Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.
Giving your customers the option to order through phone as well as online can be a smart business move. After all, more purchase channels often mean more revenue, too.
But many eCommerce businesses miss a crucial aspect when offering phone ordering: tracking that data and using it to inform their entire digital marketing strategy.
With the right approach, you can generate more conversions, less wasted ad spend, and more accurate and insightful analytics. (Just look at this client, who saw a 74% increase in PPC revenue after implementing tracking solutions!)
Bottom line: If inbound order calls are an important part of your eCommerce business’s strategy, it’s time to start tracking that data.
This guide will show you how.
Table of Contents
- Inbound Call Tracking: Misconceptions & Challenges
- How Does Call Conversion Tracking Work?
- Inbound Call Tracking Tools
- Best Practices for Conversion Call Tracking
- Start Tracking Your Inbound Calls Today
Inbound Call Tracking: Misconceptions & Challenges
In our experience, many online businesses assume that they don’t need inbound call tracking or that they are already doing enough on their own.
It’s a reasonable assumption, especially when they already neatly track the total number of incoming calls and the resulting conversion revenue.
But, they’re often missing one big piece of the puzzle: the why and how behind these purchases. Which of those call conversions came in as a result of a keyword bid? Which ones came in from an organic search?
Knowing this data is huge for the continuous improvement of your marketing efforts. If you don’t, it becomes near impossible to accurately track ROAS and make the optimizations your campaigns need.
Unfortunately, most brands’ attempts at phone call conversion tracking are sorely lacking, relying on manual tracking or a rough estimate of revenue breakdown. These methods involve a lot of legwork for only questionable results.
There’s a better way: Tracking clicks.
But, in order to track an ad that drives a click, a call, and (ultimately) a sale, you need call-tracking software — a.k.a. click-to-call tracking.
How Does Call Conversion Tracking Work?
When you use a call tracking tool, your ad clicks and call data are segmented. You get an accurate report of how many calls your business receives from your pay-per-click (PPC) ads vs. how many clicks from those ads take customers to your website.
Here’s how it works:
Once you integrate Google Analytics, this dynamic number insertion (DNI) segments people by tagging each call with its source (direct referral, paid search ads, organic), and presents that information to you in a dashboard:
Now, the business has a factual overview of their call sources and can make appropriate optimizations based on this data.
Keyword-Level Call Tracking
Call tracking can reveal more than just the top-level view of where your calls are coming from. By integrating with Google Analytics, you can see these metrics at a keyword level — allowing you to further optimize your Google Ads spend and identify new targeting opportunities for your campaigns.
This tracking system captures the Google Click ID associated with each call. By adding monetary value and date, you can then import that data back into Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) for a fuller picture.
Google will connect the dots by attaching value to each call and keyword targeted in your campaigns. From there, you can intelligently optimize your paid search campaigns for these inbound calls.
Why Integrate PPC Call Tracking?
Missing call data leaves a hole in your ROAS measurement, leading to lower conversion rates, wasted ad spend, and inaccurate reporting.
In addition, some brands simply have a customer base or culture requiring a lot of phone calls (certain customer demographics, products that require lots of questions, etc.). For them, it’s essential to track call activity accurately to know ROAS and marketing metrics.
Call tracking for PPC at the keyword level yields more revenue in a number of ways:
- Understand the intent of phone call leads: What are they looking to get, which questions or objections are they raising, and what is their path to conversion?
- Determine your true ROAS: Not tracking the calls resulting from paid ads means you can’t quantify.
- Maximize budget: Drill down into lead-generation sources at a granular level to find the best keywords that convert into calls and sales.
- Track conversion rate accurately: When the missing phone data piece is included, you can evaluate your conversion rate by channel to see how customers find your business (PPC, SEO, social media, email, etc.) and which paths lead to the best results.
Callers into your business are often the most engaged leads. When a customer dials your number after viewing an ad, this signals a strong intent to consider or make a purchase.
It’s up to your business to take advantage of that tendency with optimized marketing campaigns.
A Real-Life Client Example
Keyword-level call tracking can reveal some interesting data, as it did for one of our clients in the appliances niche.
After integrating Google Ads call tracking into their marketing campaigns, we discovered a surprising fact: The products the client had assumed were the most lucrative were severely underperforming. The actual best-performing products, on the other hand, didn’t have the budget or strategy needed to really succeed. By using that data to improve their Google Shopping Ads and product-related Search campaigns, we were able to increase transactions by 166% and revenue by 199% — with only a 9% increase in cost.
Inbound Call Tracking Tools
If you’re not yet tracking inbound call data, there’s a wealth of call conversion tracking tools to help you get started. We’ve listed a few of your options below.
Google Analytics & Tag Manager
You can implement Google Analytics call tracking on your own with Google Tag Manager.
First, you’ll need to create a conversion action within your Google Ads account that will associate with your inbound calls. Then, you’ll set up a conversion tracking tag, which will attribute conversions to particular marketing campaigns.
Google provides a detailed walk-through of this process in its complete guide. If you choose this route, we recommend teaming up with your developer to ensure tracking is implemented efficiently and call reporting is set up correctly.
For clients that aren’t currently tracking calls, our team recommends CallRail.* This tool integrates easily with Google Analytics (or Google Data Studio), your other existing software, and your call center to show you keyword-level call data.
CallRail displays the exact traffic source, keywords, and phrases that convert into calls, along with other useful data — making tracking inbound calls a much more scalable process. Nearly every time we integrate this tool, data reveals that clients could allocate their ad budget more effectively.
CallRail can also function as a CRM for calls.
One of our former clients in the plumbing niche integrated CallRail with another call-tracking service that’s more limited in its paid source tracking. This allowed the client to see what they needed to see (dispatch reports, invoice details, etc.), while also giving us the data we needed (calls attributed to service types and campaigns) to allocate their ad spend more efficiently.
*Full disclosure: Inflow is a CallRail affiliate. We frequently use the tool for our clients and genuinely find it easy to use for most of our clients’ needs.
8 Best Practices for Conversion Call Tracking
Whichever tools or strategy you use, your inbound call tracking should be simple to set up and as automated as possible — while still providing valuable insights to your marketing efforts.
We’ve created this list of best practices based on our experience working with dozens of eCommerce businesses. Follow them today to optimize your call tracking results.
1. Train Your Phone Reps to Track
Built-in phone tracking features from call centers and pay-per-call networks lack the ability to integrate with your paid ad campaigns, so training phone reps on your sales team to tag calls in real-time with a tracking tool is key.
Whether a business gets five calls a month or 5,000, it’s important to know where these calls come from and what the user is looking for. When your team is automatically tagging those calls as they get them, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and maximize whichever call-tracking solution you’ve chosen.
2. Improve Your Call Performance
Call tracking lets you see exactly what happened after a lead makes a call. From there, you can optimize your call center’s process and performance using this data.
Let’s say that 100 inbound calls were made to your business the previous month. Out of those calls, you’ll know how many were answered, unanswered, got a busy signal, or went to voicemail.
Looking at when those calls came in, you conclude that from 3–5 p.m. too many calls went to the busy signal. You might decide to adjust your reps’ shifts or hire additional reps to make up for that.
By integrating other platforms (email CRM, Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.), you can also see which calls came from existing customers vs. new customers — and what the results were for each group. You can use these insights to evaluate how your sales team is following up with and handling leads, so you can maximize the chance of conversions.
3. Pair Your PPC Ads with Keyword Tracking Numbers
As mentioned above, you’re probably used to seeing clicks on your Google Ads, but you may not be seeing calls. By pairing your ads with keyword tracking numbers, you can gather data on call conversions and their impact on your total conversions report:
When a call from a PPC source comes in, your tracking parameters will show you:
- Which campaigns it came from
- Which keyword it was associated with
- And which landing page the customer was sent to
This is foundational data for optimizing your campaigns toward callers and boosting your revenue numbers.
4. Integrate Your Dashboard
When you implement inbound call tracking, we recommend creating a phone call dashboard in Google Analytics or Google Data Studio. Use that dashboard to track the following and make your advertising efforts (and dollars) go farther:
- Which percentage of calls come from direct, organic, or paid sources
- Which specific products users are calling to purchase or inquire about
This dashboard can also help you track whichever call data is integral to your business, including:
- Time of day
- Call length
- Call volume
- Revenue for each call
- Cost of acquisition
- Highest-revenue products
- Channels with the highest-quality leads
- Highest- and lowest-converting keywords
- Return on investment (ROI) and value of call tracking itself
5. Tag and Track Detailed Analytics
When you get even more granular with it, your phone call data is a potential goldmine.
An example: One of our clients in the home renovation niche downloaded calls received over a month into a report. They filtered the report for calls that came from paid ads and tagged:
- What the user called for
- If the call got revenue and how much
- If the lead was qualified or not
- And which product type the user was interested in
Our client used this data to better understand where to drive their leads. If a certain landing page was generating more revenue than others, they could adjust their ads to drive more leads to that page.
Looking at every touchpoint that leads to a call, you’ll better understand the online behavior of your callers (including where they are in the customer journey) and can more effectively optimize your campaigns.
6. Mine Calls for Keywords and Intent
Call recording is included in most call-tracking software — and is a useful feature for better understanding your current and potential customers.
These recordings can reveal your customer “search intent” (ie. what they’re calling about), which should be tagged in your tracking system. If you get a lot of calls about specific products or services, mine customer language from the recordings/transcripts to discover new target keywords that better match their intent.
Here’s an example: A former client that offers both fireplace and plumbing products anticipated greater demand for the fireplace segment in early December (when people use their fireplaces the most). So, in an effort to drive more of those leads, we allocated more budget to fireplace-related keywords during that time period.
But, by reviewing call data, we soon realized that more incoming calls were about plumbing than fireplaces. Therefore, we adjusted ad budgets to terms that take advantage of the greater demand for plumbing during this time.
7. Take Action on Your Budget Allocations
As that example shows your business needs to analyze the dollar value of calls — and use that data to stop paying for keywords that don’t yield revenue, conversions, and leads.
Our strategy: Look at which ads are driving the most calls, and use keyword-level call tracking to see the exact terms driving those conversions. Then, increase your allocation to those highest-converting keywords!
So, if Keyword #1 creates 10 calls and a total lead value of $1,000, and Keyword #2 creates five calls with a total lead value of $3,000, bid on the one attracting higher-value customers — Keyword #2.
8. Hire an Agency for PPC Call Tracking
Many busy eCommerce businesses prefer to hire out this aspect of their digital marketing analytics rather than do it themselves. (That’s why we’re here!)
Before hiring a PPC agency, watch out for these factors:
- Charging extra fees: Call tracking is a necessary aspect of tracking ROI from the agency’s performance. So, your business shouldn’t pay additional fees, other than what the tool costs to implement and run.
- Pushing services you don’t need: If an agency or consultant is pushing you to track calls — but inbound calls aren’t an aspect of your business — be wary of their proposal.
- Showing the value: A genuine agency or consultant will be upfront about how call tracking can help your business. They should share previous case studies with you, including clear numbers on how conversion call tracking can impact your bottom line.
- Proposing a multi-pronged strategy: As mentioned above, many different channels play a role in your business’s success. Inbound calls are just one faction. Your agency or consultant should understand and incorporate all the moving pieces that go into your business’s strategy.
Start Tracking Your Inbound Calls Today
Whether you’ve tried tracking call conversions in the past (on your own or with an agency) or you’re looking to start for the first time, finding the right call tracking software and using it effectively is the key to success.
We recommend inbound call tracking to all of our eCommerce clients, but especially those who:
- Have higher prices than competitors
- Have an older customer demographic
- Position themselves as high-expertise brands
By integrating call tracking into your analytics, you give your business a better shot at allocating ad spend appropriately and maximizing your ROAS across several marketing channels. Use this data to make better decisions within the dynamic of paid ads, your products and services, feedback from customers, and more.
Here at Inflow, we help our clients automate their call tracking as much as possible. We take it from there, using the data to create additional trackable revenue through SEO and paid ad campaigns. The proof is in the case studies:
- How Offline Conversion Tracking Led to 74% Increase in PPC Revenue: Case Study
- Case Study: 199% Increase in Revenue after Call-Tracking Campaign Changes
If you’re interested in tracking your inbound calls, or implelmenting other solutions for more eCommerce conversions, our team is ready to create a customized proposal for your business. Contact us today to get started.