigns where valuable leads come in by telephone. Once i have a thorough understanding I am going to write a blog post about it, which I'll refer clients to before i twist their arm to use 3rd party call conversion tracking.  In the past i never thought it was worth it; and pushed them to use Google voice #'s thinking they were tracking this activity.  WRONG! -- and "my Bad".

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Accepted by topic author Steve B
December 2016

Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 4
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@Steve B;

This should have been, of course, "click". (A typo  by the new version of the  "machine learning" proof reading tool I'm using.... Smiley Surprised I have had similar  typos in other posts. It will take a while until the tool recognizes my tying style.... Smiley Surprised )

 

Now, I think that  strategically,  Google sees a conversion as an online conversion taking place on a mobile device, and is keen to drive  users towards this funnel. Hence, Google is more  focused on an attribution modeling of measuring online   cross device conversions. (And the "integration"  of offline /  physical world conversions is left to the business, through a CRM platform.)

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 5
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Yep I have no doubt Google has great reasons for making online "click driven" conversions a priority. I have learned by observation over the years that Google does not make decisions or tradeoffs by accident, or in any way haphazardly!  They are data driven and I have no doubt the rationale is quite sound.

 

For me this is a positive discovery as it explains some open "mini-mysteries" while opening up an opportunity to provide enhanced services to some accounts, where the "manually keyed" phone call conversion tracking is a crucial aspect. 

 

Thanks for providing additional detail, clarity, and insights re: this issue!

Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 6
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OK I thought I finally had this issue figured out, so i recommended to the client that we utilize a 3rd-party call tracking provider, in order to capture and track manually-keyed calls.  However, a member of the client's team is challenging it stating that Google's documentation states the tracking is keyed to the actual phone call.  That was my prior understanding and their documentation does seem to imply it.  Here is what the client sent:

---

 

Can you explain this a bit more? 
 
Based on what I've found from the Google Adwords docs it seems like Google does offer the ability to track calls that are manually entered into a phone from a website: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/6095883?hl=en
 
Basically they provide a Javascript snippet that replaces the default phone number on a website with a dynamically generated one that's linked to the ad - and when you call that number it will count as a conversion for that ad and keyword.
 
What does [the third party call provider] add on top of that? 
 
Also, as far as Google's functionality goes, there shouldn't be a difference between whether you manually "key" the number into the phone or you click a number that activates your phone's call functionality. The attribution on Google's end happens when you actually connect a call to the dynamically generated number, not when you click the ad. For example, you can even set the number of seconds the call has to be connected for in order for it to be counted as a conversion:

 "8. Click CALL LENGTH. Enter the minimum length, in seconds, that a phone call needs to last to be counted as a conversion. Clien Done."
 
Let me know!
 
---
 
I want to be certain that I have this one right, do you see the reason why I'm unsure again now?  I will also inquire with the 3rd-party call tracking provider of course.  I need to get to the bottom of this one. 

Re: Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 7
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Hi @Steve B,

 

As someone who has been tracking calls online for years, let me first assure you, I know where you're coming from. If I may, I'd like to touch on a few of the topics that are floating around here, maybe it will help with some clarification.

 

1. Google Voice - My understanding is that you grabbed some Google voice numbers and set up call extensions (without Google Forwarding/Call Tracking etc..).  This is no different than using a business number, that is the number that will be displayed in your ads in the call extension.  There is no tracking on this type of setup, it's essentially (in the old language) using "My number".  

 

2. Google Forwarding Numbers (call reporting ON) - These are activated when you choose to use a call extension with call reporting ON.  In this case, every call, whether click-to-call on mobile or manually dialed calls will ALL be tracked inside of AdWords.  You can review call details reports to see the manually dialed calls vs click to call as well as gather more information on where the calls were originated in your account.  Think through the logic here, if GFN did not track manually dialed calls, why would they ever be displayed on a desktop/tablet - the likelihood of a click to call in those cases is extremely rare.  

 

3. Google website call conversions - This is another tool that you can layer on top of your call extensions for call tracking.  This is where you add the code snippet to your website to allow for dynamic changing of the phone number, again, to a GFN, on the website.  This only kicks in on ad clicks from Google though, only Google/CPC traffic. Same rules apply, click or manually dialed calls to this GFN will be tracked in AdWords.

 

4. 3rd Party Tracking - There are many providers out there and they do solve some of the call tracking issues, especially when you need to track calls on websites that originate from various sources and marketing channels.  You can set up numerous dynamic options to change the phone number on your site.  The one down side is you'll have to do some work to get these 3rd party calls to match up to your other traffic source data sets.  Sometimes it's easy and other implementations are quite sophisticated.  

 

IMO, no one has absolutely nailed call tracking yet, there are flaws in each and every system I've used.  

 

These are all valid points/questions and I'm looking forward to learning if there are any recent changes that go against what I've found to "work" up to this point.

 

Hope this helps a bit.

 

-Tommy

Tommy Sands, AdWords Top Contributor | Community Profile | Twitter | Philly Marketing Labs
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Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 8
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Thanks for a those helpful insights @PPCBossman!  That is all consistent with what I'm hearing back from the 3rd party call tracking provider i'm speaking with.  

 

As an aside, re point #2, one of the advantages the 3rd party call tracking provider is as follows: stability and ownership of the numbers used in the rotating number pool.  Google assigns numbers but they can change over time, and the persistency is for a short period.  With the 3rd party tracking, each account is assigned a block of numbers from a pool, which remains associated with that account as long as it is active; they can be counted on not to change which could route followup calls to another business.


Another issue i'm concerned about is area code assignment.  With Google voice numbers, a lot of the major US metro areas do not have numbers available in that area code.  I do not believe that Google Forwarding numbers allow you to select an area code, and they may display non-local area codes - which can damper conversions.  You did mention there are issues with all solutions; that is one of those tradeoff issues.  The Google numbers are provided without charge, which is a big plus of course.

 

With the help of Moshe this discussion has also been escalated within Google so I'm waiting for the holy grail to come down on it from the skies aboveSmiley Happy  I'll bet you nailed it though, thanks. 

Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 9
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@Steve B;

Google replied that  phone call conversions are recorded for both click-to-call (mobile) as well as manually-dialed calls on Google forwarding numbers on tablets and desktops.

 

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
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Tracking manually keyed phone calls

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# 10
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Thanks Josh, very interesting!  I appreciate your escalating that and getting a definitive answer. 

 

I am currently experimenting with a 3rd party call tracking service in one of the campaigns i manage, to compare all aspects "hands on" mode. 

 

Using Google tracking numbers is looking hard to beat for AdWords tracking.