It can be tempting for anyone who is running a website to view marketing as being solely a digital activity. Marketers spend most of the time tracking channels related to the digital world. They constantly assess and then try to optimize organic search, social media and other digital channels to acquire more leads using tools like Google Analytics.
While doing all of this online analysis, important offline channels get overlooked. Channels such as telephone, which for many businesses are a primary source of leads. There are, after all, a huge number of people who prefer to speak over the phone. Especially if they’re contacting a business they’re thinking of entering into a working relationship with.
For that reason alone, businesses need to track calls and the source of those calls. What’s more, for some firms up to 80% of their conversions can be in the form of on-site phone calls. If those firms don’t track calls, they’re missing important data regarding all of those conversions. That makes their analytics far from accurate. It can stop a business from properly optimizing its marketing.
There are several options for call tracking with Google Analytics and other tools. Read on and you can find out how you could leverage those tools to improve your marketing efforts. First, though, it’s worth dwelling upon what call tracking means and why you may want to do it
Why Call Tracking is Worthwhile
Most businesses with an online presence invest in digital ads of one form or another. This will cover things like PPC campaigns from search or social media platforms. A huge number of conversions from these ads come in the form of phone calls to the business in question. Calls that can result in sales or other warm leads. That’s as opposed to online form submissions or purchases from a website that can be more easily tracked.
While communications as a whole are generally moving online, the number of business calls is still increasing year on year. The graph below reveals this clear trend.
If so many ad conversions result in phone calls, call tracking is surely a must. Failing to track such a large number of conversions is a no-no. It means the analysis of your marketing campaigns won’t be as accurate as it should.
As a result, any actions you take based on that analysis will not be as effective as you’d like. With limited data regarding how your campaigns are converting, you aren’t able to improve their performance as and where you need to.
The reason so many firms have this issue is because they don’t know how to track offline calls with online data. They might not even know that it’s possible. Below, you’ll find a simple guide to several options for tracking your business calls. By taking one or more of the avenues outlined, you might be able to profoundly improve the effectiveness of your marketing.
Call Tracking With Google Analytics, Ads & Tag Manager
You may well be familiar with Google’s portfolio of analytics tools. This will almost certainly be the case if you’re involved with tracking marketing and site performance. Foremost amongst them are the trio of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Google Ads. Those invaluable platforms offer three ways for you to track phone call conversions:
- Tracking Calls From Ads – You can track calls made directly from a Google Ad. That means either calls using a link in the ad or made to a number or extension unique to the ad. You set a minimum duration for the call and every call over that length counts as a conversion.
- Tracking Calls to a Number on Your Site – You can track calls to a number on your site, which is shown when an ad is clicked. Once again, you must set a minimum call duration.
Tracking Clicks on a Number on Your Site – You can track calls made by clicking a phone number or link on a mobile site. This way of tracking calls counts clicks on the number only, rather than the calls themselves.
Calls From Ads & to Numbers on Your Site
The first two ways of call tracking listed above are features provided by Google Ads. They’re designed to allow you to track calls made direct from PPC ads or made to numbers linked to specific ads. The way you can track these types of ads is pretty simple.
For tracking from ads, all you need do is change certain settings within your Google Ads account. Google explains the full sequence of changes you need to make, in this helpful guide. Setting up tracking calls to numbers on your site that are linked to your Google Ads involves a similar though slightly more complex process.
You will have to make a number of changes to your Ads account settings and then also alter your site’s code. You can either do that manually or by using Google Tag Manager. The full process is explained in detail in this useful guide provided by Google.
How to Track Clicks on a Phone Number on Your Site
The third way of call tracking allowed for by Google’s tools is where Google Analytics comes in. You can tag any phone number listed on your mobile site as a link which calls the number when a visitor taps it. This is called a ‘Click to Call’ feature.
Tracking clicks on ‘Click to Call’ links is easy using a Google Call Forwarding Number. You simply need to list a number on your site that can be tracked using Google Tag Manager. You then have to place the tag manager code on every page of your site.
After completing the setup process, each click on a number will fire an event in Google Analytics. This event is basically Google recognising that the number was clicked. You’ll see ‘Calls’ or ‘CallSale’ appear on your Analytics report of ‘Top Events’. That’s the report which usually shows things like form submissions or video plays.
I’ve provided a screenshot of how you can access Top Events below.
The above methods allow you to effectively track all calls from the Google ads you are running. Event tracking via Analytics also lets you track clicks on numbers featured on your mobile site. What about calls from other sources, though? Sources like organic search or social media?
Those calls are not covered by Google’s own call tracking features. Nor do the features let you correlate the data on actual calls with other Google Analytics data. It only tracks clicks on phone number links that can be natively reported on in Analytics. If you want to extend call tracking to incorporate this data you may wish to consider using a commercial call tracking tool.
Combining Commercial Call Tracking Tools & Google Analytics
One of the great things about Google Analytics is that you can use it in concert with a lot of other tools. That often allows you to perform more comprehensive and complex analytics. There are lots of commercial call tracking tools you can use that work with Google Analytics.
Those tools allow you to collect data on the phone calls made to your business. A large number of tools have integrations with Google Analytics. By combining a third-party tool with Google Analytics you can collect more data points, which will help you gain better insights.
The advantages of using such a tool with Google Analytics are numerous:
- You can link calls to their relevant traffic source. That lets you assess the ROI of different channels
- You can view and analyse call data via the Analytics dashboard you’re familiar with
- You can correlate and compare phone call data with web usage and other data. That can help improve marketing efforts across the board
- You can track the quality of call leads by comparing calls which convert into sales with those that don’t
- You can create custom reports which use call and other data. That can offer insights of specific interest to your business
How to Set Up Call Tracking
To set up call tracking and gain those advantages, you first have to choose a call tracking tool. There are many tools on the market. Some will work better for your business than others. One thing you always want to ensure is that the tool does integrate with Google Analytics. WhatConverts is an example of a tool which does.
Whichever tool you choose, the process of setting it up in concert with Analytics remains largely similar:
- Sign up – Sign up for your chosen tool. Many call tracking tool providers offer free trials, which are worth taking advantage of if available.
- Buy tracking numbers – You then need to buy tracking numbers. You can buy as many or as few as you want. If you want to track calls by traffic source, though, you’ll need at least one number per source. I.e. you’ll want a tracking number for organic search, for social media and so on.
- Display & link the numbers – Your tracking numbers then need to be displayed on the relevant pages of your site. Through your chosen tool you’ll also be able to choose your ‘receiving number’. That’s the actual number that calls dialling your tracking numbers will be linked to.
- Add call tracking script to your site – Your chosen call tracking tool provider will give you a tracking script when you sign up. You need to add the script to your site’s pages to integrate it with the tool.
Link call tracking tool with Google Analytics – You can then ask your provider how to link your call tracking tool to Analytics. It’s often as simple as entering your Analytics Tracking ID into the right menu within the tool.
How The Google Analytics Integration Works
The integration between your call tracking tool and Analytics works in a simple yet effective way. A visitor comes to your site and sees a tracking number that you’ve displayed. The number they see will depend on the channel by which they’ve come to the site. You can then add the numbers to the relevant landing pages.
When they call the displayed number, the call tracking script you’ve added to your site records data on the call. That will include things like the call’s source, the call itself, its duration and more. At the end of the call, the script sends all of the data to your call tracking tool. It also sends some of it to your Google Analytics account.
The data which is sent to Analytics normally registers as an Event. Some tools cause it to be registered as a Virtual Pageview, but that’s rare. When it does register as an event, you will see ‘Calls’ as an event listed in your ‘Top Events’ report.
Creating Call Tracking Goals in Google Analytics
As we’ve talked about, phone calls are important conversions. Just like other conversions on your site, you can set up calls as ‘Goals’ on Google Analytics. Once you’ve got your call tracking tool setup you can create a goal for any other Event on the platform. Your calls can now be registered as Events on Google Analytics, after all.
To create a new goal, head to the admin section of your Analytics account. Choose ‘Goals’ for the relevant View and then select the ‘+ NEW GOAL’ option. Select ‘Custom’ from the resultant list of options.
Choose ‘Event’ as the type of goal you wish to create. Then follow the onscreen instructions to create your new goal. In the event category field, be sure to enter ‘Calls’ or the exact text as it appears for your phone call event on the Top Events report.
Once you’ve set up phone calls as a goal, you’ll be able to view data on calls in every Analytics report which has a ‘Goals’ tab. That’s what lets you directly link and compare call tracking data with your other Analytics data.
This guide aimed to provide you with a concise overview of how to use Google Analytics for call tracking. At the start of this guide, I showed you how you can use Google Analytics to track clicks on your number from your site or a PPC Google Ads campaign. The benefit of this approach is that you can track clicks, however, you are unable to see if the person then picked up the phone to make a call.
In the following section, I showed you how to use third-party tools that you can integrate with Google Analytics to track clicks from an ad or your website and then see who called you. This method provides a more coherent overview of call tracking and enables you to access and assess the ROI from different marketing channels.
At a minimum, you should set up Google Analytics for call tracking. This provides you with the minimum amount of data that you need to improve your spending and allocate your marketing resources more effectively. If you are receiving a high volume of business calls from your website I recommend paying for a third-party tool. Even if you only use it for a month or two, the insights you gain will be invaluable when devising your marketing strategy.
Originally published Aug 21, 2019, updated Jan 16, 2023