At the outset I want to make clear that I’m with call tracking and call analytics provider, Convirza.

Naturally, we’ve been playing close attention to the Google AdWords call tracking announcement and subsequent reaction. In this article we’ll explain why, contrary to what you might think, we were actually excited for Google’s announcement that they are providing call tracking for AdWords.

We’re serious.

Calls Now Mainstream for Marketers

Last Thursday in a company meeting, our CEO said:

“Honestly, the best day of my life was when I heard Google now offers basic call tracking for AdWords. It tells me we’re headed the right direction.”

We won’t tell his wife and kids that he values that day above his wedding day and their respective births. 😉 But, his sentiment is legitimate.

We’ve been talking about the importance of phone calls for several years. We wrote blog posts, spoke at conferences, and presented on webinars, about the growing importance of phone calls. We pounded pulpits, cited statistics, and produced content. Some people listened; others didn’t.

The momentum around mobile search and call analytics has been building. And lest you thought this recent renaissance of phone calls was a clever PR creation of a few call tracking and call analytics companies, you were wrong. Calls matter. That much is clear now. Google’s entrance into the call tracking world confirms it.

On 8/18, Google announced the launch of website call conversions for AdWords. Essentially, they are now offering session-based call tracking for AdWords only.

That’s a big deal.

Within 12 hours of Google’s announcement, more than 5,000 Tweets discussing call tracking, call analytics, and Google call conversions crisscrossed the web. Suddenly, the marketing world was talking about phone calls.

Google Call Tracking: Not a Surprise

Way back in 2011 we started talking about the impending call explosion. BIA/Kelsey began predicting a deluge of calls due to mobile search; specifically predicting that U.S. businesses will receive roughly 70 billion phone calls in 2017 (today businesses only receive about 30 billion calls each year). Google’s own data showed that 61% of local mobile searches result in a phone call and that local mobile searches will surpass desktop in 2014.

At marketing events like LeadsCon, ClickZ, and SMX, the ‘buzz’ about phone calls increased. It ‘felt’ like something big was happening with phone calls.

I was looking through some archived emails yesterday and found an email dated September 23, 2012. It was sent from someone in on our executive team to our marketing department. Here’s what it said, in part:

“Calls are becoming important again. I would guess that within a couple of years Google will probably offer call tracking of some sort.”

That was 23 months ago.

Then, just 11 months ago Marc Poirier of Acquisio wrote this article, in which he predicted Google’s entry into the call tracking world.

It all sounds pretty prophetic now doesn’t it? I suppose my point is this: we weren’t surprised by Monday’s announcement. And, if anything, we welcome it because it validated, in an instant, the importance of phone calls for marketers.

Our Response and Differentiation

Because of this deluge of phone calls and prophetic foretelling of Google’s involvement, the call tracking industry knew we needed to differentiate ourselves. So, starting about 9 months ago various companies, led by Convirza, began introducing solutions that actually analyze phone conversations themselves.

Image of phone call analytics

For example, our tool is called Conversation Analytics. It uses hundreds of thousands of proprietary algorithms, a speech recognition engine, and marketing automation cues. It automatically analyzes phone calls for critical words and phrases said on the call. It rips calls apart to find the useful information and then extracts data out of phone calls marketers can use.

It can tell if there was an appointment set, a sale made, a purchase made, or a sale lost. It can tell if the agent sold effectively, if they used the caller’s name, if they were polite, if they were aggressive, and finally, if they made the sale. It can even track if the caller is price sensitive, became agitated, or was confused.

Other call tracking companies have recently launched similar features.

We aren’t worried about Google’s release for several reasons, but chief among them is that we know the true value of phone calls is not in call tracking, but rather in call results. Now, let’s delve into the specifics of Google’s call tracking release—both the pros and cons.

Specifics of Google’s Call Tracking

Google will provide a call tracking number that will appear on the landing page of every AdWords campaign. There will be one phone number per click, or session. This allows marketers to marry specific clicks to phone calls. And it allows Google to get credit for driving those phone call conversions.

This service is free and it is only available for AdWords.

In other words, if you drive phone calls via organic search, Google Display network, Bing, direct mail, LinkedIn, referrals, affiliates, etc., you can’t use Google call tracking.

13 Things Google Call Tracking Doesn’t Do

1)     Call lead scoring – What happened on the call? How high quality was the lead? Advanced call tracking solutions provide a lead score for every inbound call.

2)     Conversion rate tracking – Did the caller convert to an appointment, a sale, or a reservation? Our research found that 29% of all the calls we analyzed in Q2 resulted in a conversion. Without a deep call analytics tool, you won’t know your call conversion rate.

3)     Sales skills – How well did the agent perform on the phone. Stuff like this matters.

4)     Missed opportunity data – We have agency partners that send reports to clients—or automate alerts—whenever there is a missed sales opportunity at their business. These are good leads that didn’t convert.

5)     Other deep call analytics – Third party call tracking solutions can tell you what happened on call conversations. Google can tell you a call was made.

6)     Webhooks and marketing automation based on phone call conversations.

7)     Google’s call tracking is ONLY for AdWords. If someone is doing ANY other marketing, they can’t use Google’s call tracking.

  • The numbers don’t work for calls generated from Bing, Yahoo, or ANY other source including Google’s Display Network or Google Organic Search. AdWords only.
  • This means that if a company wants call tracking from Google for AdWords AND call tracking for organic search, direct mail, or ANYTHING else, they will have to manage two different call tracking platforms. Not good.

8)     Call recording. Many marketers and agency clients rely on call recording.

9)     Routing, IVR, whisper tone etc. – These are sophisticated telephony features on which marketers rely. Google’s call tracking doesn’t offer them.

10)  Swap out more than one number on a page at a time. This is useful on a page that has various locations of a business.

11)  It can’t pass conversion data to other bid management platforms (Acquisio, Kenshoo, etc.)  It only passes conversion data to AdWords. Which means that you can’t use other tools to set up your AdWords campaigns (which most medium and large companies do).

12)  Google ONLY provides toll-free phone numbers (which is not good for small businesses)

13)  The phone numbers are Google’s property. You cannot port the numbers to another provider to use to track other campaigns/channels. This might be the most under-discussed ‘con’ of Google’s AdWords call tracking solution.

6 Things Google Call Tracking Does Well

1)     It’s free for AdWords users. Free is free. Free is good.
2)     Advertisers can assign different values for calls from specific pages on their sites
3)     Keyword level reporting is provided within AdWords.
4)     Automatic integration for AdWords and Universal Analytics.
5)     It provides call tracking and AdWords data in one place
6)     Google is Google.

Now That the Dust Has Settled…

Now that marketers, agencies, and experts have all had time to digest the information the consensus seems to be building toward a few conclusions:

  • Google call tracking for AdWords will probably be very useful for small businesses and companies that have a small AdWords-centric marketing budget. Heck, it’s free and it integrated with UA and AdWords.
  • However, most agencies—both that we’ve spoken to and on their blogs—are saying that they won’t use it across their client base. Google’s call tracking simply provides insufficient data for sophisticated marketers.
  • The call-based industry is now a MAJOR player in the marketing world. This proves, without question, that there is plenty of room to grow. This call-based market is gigantic.
  • Google is going to make companies aware of call tracking that would never have heard about it otherwise. That’s a great thing.

In other words, Google may take a chunk of the call tracking pie, but they are also making the pie bigger.