PPC is not just a way to instantly boost your traffic, or a means of circumventing the lengthy SEO process with visibility on page one of the SERPS within seconds.

It’s also a treasure trove of data and puts powerful information concerning buying habits, shopping trends and industry peaks and troughs at the fingertips of every marketer. From being able to see at a glance letting exactly how many people are typing in a particular search term to trigger your ads to be able to calculate exactly how much each click is worth in conversions, there are few marketing activities that offer such rich insight on demand.

There is a lot of info out there about getting a better conversion rate on your website but equally as important is making sure you are efficiently tracking all possible conversions. One that people sometimes overlook is phone calls. This is where AdWords Call Tracking comes in.

Paid search – whether that’s via AdWords, Bing or even paid social – doesn’t just exist online. Those search users beginning their journey with Google could well end up picking up the phone and calling the advertiser or making a physical store visit. This means that measuring the true impact of any campaign can be a challenge – and the spectre of last click attribution is one that search engines and marketers alike have long since struggled with. Google AdWords call tracking helps plug that information gap and gives you further data and insight that you can act on, over and above the sheer volume of clicks on keywords your campaign has generated.

The call tracking feature for Google AdWords advertisers launched a few years ago but it’s still an underused tool that many businesses have yet to fully explore. If it’s a function you’re guilty of overlooking, read on for everything you need to know to get to grips with implementing call tracking and understanding how it can support your lead generation and attribution activity.

What is call tracking on Google AdWords?

First up, let’s define exactly what call tracking is. Throughout your website, you should already have call to actions in place encouraging users to get in touch with a simple click to speak with you directly. The call tracking feature monitors which calls were generated as a result of someone clicking on your AdWords ad.

Google explains call tracking as, “When someone visits your website after clicking on one of your AdWords ads, website call conversion tracking can help you identify and measure calls from your site.”

Sounds simple right? In actual fact, call tracking is hugely useful and an incredible asset if you want to banish last click attribution and get a better understanding of what visitors actually do after clicking on an ad – and whether that click actually converts into a call or other offline activity. Call tracking analysis therefore amplifies your ability to fully assess which keywords are creating sales and leads by looking beyond simply website purchases.

With the ability to see where enquiries are coming from and which campaigns are generating calls, you’re in a better position to optimise your budget and focus on campaigns, ads and keywords that generate a higher ROI.

Why should you be using it

Mobile searches are on the rise. Over six in ten searches are now conducted on smartphones, giving you a perfect opportunity to turn an internet search into an actual phone call. With the opportunity to speak to your leads and gather further information, it’s one of the most desirable outcomes of a PPC campaign.

Instigating a conversation with a lead gives you a greater chance to convert them into sales. With consumers looking to instantly access the information they’re after, make a booking, or make a purchase, it should be no surprise that opting to call a business found online is a common choice. According to research, almost 70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results and more are opting to make calls once they’ve landed on your website too.

Call tracking lets you stream out those calls that aren’t considered leads, for example those that last under 30 seconds, and deep dive data to determine where calls are actually coming from. With the ability to link calls and trends to keywords and campaigns, it’s an essential metric for assessing the success of your marketing efforts. Armed with more insights, you can base your PPC decisions on lead generation information that goes beyond your website.

If you’re not convinced by the need for your assessment of PPC campaigns to consider more than online lead generation, this statistic should change your mind – 75% of people who find local, helpful information in search results are more likely to visit physical stores.

While PPC efforts do lead to instant results that are easy to track, it’s important to be aware of the leads they generate even when a purchase or contact form isn’t filled in. Call tracking in Google AdWords allows you to access extra information on how some of your leads are reacting to your products, content, and marketing campaigns by choosing to contact you directly.

Why choose Google AdWords call tracking over alternatives?

The key benefit of choosing Google is the sheer volume of searches that are conducted by the engine every day. Every month, Google registers over 160 billion searches (accounting for around 70% of all online searches worldwide), giving you the best access to the biggest pool of potential customers.

As with every marketing tool, there are some drawbacks to consider when you’re using Google AdWords call tracking. Firstly, it only gives you information pertinent to traffic generated from your Google AdWords PPC ad. It’s also important to note that Google will not show you the caller IDs of the tracked calls, although it is possible to access area codes. Likewise, phone calls cannot be recorded.

For some businesses, there may also be an issue with the limit placed per webpage. When using the call tracking feature, you can only change one phone number per webpage, although you can change the same number multiple times on the same webpage. Why is this a disadvantage? It’s only a problem if you wanted to assess how different sections of your content perform, by analysing multiple traffic sources.


If you want to add call tracking capabilities to your PPC campaign, there are just three requirements that you need to meet before you can get started:

  • Have an AdWords account – If you don’t already use Google AdWords you will need to sign up for an account to take advantage of the call tracking feature. It’s a simple process and there are plenty of other tools available that could boost your PPC results further.
  • Use an active call extension or call-only ad – In order to start generating the data you can benefit from, you’ll need a call extension or call-only ad that you will track using a Google forwarding number and with the ‘count calls as phone call conversations’ option selected.
  • Operate within an eligible country – Unfortunately, the track call feature isn’t available worldwide yet, but the coverage is extensive. You can check if you’re based within an eligible country here.

If you have these three areas ticked off, setting up your call tracking function is relatively simple.

How to implement it

To set up call tracking, you simply need to log into your usual Google AdWords account and follow the simple steps provided by Google here.

Of course, to get the most out of implementing the feature, you need to consider your strategy too. We’ve got some tips to help you make the most of this asset:

  1. Carefully select the number you’ll change. As we’ve already mentioned, Google will only allow you to change one number per page. If you have multiple different numbers, for example numerous departments and locations, it’s important to choose the one that your potential leads are most likely to call. So, for example a general enquires number is more likely to deliver valuable information than a problem-solving hotline for existing customers. Likewise, the number should be clear and prominent across several web pages.
  2. Ensure your phone number is written consistently. If your phone number appears several times on a page, it should be written in the same format every time. If you currently have it written within your content as XXX-XXX-XXXX but in the footer as (XXX) XXX-XXXX, you’ll need to adjust one option.
  3. Use HTML format. The phone number you want Google to dynamically change must be in HTML format. Phone numbers that are not in this format, such as those that are contained within images incorporated into your banners, will not change. In some cases, it might be necessary for a web developer to change your content to get the most out of call tracking.
  4. Test your call tracking implementation. Ensure you conduct a full test once your call tracking is implemented on your site. As well as checking your AdWords account, be sure to test the actual ad and see how it registers on the report.

Are you already using Google AdWords call tracking within your PPC campaign? Let us know how you’ve benefitted from the new data you’re generating.

I am a freelance digital marketing consultant specialising in PPC, SEO and social media.

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