How to Get More Out of Your Google AdWords Campaign with Call Tracking

You spend hard-earned money on your Google AdWords campaign, but how do you know if it’s working? How do you know if it’s worth the cost? Should you invest more in your PPC efforts or cut your losses?

The only way to measure ROI is to look at your conversions – actions that your customers take after they see your ad. How many people click on the link to your website? Sign up for your newsletter? Make purchases? Actually, pick up the phone and call your business? Whatever your goals are, they have to be measurable.

The Beauty of Conversion Tracking

In order to measure the success of your campaign, you need to tap into the AdWords conversion tracking tool, a free feature that lets you analyze what your customers do when they see your ad.

If you’re a PPC veteran, you know all about conversion tracking. You’ve probably spent hours analyzing your click-through rate (the number of people who “click through” to your website).

But did you know you can track phone calls as well?

If you’re not using Google call tracking, you might be missing many, if not most, of your conversions, giving a false picture about the health of your AdWords campaign.

When you include phone calls as part of your conversion rates, you may realize that your PPC efforts are more successful than you thought, or that you’re not getting the return on investment that you expected.

In short, if you want an accurate measure of your AdWords campaign, you need to analyze your calls as well as your web traffic. With that in mind, here’s the lowdown on call tracking, and how you can use it to perfect your next PPC campaign.

Why Track Calls?

Let’s say you’re a masseuse with your own massage parlor. You have a nifty scheduling form on your website, but only a few people schedule appointments online. Most call your business to book over the phone.

The question is, how did they find your number? Did they stumble upon your website? Did they hear about you through a friend? Or did they click on a paid advertisement? And what percentage of your phone customers call after looking at your ad?

To understand your conversions at a local level, you need to create individual campaigns. The ads associated with these campaigns should direct people to their nearest outlet, each of which has its own call tracking number.

Launching separate campaigns for each location gives you a more granular look at your campaign performance.

Track Call Extension and Call-Only Ads

Google offers a handy feature known as call extensions, which lets users click on the listed phone number to make a direct call. You can also run a campaign using call-only ads, which are fine if you do business primarily by phone.

Call extensions and call-only ads make tracking conversions easy. It works like this:

  • A customer clicks on the phone number included in your ad.
  • AdWords charges you the regular CPC rate.
  • Google routes the call through a forwarding number, which it then uses for tracking and recording purposes.
  • The system puts the customer in touch with your business.
  • The call tracking system generates a report so you can analyze the data and make informed decisions about your PPC campaign.

It’s important to remember that AdWords treats phone-throughs (calls made from the ad) the same way it treats click-throughs. When someone clicks on your phone number, it costs you the same as if they had clicked through to your website.

How to Turn on the Tracking Feature for Call Extensions

If you want to analyze the data for call extensions, open up AdWords and go to the Conversions tab.

Click on the blue “+” symbol and then select the “Phone Calls” tab.

The menu gives you three options for what types of calls you would like to track. Select “calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads.”

Google then lets you tweak a number of settings, from conversion value to call length.

You’ll want to pay particular attention to the duration of the call. Someone who stays on the line for 10 seconds probably won’t make a purchase. Including such brief interactions in your conversion statistics wastes money and skews your data set.

Instead, you should set a minimum call length. Let’s say you know that customers who make an order usually spend at least two minutes on the phone. AdWords lets you measure only those interactions that last for at least two minutes.

Call extensions are a handy feature, but what if someone wants more information before they call? What if they visit your website first?

Don’t worry, you can track that, too.

How to Track Calls from Your Website

Find your way back to the “Phone Calls” tab in the Conversions section.

This time, tell AdWords to track “Calls to a phone number on your website.”

That way, if someone dials the number on your website after looking at your ad, the call tracking system will count the call as a conversion and record the details.

Activating the feature is simple. Just add two pieces of javascript code to your website. Google will then keep records for every call made through that number.

You’ll have to repeat the process for every unique phone number on your website. If you have five different locations, for example, each one with its own number, then you’ll need five separate conversion tracking codes.

Charts and analytical data on the tablet screen with a cup of coffee and a telephone.

Call Tracking Metrics
Now that you activated conversion tracking, it’s time to look over the data. Google lets you measure:

  • Phone Impressions: The number of times someone sees an ad that includes your phone number.
  • Phone Calls: The number of times someone calls the Google forwarding number, whether they click on the link in the ad or dial the number manually.
  • Phone-Through Rate (PTR): The number of phone calls divided by phone impressions (i.e. the percentage of people who actually call you after seeing your phone number in the ad.)
  • Call Duration: The length of each call.
  • Call Start Time & Call End Time: When the call begins and when it ends.
  • Status: Whether the call was received or missed.
  • Area Code: Where your customers are located.

So, what does call tracking look like a real-world campaign, without all the hypotheticals?

Case Study: Ventura, California

In a recent campaign, a client implemented call tracking in an effort to increase transparency and gather more data. Their goal was to optimize their ad campaign so they could reach more people and grow their business.

How did it work out? Beyond the basics, call tracking provided:

  • Transparency: The client got a better gauge of lead quality, as well as call location. By cross-checking call times and conversions against call locations, they received insight as to where campaigns should be focused geographically for greater impact.
  • Backend Conversion: By tracking call activity (e.g. setting of appointments or sales that were made), they achieved better keyword and campaign level optimization.
  • Lead Management: The client was able to activate lead tracking features such as web forms, e-commerce transactions, and chat sessions. That allowed them to better estimate the true value of the calls that were received.
  • Overall Context: Tracking call volumes, times, and durations provided more context into to the client’s campaigns than AdWords data alone could give. This allowed (again) for more nuanced optimization of the client’s campaigns.

Proof & Performance Metrics

What were the final results? We’ll start with conversion. How does over 40% sound? This client saw their qualified leads skyrocket, hitting a high of 41% and remaining consistently above 30%. These are not clicks, but tangible conversions, purchases, deals that are closing day after day.

Conversions are fantastic, but let’s say you’re spending 60% more to make your conversions increase 5%. Many executives think more volume means more conversions, but this is not a sustainable approach for most businesses. Instead, brands should focus on better quality leads and fewer passive leads. Take our case study client. They saw a cost per acquisition (CPA) reduction of 50%. In other words, the client paid less to attract better quality customers. What does it mean? Better data and better optimization lead to better business opportunities.

Key Call Tracking Results:

During the course of the client’s (continuing) campaign they have seen call times increase to an average of over four minutes. Meanwhile, volume has increased by over 400%. For a business in the service industry, the calls are a lifeline that can make or break the company. With a pipeline leading to over 165k in call conversion sales, adding call tracking to their campaigns has paid for itself many times over.

Calling Up PPC Success

Google call tracking is particularly important for local service providers such as florists, mechanics, doctors, bakers and anyone else who receives a large chunk of their sales through the phone.

Even those who rely less on phone sales should consider taking advantage of the free call tracking tool offered by AdWords. By tracking and analyzing your phone conversions, you can get a better sense of your overall PPC performance.

Armed with that data, you can figure out exactly how much money to allocate to your AdWords campaign or whether you need to rethink your approach. And that can put you on the road to greater growth and profitability.