Call Tracking And Call Conversions: Some Caveats

March 30, 2015 · Analysis

Marketers who work with local businesses spend a lot of time and energy these days tracking and optimizing call-based conversions. And that’s as it should be: With more consumers using mobile devices than desktop computers when looking for local information, most local businesses now favor phone calls over clicks as their conversion of choice.

MatchCraft Chief Technical Officer Alex Dionysian, however, offers a word of caution.

“Local businesses should look at the call conversion numbers they’re seeing from their search marketing campaigns with a discerning eye,” he says. “The number of calls being reported as ‘conversions’ doesn’t always tell the whole story.”

A deep dive

Dionysian and his team have spent hours analyzing recorded calls captured by call tracking in MatchCraft’s AdVantage platform: “It’s time-consuming, but it’s the best way to figure out what kinds of calls an advertiser is getting,” he says.

Dionysian’s team took a deep dive on a very small sample: three advertisers’ calls over a 60-day period. They categorized each recorded call as either a productive inquiry or lead, the desired result; a wrong number; a blank call (no sound) or answering machine; or an irrelevant call (asking for a different business, looking for a job, or telemarketers).

The conclusion: The three merchants studied received between 38% and 51% “good” calls, with the rest falling into one of the other three categories. Greg Sterling recently wrote about a similar (although much larger) analysis by Marchex; they looked at calls to the insurance and financial services industries and put the percentage of “good” calls at 31%, in the same ballpark as our initial analysis.

Dionysian is quick to point out that this doesn’t mean businesses should discount reports of call-based conversions completely. His team is using this analysis (as well as call tracking data from thousands of other merchants whose campaigns run on the AdVantage platform) to look for patterns that will lead to automated call-based optimizations in AdVantage’s algorithms.

“Not all calls are created equal”

“Certainly, tracking the calls that come in via search ads is the best proxy we have right now for successful conversions from mobile users,” Dionysian says. “But after analyzing hours of calls, we know that all calls are not created equal in the eyes of local businesses. On our end, we’re continuously looking for ways to give advertisers data on their true ROI.”

And there may be other things local businesses and their search campaign managers can do to increase the number of good phone leads they get from their search campaigns. For example:

  • Schedule ads to run only during business hours so incoming phone calls get picked up by a person rather than voice mail.
  • If calls routinely go to voicemail even during business hours, consider hiring an answering service.
  • Double-check the campaign’s keywords and geographic targeting to make sure ads are likely to be reaching the right people.

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