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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