Definition: Call Tracking

What Is Call Tracking?

Call Tracking in digital marketing is the process of attributing phone calls (and any conversions which happen through the phone calls) to a channel. The simplest form of call tracking is done by putting different phone numbers on different channels (or ads), so that advertisers can know for sure what caused the phone call.


Call Tracking Example

A lawnmower company uses both display ads and emails to advertise. As most customers need further information before making a purchase, most sales are made over the phone. Therefore the companies ads prominently display their phone number in order to close sales more effectively.

To work out where to focus their marketing budget, the company needs to know where most sales (and leads) are coming from. Therefore in their Display Ads they put the phone number 555-0111, while in emails they always use 555-0112.

These phone numbers both go to the sales department. However, tracking is put in place so that conversions that come through each phone number are recorded separately.


Technical Information

One version of Call Tracking that works very well is on Google Ads. Google Ads has an ad extension for paid search ads called a “Call extension” where ads can feature phone numbers. As Google Ads often appear on smartphones, people can directly click the phone number and make a call. Then calls that are made directly through these ads are tracked as a type of conversion.

However, in other cases, Call Tracking can work less well. This is because someone may see an ad (or email, or post etc) and then go and look up that company separately to call them. When this happens it is hard for the company to know why the individual contacted them.

Despite this systemic problem, Call Tracking is still very important. In Digital marketing, under-attribution happens in large part because of online ads causing offline actions (which can’t be tracked). Therefore any system which helps to attribute more conversions (and thereby help direct marketing budget more effectively) is very useful.

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