A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search

Update 11/25/2014: With the help of CallRail, we have written a new, expanded and authoritative guide to Call Tracking for Local.

The question of call tracking keeps coming up in local search. Should it be used? Why or why not? The answer is often posed in stark terms of either you should or you shouldn’t use call tracking.

The reality is, as is usual, more nuanced and subtle than that. It is a technology that has incredible power but that is easy to use improperly and when done so it can cause on-going problems in local and a great deal of damage. All too often it is suggested as a tactic to unsuspecting businesses by companies that offer little of real value and use the technique to take credit for calls that the business would have received any ways. Often these businesses are not made aware of the disasters that can possibly ensue.

Given that the first dictum of search optimization is (or should be) do no harm it is easiest, when given 3 minutes to answer the question, to say that call tracking should not be used.

What harm can come of using call tracking numbers? There are actually several situations that can lead to long term problems.

The first is that Google assembles all local listings via a machine. That machine looks to match name, address and phone number of information it finds across the internet with a cluster of similar data about a business. If the match is made with data that Google finds across the net and the cluster, that business is credited with that citation. If it is not possible for the machine to make the match due to the fact that a call tracking number is being used then it is possible that Google will create a new cluster for the data. Not only is a given listing NOT given credit for a citation but it is possible that dupes will appear that will “steal” strength from the main listing. Effectively phone number is the glue that holds the cluster together. If the cluster becomes unglued your listing will very likely rank poorly at Google and it could take months to do the recovery work necessary to make it whole again.

Secondly, call tracking numbers are frequently “loaned” to a business for the duration of the contract and then put back into use for a different business. Unfortunately these numbers are very persistent in the online local ecosystem and may stay at various sites attached to your listing. If the number is no longer in your control it means that the customer attempting to call you will be getting through to some business but not yours! The solution to this issue is simple: NEVER use call tracking numbers if the numbers can not be transferred to you at the end of the contract.

The subtler answer to whether call tracking numbers can be used is that they can be in some very limited ways but the guidelines to proper use are complicated and they need to be implemented in such a way as to not cause damage. If the guidelines can not be followed to a T then it is far better to not use call tracking at all as the damage will far outweigh any benefits.

There are four places that a call tracking number can be used:

– Offline

– On your Google+ Local Page

– In the local ecosystem of IYPS, Yelp, CityGrid etc (i.e. any place but Google – APBG)

– On your website

Lets look at these use cases one by one.

Offline at first glance would seem an obvious place where call tracking might just work. It is actually though the least controllable and difficult to predict where the numbers might show up. For example InfoGroup scans printed Yellow Page directories quickly leading to duplicate listings at Google. Yipit for example enters coupons from the print media. Thus it is very likely for a call tracking number to end up online sooner or later and when it does, it will cause havoc.

Can a call tracking number be used successfully offline? Yes but only if you always use the exact same number AND you add it to your Google Places for Business dashboard as a second number (like you would an 800 number). While its value is limited, at least then Google will be able to keep the data associated with your main cluster (assuming that all the other data like business name is correct as well). My assessment? Probably not worth the tracking gain and you would be better off tracking incoming calls manually.

Google+ Local is a no brainer in not being good for a call tracking number. Adding a call tracking number in the dashboard as the primary number may instantly create a duplicate listing at Google that would likely not ranking very well. Even if Google doesn’t bifurcate your cluster they are likely to override your call tracking number with your local number in search results because it is the more trusted number. The only option is to put the call tracking number at Google as a secondary number. Why would you want to do that when it will likely never be seen? So as to allow the cluster to capture the citation from the local ecosystem if you used it there….

The local ecosystem is where implementing call tracking can cause the biggest problems with Google. The data moves around the ecosystem in opaque ways and can be persistent there for years after a number’s use has been discontinued. While we have some idea which sites Google uses as primary resources for additional listing data we don’t really know them all. An errant number in the local ecosystem is very likely to both reduce the strength of your main listing at Google AND cause a duplicate record to show there. The ONLY technique that can work is to use a SINGLE call tracking number as the primary number across the ecosystem and your local number as a secondary number across the ecosystem. Then be sure to add that call tracking number as a secondary number in your Places Dashboard.

Obviously this will only give you the benefit of tracking the APBG sites as a group. Given that they generate so little total traffic I am not sure that is such a good a idea. Much of the traffic generated at these sites is from branded searches that you likely would have received any ways. But it use does provide some additional detail.

Worth the effort? Certainly not if it is done wrong. And most of the campaigns that I have looked at from the likes of Dex and Reachlocal have been done improperly.

On your website is one environment where you have more control and might see some interesting value to using call tracking numbers. But even there if not done properly it can cause immeasurable harm to your Google local results. Google uses your website as the authoritative document in tracking your location prominence. Once again the phone number is a critical glue to being sure that the correct site is associated with the correct cluster. Thus it is critical that Google always see your correct local number when they visit and scrape your site.

How can this be done with call tracking? A simple way is to use an image file showing a tracking number writ large to a visitor while being sure that a plain text version of your number is visible to Google in the footer of your site. Another technique would be to use a java script to display a tracking number to the user but that guarantees that the Google bot and searchers from Google always see your local number. (See this discussion confirming that this practice is acceptable). Even in that situation I would be sure that the footer number and contact us page number accurately reflect your real local number so as not to confuse the Google’s cluster.

Alternatives: If you don’t have the resources to implement this correctly you are likely to cause more damage than good. A preferable alternative to screwing up your Google listing would be track incoming calls manually by asking the caller. Not as accurate, not as easy but a whole lot better than hosing your Google listing (which is likely returning the vast majority of your new inquiries anyways). Whitespark has this offline conversion tracking form that might be able to make this process easier.

The Bottom Line (updated to reflect some great comments):

Offline & Google Places for Business Dashboard: Use with great care. If the location of the tracking number is absolutely 100% guaranteed to not show up online and not be visible to Google then use with abandon (ie a billboard) but if there is any chance that the data will be scraped like coupons or YP ads then use only one number and be sure that it is also added to your Google listing as the secondary number.

Local Ecosytem: It can really hose your listing so be careful and use only one number and be sure that it is also added to your Google listing

Your website: OK to use if done with careful planning either via a javascript or image files.


And if you do some form of call tracking? Always retain the number for your business and NEVER return it to the vendor.

If the vendor is not willing to follow the above to the letter then either 1)they don’t care about your Google ranking 2)they are looking to just get credit for calls you would have already gotten or 3)they are just plain ignorant. Regardless you should run, not walk away, from their proposal because any gain in intelligence will be more than offset by the loss of leads from your Google listings.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search by

65 thoughts on “A Guide to Call Tracking and Local Search”

  1. Great article Mike! You know how I feel about this mess. I really recommend people stay away from Call tracking if possible.

    We just had another instance where DEX created a huge problem by using a tracking number for a Denver client, and publishing it with a different cities address (Grand Junction) where they have client with a very similar name. using the Denver tracking number.

    Killed the local rankings for both.

  2. The morale of the story is: don’t give the Google gods any doubt when it comes to your online key to the record, your phone #.

    For me, call tracking is best used in off line marketing in direct mailers, MoneyMailers, bus shelter advertising, billboards etc. Anything and everything that is offline cannot be indexed by search engines.


  3. @Dennis
    Some things offline, like the Yellow Pages and certain coupons, do make it online. So you need to be very circumspect as to where offline you place the numbers if you are not going to add them to Google.

    Yes it is easier to avoid then to get it right….

  4. I hear ya Mike but what is a YellowPage? (insert sarcasm)

    I guess for those business owners who do use those companies and services need to be made aware.

    I doubt that the YellowPage or other type companies reps are making anyone aware of this issue so let’s hope they have your site bookmarked and read these golden nuggets of advice…

  5. Great information Mike as usual. I have a situation right now where a client has a tracking number listed as his primary on his Places and his true local as his secondary. Now he wants that tracking number deleted (because he left his former vendor and didn’t retain it). I told him it’s probably going to end up a huge mess and might take months to actually get straight, but he seems to understand that (at least I hope so). Any insight on removing a tracking number from a dashboard and the time it might take for it to – hopefully – not be associated with his listing anymore?

  6. The worst part are some of these sites like Valpak et al jump on the call tracking bandwagon and don’t make it clear how they are doing the call tracking and next thing you know they have published the number on their site where Google can index it. Next thing you know that number then starts showing up on many more sites and all linked to the clients address. Most unsuspecting retail clients have no idea the damage that does. I’ve had numerous clients tell me they are using these services and I immediately paste the call tracking number into Google and it always come back listed on many additional sites. Ugh.

  7. @Josh
    You need to goto to Getlisted, Yext, InfoUSA, Localeze & Axciom and see how wide spread the bad number is. You then need to either edit the listing or nuke it at the source (making sure that the good number & NAP is being used.

    Then I would do a creative Google search like ‘”Business Name” AND “Call Tracking Number’ to see how far afield it is and make a plan to correct those.

    Changing the number at the dashboard to the secondary number might or might not require reverification, might or might not create a duplicate at Google. You won’t know until you try. If they trust the secondary number because it is well seeded then it might be a piece of cake…. then again it may be total chaos. Keep your eyes open for subsequent dupes.

  8. @Toby
    Valpak is another good example of offline data going online. Their coupons are picked up far and wide. Minimally the business is losing the benefit of the citation. Maximally causing much worse issues.

  9. @Mike

    I’m curious to know: what sites pick up Valpak?

    Thanks for this post…it’s always a pain explaining to clients why tracking numbers usually aren’t such a bright idea.

  10. I’m curious then, how do you recommend vendors tracking calls back to the publisher, segments, goals, etc… for attribution to prove value?

  11. @Christy
    As I noted above, if a call tracking vendor hoses the Google listing, then it destroys value NOT creates it. So there is no value from attribution in that setting. Only loss of value that is not being tracked.

    As it stands there is no universally acceptable ways to use multiple numbers for attributions without creating some problems.

    The use of call tracking in a limited way across the net, on the website and offline can provide some insight. As long as a call tracking vendor uses ONLY one number, adds that number to Google and gives the number to the business then no damage is done and some tracking can take place.

  12. Thanks Mike; a good article/resource for those clients who might need a bit of ‘persuasion’ when it comes to call tracking use.

  13. Very well explained Mike.

    We find that the national brands (and their agencies) are so enthralled with call tracking numbers that it’s almost impossible to dissuade them from wanting us to publish them via business listings.

    Some of these brands have been using call tracking numbers for so long that they have actually become part of the NAP, which creates even more interesting issues.

    On a side note, I do wonder if a day will come soon that Google and other search engines with have to cease putting so much value in the NAP phone number as more and more businesses opt to use their cell phone number and bypass the landline all together.

  14. Great post! I started using CallRail for one of my client’s PPC campaign. It uses javascript to swap the phone number. At first I was really (really, really) worried that the call tracking number would hurt rankings and get indexed.

    So far, so good. It’s been 4 months… not really long enough to know yet. But one way I tested was by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and the client’s real number is displayed.

  15. Thank you for the insights, great brreakdown – 3rd party social proof to illustrate pitfalls of call tracking to clients that need to be beat over the head as to why call tracking negatively impacts their online presence.

    It’s like pulling a thread on the old cartoon wool sweater..

    Effective leadership at the point of inception (getting the call, seeing the customer) seems to be the most important ingredient to systematically tracking all new customers. But human nature, laziness, & other duties quickly supersede call tracking tasks.

    Rewards, repetition, & resolve.

    Anyone have negative experiences with Adwords call forwarding numbers?

  16. Mike, as a newcomer to the world of SEO, I found this post to be very interesting. I never realized all of the possible pitfalls about call-tracking especially the fact that these numbers can be transferred to other companies when a contract expires. I appreciate all of the examples of the negative complications that can arise as a result of call tracking, very spooky. This information will be useful when speaking with clients who wish to utilize call tracking in the future. Thanks for the great information.

  17. @ChrisR
    I’ve used java script based call tracking for years (for both Google PPC and Google Organic search) and never had an issue with NAP or the actual call tracking number getting picked up (end user only sees the # when they click through to the site, it’s not published anywhere). The only problem that I have seen from using java script call tracking is that if you have another advertiser for the company pick up the call tracking number because they clicked on the PPC ad so what they saw when they landed on the site was the PPC call track # which they then used in their own materials or on a website.

  18. @Mary-Bowling
    I’ve used Marchex for years…they only provide call tracking not other ad services so they aren’t using your numbers for anything.

  19. @Christy
    Whatever you do to prove attribution it can’t destroy value.

    I would suggest a combination of limited call tracking, analytics campaign tracking and offline call logs.

  20. Great post Mike. This is now the go-to post for information on call tracking and the issues it can cause with local SEO.

    Mary, I recently set up IfByPhone for one of my clients, on the website only. I left the real number in the footer in schema. They use Javascript to rotate through a pool of numbers and are able to report on referrer source, keywords (when it’s not “not provided”), user paths through the site before the call, etc. I looked at a few examples and searched for the tracking number+business name, and found that Google wasn’t picking it up. It’s valuable data to have when 80% of the leads come through the phone. It’s roughly $150 to $200 per month for a pool of 18 numbers, which is what they recommended for tracking a site with 3000 unique visitors per month.

    I’ll keep a close eye on the NAP across the ecosystem and let you know if there is any “leakage”, but so far it looks clean, and I’m happy with the service.

  21. Advertisers have a bias to push SMBs to use call tracking to generate payable connections besides clicks. I recently dropped CityGrid after 1 month of use for our exterior season (I’ve used them previously for about 2 years).

    They pushed me to get a tracking # and I declined asking them to just use my regular number because of NAP consistency issues (they had no idea what I was talking about). They agreed.

    So then I did a vanity search for my business name on various IYP and would always get two ads (one for the regular listing and one from CityGrid). Interestingly, NONE of the citygrid ads displayed my phone number. I had called up YP.com and my Superpages rep and both told me that CityGrid was actively suppressing my regular phone number from being pushed out to their network. The rep’s consensus was that CityGrid does this when an SMB declines to use a call tracking number (with the assumption that without a tracking number or any number displayed, a searcher would have to click on the ad thus generating a paid action).

    If this is true, this is really a dirty tactic on the part of CityGrid (and kind of a clever way to still maintain payable actions without a tracking number).

    Anyone have a similar experience?

  22. Mike, you are so right about this question continuing to come up on a regular basis. You have done an excellent job, in particular, of explaining the potential harms of improperly implemented call tracking. And the advice as to what can be done should be very easy for anyone to understand. I bet I’ll be pointing someone to this piece before the week is out:)

  23. @Brian

    Some of these brands have been using call tracking numbers for so long that they have actually become part of the NAP, which creates even more interesting issues.

    This is a use that I did not cover. But I have worked with clients that made the call tracking number the primary local number across the whole ecosystem so that, while they didn’t have granular analysis, they did have good recordings etc.

    if a day will come soon that Google and other search engines with have to cease putting so much value in the NAP phone number as more and more businesses opt to use their cell phone number and bypass the landline all together.

    I have worked with clients that use their cell phone. As long as it is rigorously distributed it works fine as a primary number. So the time is now. Google is fine with that as long as you make sure that the upstream data is clean.

  24. @Yaro

    I have not experienced what you describe but it makes sense that they are attempting to take credit when none is due…for them its just another billable event regardless of whether they have provided value.

    Thanks. Glad it will be of use.

  25. Great post Mike and a fantastic overview of the issues call tracking can bring up.

    Mary: Like Darren we have had success using Javascript tracking for paid campaigns with both Marchex & IfByPhone and no issues with NAP data getting muddled in the ecosystem. I wouldn’t recommend using this tactic for organic or direct traffic as the risk of somebody thinking it is your primary number and publishing elsewhere rises significantly.

    If you are a business that requires comprehensive call tracking you can port your primary number to a call tracking provider. This can be a pricey solution but it is entirely safe from a data consistency point of view.

  26. I used SEER’s Google Scraper spreadsheet to track search results for all the phone numbers in my call tracking pool.

    I then customized the code to exclude various reverse phone lookup sites that were appearing in the results.

    I set up a notification in Google Docs to notify me whenever the results change. We’ll see if this works to notify me if and when one of my numbers leaks out on to the web. I suspect the automatic notifications won’t work. I will probably need to check the doc manually every once in a while.

  27. Mike great post. I have been wondering about this issue for a while and this really helped me. You had mentioned that Google has a “machine” where they get all the local listing info from. I would love, if you could provide more insight on this, or if you have a link to it? Thanks

  28. @peter
    The “machine” is a metaphor for the bots that scrape the web and the algo that


    As usual you make some really good points. I am disappointed that you did not provide a bit more color for people to understand not by tracking/not tracking but rather consistent online NAP/not consistent NAP is the real issue. Google and other database management systems, or search engines, do not currently take into account the nuance of different numbers associated with a business online. I guarantee you the same number does not ring to all the desks at google.
    If you are trying to use multiple numbers for organic publishers or you are not willing to make the effort to use a single number for all online resources it is going to be trouble. The truth is that fax numbers, different divisions, changed numbers and all of the reasons that happen the physical world can wreak havoc in the online world.
    One of they keys to Google and other citations regular sanitation to keep a single number as the online authority. That could be your desk phone, your receptionists phone or a tracking number.
    Not everyone and more importantly,every marketing company is willing to put in that effort. It’s not that all heart transplants are deadly, just ones done by people who don’t know or choose to do it right.

  29. Another epic post on this very important topic. I hope that the incredible people over at DEX read this and ask your advice on how to change their ways. I’ve heard from several businesses lately that have used DEX for years with success but now when they want to “optimize their business listings online” their citations are a total mess.

    “And most of the campaigns that I have looked at from the likes of Dex and Reachlocal have been done improperly.” EXACTLY

  30. @Jeffrey
    DEX usually only implements ONE number. For them to get to a point of “doing no harm” would be fairly easy. It would be a relatively trivial task for them to add their call tracking number to either MapMaker or the Dashboard and to agree to transfer the number to the business after the campaign is over.

  31. Mike,

    So then would you recommend the SMB to add that one number to mapmaker & their dashboard – so long as they are still advertising? Would this help?

  32. @Jeremy
    It is always hard to know what to include and not include in an article like this. I always assume that my readers are knowledgable and educated as to the basics. As you know I stress NAP consistency and the difficulty with call tracking in my intro talks but here I figure folks either know it or should know it. (and if they don’t they will read the complete back library. 🙂 )

    Google, in effectively requiring a single number so that they can keep the cluster straight, is (as you point out) forcing reality to emulate them rather than the other way around. Over the years they have gotten better at sifting through the mess that is SMB telephone reality but there is still a ways to go. In fact in MapMaker I have seen examples of them tracking more than two numbers for a given business.

    It would be trivial for call tracking vendors to add the additional number to the MapMaker listing (being sure to check for dupes first) and to be sure that the number stays with the SMB going forward. Whether through lack of knowledge or some other impediment, they don’t seem to do that and frequently cause issues. Which is the point of this article.

  33. Mike:

    I ran one call tracking program and monitored 2 others. I reviewed all data and listened to all the calls.

    2 of the campaigns were run by ReachLocal and 1 by Yodle. Both are Google Partners/Google resellers of adwords. Both run the call tracking systems through adwords.

    Both are notorious for marking up adwords. In my estimation the mark up was about 2-3 times the cost of ads.

    The last one I monitored was Autumn last year. It followed a change with google policy. The resellers had to run a simultaneous graph showing actual adwords charges. The difference between RL’s charges and adwords charges was ENORMOUS in that rough 2.5 multiple of actual costs.

    During earlier times it was more difficult to track the costs.

    While google instituted that change and requirement to somewhat quell complaints and problems it was virtually impossible to navigate to where that data was shown by RL and neeedless to say nobody at RL tells the SMB how to find it, let alone how to navigate to all the data.

    One other astounding fact connected to RL. In the two campaigns I watched….RL generates a lot of data on the web via 3rd party vendors (a lot is citygrid) with the new NAP info.

    OMG!!!!! There is all this terrible NAP data on the web with the correct name and address but the redirected phone number.

    DANGER SIGNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is going to screw up your record. Dupe City is on the way.

    It didn’t occur. I also tracked down 2 other RL customers with that same type of dangerous HORRENDOUS WRONG NAP data. It didn’t mess up a record.

    What occurred???????

    Here is what I think. RL takes over the adwords campaign in full, pays google, provides the info about the business. THEY GIVE GOOGLE THE NEW NAP INFO WITH THE NEW PHONE NUMBER.

    Google is getting this from their partner….their feet on the street sales team that is selling adwords on their behalf to local smbs.

    Google has to disconnect/detach/ignore whatever this NAP info in the form of websites and directories with the redirected phone number from the cluster for that SMB.

    I found NO reports of dupe records mussing up an SMB’s google+ record…its former Google Places Record as a result of RL’s actions and its flooding the web with documents with WRONG NAP information.

    Isn’t that a crying shame. Google was taking care of its adwords resellers and “managing correct NAP” via the resellers but was doing nothing for thousands and thousands of smb’s that got messed up by a crummy weak algo that continuously generated dupes and crappy mixed up NAP info.

    Of course I can’t prove that…but I saw 4 examples of the RL ordered up lousy NAP data for 4 different businesses and none of them had dupe issues or bad NAP data connected to their records.

    So many adverse issues with the yodle and RL campaigns. The business that used yodle has never advertised with adwords since. They have lousy discovery visibility in maps and organic. They lose in the world of google search.

    SMB’s can direct contact vendors that provide call monitoring. You don’t have to use a 3rd party service.

    Also today google is offering live Analytics. SMB’s can listen to the phone then turn on Live analytics. Maybe not practicle or doable all the time..but its a start to track web data when the calls come in.

    Of course if the person doing the search and making the call was using an IOS6 device and hit on an organic result you won’t know what phrase drove the call…and if the person was signed into a gmail acct and did a search…you won’t know what keywords drove the call……

    but that is also a totally different story.

  34. Good read! As a key aggregater of NAP data sourced directly from the Communications Service Providers (e.g. Telcos) and others, and publisher of this data to National 411 platforms and source for other downstream information/data services online & offline we have to fully aware of all the implications both positive and negative and manage accordingly.

  35. We never use call tracking offsite online, but we do use call tracking onsite all the time.

    I think using call tracking on your website with the proper javascript is pretty safe.

    We always still have the full NAP all marked up in proper schema markup on the site too, usually in the footer, so search engines are finding the correct phone number(s).

    I worried that folks might read this and think call tracking is not a good thing to do. It can be an awesome tool in understanding your conversions and audience/customers.

    Using call tracking in your citations – yeah duh… hell no!

    Using call tracking on your website for deeper analytics tracking… hell yeah!

  36. Mike,

    I was torn about the call tracking as I did not want to rely on the receptionists of my clients, as IMO it would not be reliable. I found a company that uses javascript to stay in googles good graces. Just started with them, and excited to see those calls be tracked. Another great post Mike!


  37. @Joe
    I am always ready to learn. Thanks for pointing out the article. It would appear that rather the article reinforces my points and not rebuts them. Clearly their POV is different but the bullet points are the same.

    This comment basically seems to reinforce one of the thing that I was saying: Here at LogMyCalls, we don’t offer “dirty numbers” and once a customer buys a call tracking number, it belongs to them. Period..

    We both agree that a number, once assigned, should stay assigned. The reality is that in many programs that I have looked at from national resellers, that is NOT the case. But I am all for it.

    If that happens AND the number is co-consigned at Google, many of the problems that I speak of can be avoided.

    He went on to says: We don’t argue with Google. We totally agree that you should follow the guidelines and have your main phone number on your Google+ local page, other directories, on your website.

    We seem to agree on a second point.

    However here he puts words in my mouth: Next, he would have local business owners believe that using call tracking numbers is somehow a complicated process. .

    As a number of posters have indicated there are prepackaged solutions… and they and I agree that when used on a website can be a very useful solution.

    My point is that done improperly, call tracking can be disastrous and there are places where it makes sense. Unfortunately, as many of the above posters can tell you, the packages most frequently seen by SMBS violate what the article seems to think is sacrosanct: owning then number and not polluting the local ecosystem.

    Unfortunately many resellers of these services either through ignorance or worse do not seem to understand what log my calls understands that it needs to be properly implemented.

  38. Great article, Mike. Thanks for this.

    I find it interesting that “dirty” numbers only pertain (in context, giggity) to numbers that are loaned to other businesses.

    I have a couple years of history with a few programs that also distribute “dirty” numbers. These are numbers that were associated with pre-paid cell phones or something similar.

    This creates a problem in call tracking (and spend) because these calls are coming from creditors, probation officers, etc.

    This happens a lot. Which begs the question “How are these companies buying numbers?”

  39. Gosh Mike….you make me feel like a genius! I have been trying to tell clients this for months. It just confuses the search engines. One new client allowed YP.com to set up 5 tracking numbers, one for each of his services. These numbers are scattered all over the citations. He pays $75 every time one is used. Who uses them the most? Solicitors like me! Thank you for this article!

  40. I’m big on measuring ROI and doing SEO right, so this is such a challenging topic. Google and Bing obviously understand that marketers want to track campaign ROI. With Schema.org becoming more mainstream, I see no reason why SE’s can’t leverage a Schema itemproperty to map the business mentioned to the corresponding Google+/Bing Local profile. Identifying the local profile ID seems like a clear-cut connection, and the citation’s page should have adequate context that would allow for algorithmic recon. As a simple solution, allowing the NAP phone # to be listed in telephone Schema meta data and then visually displaying a tracking # would be nice too.

    In an age where having a business website is expected, evolving to a “NAW” standard with accountability back to the name, address, and website domain (with optional phone #) seems much more common, practical and efficient.

    I agree there are many cases where call tracking is simply unnecessary overkill that hurts more than it helps, especially for SMBs. Where I’ve seen this becoming an increasing challenge/concern though is with big B2B brand dealer directories/microsites. I’ve seen notable ranking wins by applying basic LSEO to [organic] dealer profile pages. (Big brand authority plus clear local relevance has solid local ranking power.) At the same time, B2B brands want accountability for leads they send to their dealers. Measuring this alone is huge justification for entire websites, locator tools, mobile optimization, etc., which brings us back to the chicken and egg battle. Without measuring, there’s no proof to justify the content and development efforts. Yet, without content, there’s no local traffic to drive. We’ve contemplated (and even deployed some) extensive call management work-around solutions. Rigging content with JavaScript or images for phone numbers is a lot of work for large scale cases. It frustrates me such ridiculous hoops are even considered just to accommodate SE’s outdated NAP policy / match criteria. …Bring on the “NAW” standard! 😉

    Anyone else have similar B2B client cases? I’d like to do more experiments to test limits. I’m open to suggestions and insights. Call tracking use in large dealer directories is complicated enough on its own. Until SE’s provide a legit option that allows for call tracking without a ranking penalty, I think this issue will likely remain open. Thoughts?

  41. @Angie
    Howdy, howdy… Your proposal mimics one that I made in Oct, 2010 (which predates schema) to use hCard. My sense is that Google will not adopt until the industry has and the industry won’t adopt until Google has. And I didn’t have the energy to promote its adoption.

    If call tracking is used on a limited basis around the web, one can add a few additional phone numbers at least to Google (via the dashboard or MapMaker) that would prevent the fracturing of the cluster.

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