Call Tracking for Local SEO

Measuring Local SEO is Important

I read a blog post on local SEO from a company called Log My Calls (SEE BOTTOM FOR THEIR RESPONSE) that argued that you should only use local SEO vendors who do call tracking.   Seems consistent from a company called Log My Calls, right? Logging calls of course is the most important, right? Right. It’s a great thing to measure and marketing is about measuring results.  The goal is to get customers on the phone, through your doors and to the cash register.

I agree one of the key challenges of local SEO and local internet marketing in general is proving it is generating revenue.   No one walks in saying, “I am from Google,” or “I am from Yelp!”  So tracking is a great thing…

Local SEO Ranking Going DownWhy Changing Your Phone Number Hurts Your Local SEO

Unless you look at the importance of your name, address and phone number being consistent across directories and citations. That is a PRIMARY driver of your Google+ Local ranking, which is displayed on 83% of local searches (It’s the directory and map that Google puts in to local SEO search pages).  That is why most people who do local SEO are not using call tracking companies – It hurts how you rank.

Locked InNow You Are Locked In to Your Call Tracking Provider

Even more dangerously, if you do update all your directories with this tracking number,  it locks you in to the call tracking provider. Companies like Yodle will do this for you and update all your directories. But if you cancel, now you have the wrong number listed on all these directories. It’s now incumbent on you to clean this all up, and believe me that’s a messy process that will literally cost you thousands of dollars and substantial amounts of time. Great for the call tracking provider, bad for you.

Inflated Local SEO ResultsAnd Your Local SEO Numbers Are Inflated Because It’s Tracking Every Channel

And if you change your number on all these directories, all of a sudden, every inbound phone number that would have happened anyway would start being counted too.   You are supposed to make these all consistent and your website too. So either they all are tracked or none, which means it’s hard to differentiate calls from local SEO improvements and those that would have happened otherwise.

That’s a big problem. So again, logging call volume is great, especially in measuring incremental marketing efforts. However, be wary that this can actually hurt your local SEO and confuse the real metrics. Call tracking is better suited for PPC and ad campaigns, where I highly recommend using call tracking numbers.

So What Do I Measure for Local SEO?

As a marketing professional with decades of experience, I really hate to say this but, “Have faith that Google and Local SEO works.  Look at what your rank for, whether those terms have volume, and measure increases to your website knowing it’s a small part of the overall picture.”   Yup.  The system is flawed and I wish it were better to.  But the studies all show that this is real.  88% of people who search for a type of business on their mobile phone will call or go to that type of business within 24 hours!   You better be ranking there.   They may not show up and tell you “I am from Google,” but there is a lot of value there.

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The tough part is that with Google+Local, often they will call or go to your business without ever going to your website.  You may see incremental visits to your website, but it’s a small part of the picture.  So you should see increases in search traffic that shows your improvements are having some effect, but know the effect is actually much greater than the numbers on the screen.

PS: One Other Thing About the Snake Oil

As a side note, point #3 in their blog post is dead wrong.  SEO does take time.  We often see substantial results in 30-60 days, but nobody in the business worth their salt will say SEO shows immediate results and can promise that.   It depends on where you are, how competitive your terms are and how quickly you implement the suggestions of your local SEO provider.  If you are not seeing results after 90 days, you should start questioning it.

I just talked to a local business that said that someone offered them to get them to the front of Google organic in 5 minutes for $4k a month.  That’s a great offer.  Expect to pay the $4k and then never see that person again. No one can get to you to the front page of Google in 5 minutes.  Lots of snake oil salesman in the world.  Buyer beware.

 

UPDATE: LogMyCalls wrote a thoughtful and respectful response to this post.  We agree on their 3rd point saying waiting for more than 5 months (20 weeks) is a good time to switch and our post above too strongly interpreted the highlights of weeks 4 and 6.   However, what they are saying is still very flawed in terms of call tracking.   Here is our response:

Sounds like we agree on a couple things:

  1. Changing phone numbers on directories is a bad idea for local SEO,
  2. SEO takes time and
  3. tracking is a good thing in general. So the question is when should you use a call tracking number.

Your suggestion is on the website.  However, phone number being consistent on the website is a key ranking factor for Google+Local so changing your website phone number is in fact a bad thing! That said, you could be tricky and show only the call tracking phone number to Javascript enabled browsers, so the real phone number would look right to Google. Even if you did that, the reality is that most of the people are probably going to call the phone listed in Google+Local for local search, not whatever you have spoofed on the website. So it’s a very inaccurate measurement.

These are challenges that I wish we could overcome. We WISH we could use call tracking phone numbers for this stuff to show the increase in customers, but the system makes it so it hurts your local SEO.  As result, local SEO experts we talk with avoid call tracking numbers, though we agree that many local marketing experts use them for things such as PPC.   

This issue is yet another example of why local online marketing is complex and expensive and small and medium businesses need trusted help to fully realize the potential of their online channels.   

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16 thoughts on “Does Call Tracking Hurt My Local SEO and Google+ Local?”

  1. Regarding the local biz that was “offered” G Page 1 in <300 seconds for $4k/M – Often biz owners are promised immediate Page 1 by PPC "experts" and don't know enough to know the difference. If the Local Biz owner is IM savvy and is sure they said "organic", that's crazy. We've experimented and seen some posts appear very quickly for non-competitive phrases, but noone can GUARANTEE anything close! Too many factors in play.

  2. Of course you’re not going to change your number. You’re going to track calls from your current numbers. Best of both worlds!

  3. I think you should really re-read the article… In their point 3, they’re not saying that companies should expect “immediate” results. I read it to understand that if after about 5 months, you don’t see ANY results, THEN it’s time to start looking elsewhere. And I totally agree. I’ve been in the SEO/SEM world for 8 years now, and while I never promise a client they’ll be ranked #1 by next week and I also let them know that it could take several weeks to start seeing results, I would NEVER expect a client to stick around after 5 MONTHS of ZERO results. That’s just irresponsible. So, your defense here is actually DEFENDING what they wrote. They’re not “dead wrong”.

    Also, you’re right when you say that having various tracking numbers to your company floating around the web is bad. But that was a problem like 10 years ago. There ARE new technologies out there that eliminate this issue and DON’T effect local SEO. I’ve read several case studies. Maybe you just need to stay more up-to-date?

    Also, with companies like LogMyCalls, you ARE NOT locked into using them because of phone numbers on directories, it’s NOT a “messy process”, and WILL NOT cost you thousands. Seriously, dude. You should give them a call. Maybe you’ll end up as a reseller. 🙂

    1. Hi, Admeter.co.uk operate call tracking in the US and primarily UK. NAP is super-important for local SEO, but you can still do call tracking (and email tracking) by using dynamic numbers that change (i.e. an image rather than a number so it doesn’t get read by Google) and this can track multiple sources. I’m sure other operators offer the same thing. Anyway, we wrote a piece about it last week…http://blog.admeter.co.uk/calltrackingnews/bid/221213/Call-Tracking-Websites-and-Google-Will-you-get-penalised

      Hope that helps…

  4. Great commentary all around. Thank you. Jeremy, we concur, 5 months of no results is cause for dismissal. We interpreted the high level point and the 4-6 week data points, which is too early. And once citations with call tracking are out there, clean up is a mess. On many services creating a profile is easy, altering it is hard as they try and protect people from changing phone numbers of valid businesses. Services like Infogroup and Axiom take months and most likely will create duplicate listings which also confuses Google. So this is definitely not a best practice.

  5. But you can’t do that on your Google+Local listing, which means that it is only tracking a small, small percentage of your local SEO traffic. People use the GOogle+Local number directly from the search page, not your website number. It doesn’t track local SEO success.

    1. Don’t agree. Our statistics show that the vast majority of people will go to the web site and then use the number on the web site so you are NOT only tracking a “small, small percentage”.

      Those people that will call directly are usually people who are familiar with the company- usually past or existing customers.

      1. Can you share data? If the intention is to call, the data is right there on the map or google search. I’d be surprised, especially when user expectation is that phone number is hard to find on local business sites (60% don’t even have the phone number).

        1. Additionally, the average local business website gets 200 visits. I bet they get more than 200 calls and it’s not from saved numbers on a rolodex (Yahoo, YP, Yelp, Google, etc.).

  6. I would refer to Google’s own advice NOT to use Call tracking numbers in citations and Google+Local. http://support.google.com/places/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=107528&rd=1

    Or Search Engine Land. Be Wary of Call Tracking Numbers
    http://searchengineland.com/be-wary-of-call-tracking-numbers-in-local-search-26895

    Nine Common Ways To Bork Your Local Rankings In Google
    http://searchengineland.com/9-common-ways-to-bork-your-local-rankings-in-google-99336

    7 Deadly Sins of Google Local Listings
    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-7-deadly-sins-of-google-local-listings/21119/

    I think the experts are pretty clear on the point.

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