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Breakdown of Website Call Conversions in Google AdWords (Free Call Tracking)

by | Aug 20, 2014 | Tracking | 0 comments

It’s no secret that we are exceedingly enthusiastic about call tracking at White Shark Media. We use call tracking for all clients who depend on calls as their primary or secondary revenue source.

Google has now started to offer call tracking—and it’s 100% free for the advertiser. This clearly illustrates how much average advertisers have started to depend on the ability to track their online marketing efforts. Google is definitely trying to make it easier to prove the effectiveness of Google AdWords by offering a call tracking feature within the AdWords interface.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at website call conversion tracking and how it will affect advertisers moving forward.

How Does Website Call Conversion Work?

Call tracking has always been surrounded by a bit of mystery. I think it’s the whole “code” thing—combine JavaScript code and a dynamically changing phone number and it’s easy to become confused.

At its most basic, website call conversion tracking works like this:

You install a piece of code in the top part your website (this can’t be seen by visitors to your site). You then install another piece of code around your phone number that tells the browser to change your phone number when a visitor comes from an AdWords ad.

When a user clicks on an AdWords ad, Google assigns a number that reflects that specific ad/keyword combination. This user is the only one who sees this specific phone number on your website. If the user chooses to call that number, Google can then log the action as a “call conversion,” which will be shown in your Google AdWords interface.

For details on how to install website call conversion tracking, please see this guide.

Keep in mind that website call conversion tracking only works for Google AdWords. Therefore, you won’t be able to track your SEO or other traffic sources without using a third-party solution.

How Much Does Website Call Conversion Tracking Cost?

Website call conversion tracking is free for all AdWords advertisers. Yes, you read it correctly. It’s free and confirmed by our Premier SMB Partner team.

As a PPC agency that includes call tracking in all our management plans, I know firsthand how much this costs Google. Google must have made a complex calculation that anticipates gaining advertisers on AdWords and seeing a higher average ad spend.

Comparison to Third-Party Call Tracking Providers

There is no doubt that this move by Google is an attempt to move toward creating a more extensive advertising platform. Google has been working to integrate its various purchases—Double-Click, Wildfire, and others—to create the ultimate online advertising platform. In the process, they’re probably hoping to squeeze out some of the middlemen that they are working with today.

So how are third-party call tracking providers faring after the introduction of website call conversions?

Advantages of Google’s Website Call Conversions:

  • You get free call tracking
  • Seamless integration with Google AdWords
  • Keyword-level AdWords call tracking
  • Surprisingly simple to set up on the back end

One of the areas where most third-party call tracking providers fail is in their integration with AdWords. All have to go through Google Analytics first and then import to Google AdWords. Furthermore, tracking in Google Analytics can sometimes cause errors if everything isn’t set up absolutely perfectly. I have yet to try a call tracking provider where the integration was seamless. This is a big advantage for Google.

Setting up call tracking in the AdWords interface is actually surprisingly simple and well structured:

seamless integration 1

You can easily assign an average value to each call, only count calls that last longer than x number of seconds, etc.

All in all, Google has done a nice job in making it simple to set up call conversion tracking through its AdWords interface.

Disadvantages of Google’s Website Call Conversions:

  • No advanced reporting
  • No support
  • Surprisingly complicated process to install on website
  • Only 800 numbers (no local numbers)

A big red flag is the very simple reporting structure that Google offers. I guess they think they can manage the entire process flawlessly, but I must admit that if I wasn’t able to check the duration and overall quality of all the calls to White Shark Media, I would worry excessively about calls being dropped or not coming through.

Another serious flaw is the fact that Google only offers 800 numbers. We have performed numerous tests, and we’ve always found that local clients converted much better with local numbers than with 800 numbers. Not having the option to choose local numbers could prove to be the main factor keeping more seasoned advertisers from using Google’s call tracking.

Furthermore, this might even be an aspect of the service that actually causes a larger number of advertisers to stop advertising with Google. If advertisers add website call conversion tracking to their websites and replace a local number with an 800 number, they might see a dip in performance. The resulting low-performance reports for their AdWords campaigns could, therefore, encourage them to lower their budgets, rather than maintaining or increasing their AdWords budgets.

What Is the Difference between Call Extension and Website Call Conversions?

In a comment thread on SearchEngineLand.com discussing the system, I was very surprised to see many comments saying that this was an old feature. Commenters mistakenly thought that Google’s announcement was about the regular call extension.

Let’s clarify the differences between the two:

Call extensions can be found on the Google search results page:

seamless integration 2

Website call conversions are found on your actual website:

seamless integration 3

What Do the Call-Tracking Providers Have to Say?

We do a lot of business with Ifbyphone, and we were curious what they thought about Google’s move, so we asked them to provide some feedback on the new feature.

“Having a company like Google provide this type of service further validates what Ifbyphone’s thousands of active customers already know: calls really are the new clicks,” said Blair Symes, manager of demand generation and content marketing atIfbyphone.

“They are the leads sales teams want most and marketers most need to generate and track across all their marketing, not just Google paid search. Tracking phone leads back to every marketing source—including SEO, Bing PPC, email, social, display, print, TV, radio, and direct mail—has become an indispensable part of proving and improving marketing’s impact on leads, sales, and a business’s bottom line.

“But savvy marketers know that tracking calls is just the first step: it is what happens during the call that can make or break a campaign’s ROI. That’s why marketers and agencies also need tools to automate the scoring and routing of phone leads once calls come in, and only a service like Ifbyphone can provide those tools, as well as call tracking for every marketing source.”

Even a call tracking company like Ifbyphone doesn’t seem to be scared about this new “competitor” in its industry. If Ifbyphone isn’t worried about losing clients, then who will actually stand to benefit from Google’s website call conversions?

Small Businesses Will Benefit Most from Website Call Conversions

Small advertisers yet will now be much more likely to try it out. There is still a big barrier to entry because of the complexity of installing the correct codes on their websites, but Google has removed the first obstacle: finding a provider.

Finding a call-tracking provider that you can trust and that explains call tracking in simple terms is no small matter—it’s hard to distinguish the good providers from the bad providers. The process is further complicated by the fact that most call-tracking providers don’t have fixed packages or easy calculators to help you calculate your costs.

Many small businesses are rightfully worried when they see a contract with several variables in a field that they don’t fully understand. Call-tracking contracts fit this description perfectly.

However, as Ifbyphone nicely puts it in this blog post: There is so much more to call tracking than just seeing what keywords generate calls.

Google’s move into the call-tracking industry might cause more advertisers to dip their toes in the water. Later, they can move to more advanced call tracking providers like Ifbyphone.

Overall, this is a very nice trend we’re seeing from Google, and I’m personally happy about the new AdWords feature. Could it be better? Yes. Is it a good starting point? Definitely!

Author: Andrew Lolk

Andrew LolkAndrew Lolk is one of three founders of White Shark Media®, a leading digital marketing agency that delivers online marketing solutions tailored specifically for small and medium-sized businesses. Since White Shark Media’s inception, Andrew has worked to develop every department, serving as head of SEM, Chief Marketing Officer, founder of the company’s Web Department and Vice President of PPC, bringing to reality White Shark Media’s vision of achieving extraordinary growth.

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