In this guide, you’ll learn the best practices for tracking inbound phone calls to your eCommerce store.
If inbound calls are an important part of your business and you want:
- More conversions
- Less wasted ad spend
- More accurate + insightful analytics
Then you’ll want to apply the actionable tips here to your marketing campaigns.
Let’s dive right in.
(Or, please get in touch if you’d like us to help you implement call tracking solutions for your website.)
Call Tracking: Misconceptions and Challenges
In our experience, many 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. They know the number of incoming calls and the sales from those calls, after all.
But which of those inbound calls came in as a result of a keyword bid, and which ones came in from an organic search? It sounds like common sense, but we’ve seen that many businesses aren’t fully tracking the ROAS for inbound calls.
The challenge for eCommerce stores is figuring out how to track ROAS accurately without knowing what ads or other marketing sources their calls are attributed to.
Most attempts at inbound call tracking involve either:
- Attempting to manually track these calls or
- Roughly estimating how much revenue came from these calls vs other platforms each month.
In short: a lot of legwork yielding questionable reports.
You can track clicks. But in order to properly track an ad that drives a click, a call, and ultimately a sale—you need call tracking software (AKA click-to-call tracking).
A good marketing strategy relies on accurate reports. But Google Ads and other reporting tools will sometimes show different, overlapping measurements for clicks and calls.
How Does Call Tracking Work?
With a call tracking tool, clicks and calls are segmented. You get an accurate report of how many calls you receive from your paid ads vs clicks.
Potential customers will see one number for a paid ad, another for an organic SEO listing, and another for a direct visit, etc.
Integrating with 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.
If you aren’t tracking calls yet, it could be that:
- You know you should be tracking it but aren’t sure how to do it correctly.
- You’ve ineffectively tried to track it yourself or hired it out to agencies or consultants who didn’t know how.
- You haven’t tried to track it because you don’t want the added cost of tracking more than just the incoming calls and the results from those calls vs attributing it to their paid campaign.
The solution is to implement call tracking software and train your sales team on how to use it effectively.
Our Recommended Call Tracking Tool
The tool we typically recommend to any business that isn’t currently tracking calls is CallRail* (Full Disclosure: We’re a CallRail affiliate because we use them and genuinely think the product is useful as per this section. But the strategies in this article will work regardless of which call tracking software you go with).
This call tracking 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 converted into calls, along with other useful data—making tracking inbound calls a much more scalable process.
There are other call tracking tools out there, but we use CallRail the most often to help companies track call revenue as linked to their paid ad spend.
Nearly every time we integrate it—if not every time—this software reveals that companies could be allocating their ad budget more effectively.
Additionally, CallRail can function as a CRM for calls.
One of our clients in the plumbing niche integrates CallRail with another call tracking service that is more limited in its paid source tracking. This allows the client to see what they need to see (dispatch reports, invoice details, etc.).
It also allows us to see what we need to see (calls attributed to service types and campaigns) in order to allocate their ad spend effectively.
What is Keyword Level Call Tracking (PPC Call Tracking)?
Call tracking can be integrated through Google analytics to see metrics at the keyword level. This allows your eCommerce business to further optimize ad spend and identify new opportunities to target in your campaigns.
How does it work? You can see the Google click ID and associate it with the call it resulted in.
Adding a monetary value and date, you can import that back into Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords).
Google and the call analytics platform will connect the dots by attaching value to each call and keyword targeted in your campaigns. This allows managers to intelligently optimize paid campaigns for 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 leads: What are they looking to get, what questions or objections are they raising, and what is their path to convert?
- 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 with multi-channel attribution: Integrate call tracking data with Google analytics to ensure the missing phone data piece is included, and see what marketing channels website visitors and callers find your business through (PPC, SEO, social media, email, etc).
Callers into your business are the most engaged leads. When a customer dials after viewing an ad, this signals a strong intent to consider or make a purchase.
Phone call leads convert at 10 times the rate of web leads, according to Invoca.
For further affirmation: call leads converted 10-15 times more frequently than web leads, according to a 2016 report by BIA-Kelsey.
Clearly, optimizing for calls is very valuable.
Our Approach to Call Tracking
In a previous case study, we helped a client that specializes in appliances (and other products for homes and businesses) integrate call tracking data into their marketing campaigns.
Our changes to their campaigns were based on analyzing the call data, which increased ad costs by about 9%, but increased revenue by 199%.
Why did it go up? After integrating call tracking, our team saw which products were best-performing. These were different products from what the client had assumed were the most lucrative.
We used that data to improve their Google shopping ads and product-related search campaigns. In turn, lead generation tracking on the client’s end confirmed our hypothesis that those other products were the better ones to target with ads.
There are some important best practices to make call tracking as effective for your business as it was in this example.
Best Practices for Call Tracking
Above all: inbound call tracking should be simple to set up and as automated as possible—while providing valuable insights to your marketing efforts.
These best practices will help to that end.
1. Have Your Phone Reps or Call Center Use a Tool
In the interest of keeping it simple and automated, train your sales reps to tag calls in real-time.
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 a tracking tool is key.
Whether a business gets 5 calls a month or 5000: it’s important to know where these calls come from and what the user is looking for. Then, to optimize campaigns and spend allocation based on this information.
Inbound call routing based on this information is important: Especially when just one call can result in a high ticket purchase or a qualified lead.
2. Improve Your Call Performance
Call tracking lets you see exactly what happened after a lead makes a call. You can optimize your call center’s process and performance using this call status data.
For example, you can see that 100 inbound calls were made 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 the hourly blocks when those calls came in, you can see that from 3 to 5 p.m. too many calls went to the busy signal. Or that between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. there were too many unanswered calls.
By integrating other platforms (Google Ads, email CRM, Salesforce, HubSpot, etc.) we can see what calls came from existing customers vs. new customers, and what the results were.
You can also use it to get insight into how sales is following up with and handling leads to make sure that sales processes are being followed.
3. Pair Your PPC Ads with Keyword Tracking Numbers
As we’ve mentioned, you’re probably used to seeing clicks on your Google Ads…but you may not be seeing calls.
By pairing those ads with keyword tracking numbers you can see call conversions and their impact in your total conversions report:
Using a tracking parameter attached to each ad for the keyword pool, when a call from a PPC source comes in, you can see:
- What campaign it came from
- The keyword
- And the landing page they were driven to
This is the foundational data for optimizing your campaigns toward callers.
4. Integrate Your Dashboard
Create a phone call dashboard in Google analytics or Google Data studio. Then, track the following to make your advertising efforts (and dollars) go farther:
- What % of calls are coming from a direct, organic, or paid source? (The higher the % calls coming from paid the more important call tracking is.)
- What specific products are users calling to purchase / inquire about?
Clearly, more budget and other resources should be allocated to selling those products.
Using the dashboard you’ll also be able to track:
- Time of day
- Call duration
- Call volume
- Revenue for each call
- Cost of acquisition (and how to lower it)
- What products drive the most revenue
- What channels generate the highest quality leads
- What keywords are the highest converting and which are wasting money
- And of course, the ROI and value of call tracking itself
5. Tag and Track Detailed Analytics
Your phone call data is a potential goldmine once you get even more granular.
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. Then tagged:
- What the user called for
- If the call got revenue and how much
- If the lead was qualified or not
- The product type
This data came in handy to evaluate where to drive leads to. If a certain landing page was getting more revenue, they could now change ads to drive more leads to that page.
Looking at every touchpoint that leads to a call through multi-channel attribution, you can understand the online behavior of callers, including where they are in the customer journey, and optimize campaigns in this way.
6. Mine Calls for Keywords and Intent
Call recording is a useful feature within most call tracking software that helps you to better understand your current and potential customers.
Pay attention to what customers want in phone conversations by using these call recordings to tag their intent (if call reps haven’t tagged them beforehand).
If you get a lot of calls around one of your specific products or services, you can mine customer language from the recording or transcripts of their calls to discover new keywords to target with your ads that better match their intent.
Example: A client that offers both fireplace and plumbing products/installation/repair anticipated a greater demand for the fireplace segment in early December (when people use their fireplaces the most).
So, to drive a high amount of leads we allocated more budget to fireplace-related keywords.
We soon realized that more incoming calls were for plumbing than for fireplaces, therefore, we adjusted ad budgets to terms that take advantage of the greater demand for plumbing.
7. Take Action on Your Budget Allocations
As the example above shows, it’s important to look at the dollar value of calls, and to stop paying for keywords that aren’t shown to yield revenue, conversions, and leads.
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 the highest converting keywords!
Example: If a keyword creates 10 calls and a total lead value of $1000, and another keyword creates 5 calls with a total lead value of $1000, you would bid on the one attracting higher value customers.
In line with this scenario: a client of ours in the home renovation niche offering window products realized they were wasting spend on blind-related keywords.
Instead, we shifted the focus to target shutter-related keywords that performed much better for them according to revenue tags in CallRail.
8. Hire an Effective Agency for PPC Call Tracking
Many busy eCommerce businesses would prefer to hire out this aspect of their digital marketing analytics rather than do it themselves. (It’s also what we’re here for.)
To provide you some guidance in hiring this out, pay attention to these red flags and good signs.
- Does your business receive inbound calls? It’s worth asking. If an agency or consultant is pushing you to track calls but calls aren’t an aspect of your business, then you shouldn’t hire what you don’t need.
- Are they charging extra fees for call tracking beyond the tool’s pricing? Call tracking is a necessary aspect of tracking ROI from the agency’s performance, so the client shouldn’t pay additional fees on it.
- Plus, a software like CallRail may give the client a discount for going through an agency, rather than the client signing onto CallRail alone.
- Does the agency or consultant understand all the pieces that go into your business, including inbound calls from customers?
- Are they showing you the value of call tracking?
Wasted ad spend is common, and a good agency should help you maximize what you spend. Call tracking is simply part of doing that (or should be).
We help our clients to understand how valuable call tracking is by showing them exactly where they are currently wasting their paid ad spend. The proof is in the tracking.
If your business receives calls, then you need to be tracking them in pursuit of accurate and effective marketing.
It’s particularly important to be tracking calls if:
- You have higher prices than competitors. (People want to call more frequently before making a significant purchase to talk about the product.)
- You are a business positioned to value yourself on having more expertise, customization, and/or service offerings—people may call more for those reasons.
- You are a business with older demographics who tend to prefer doing business over the phone.
Tracking the return or churn from these ad-attributed calls should be standard practice—yet many businesses aren’t integrating call tracking into their analytics yet.
Implementing this will help you to maximize ROAS thanks to attribution of calls to paid ads and other mediums. It’s all about better allocating advertising spend and product/service offerings.
We always aim to help our clients to automate their call tracking as much as possible, using the data to create additional trackable revenue through SEO and paid ad campaigns.
With call data you can make better decisions within the dynamic of paid ads, your products and services, feedback from customers, and ad budget allocation.
So, if your business is getting inbound calls (and/or making outbound calls): we recommend you integrate call tracking.
We know that it might seem overwhelming to integrate this software and tracking process while keeping up with other business-related tasks, so we’d love to help you get started.
If you’re interested in tracking calls or implementing other solutions for more eCommerce conversions and lead gen, please get in touch with us.