Four Steps To Get More Data from Google AdWords Call Metrics

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Dec 6, 2010
More Articles by Janet


Recently Amanda Chaney discussed the new Google AdWords Call Metrics feature, which allows advertisers to add a custom phone number to an AdWords ad. Call Metrics uses a Google Voice-assigned phone number in the ad copy, allowing searchers to simply call the advertiser directly instead of having to click on the ad itself.

There’s one small problem with the current Call Metrics approach — advertisers phone numbers on their landing pages may not match the one shown on the ad. Take for example, the ad and landing page for the store Room and Board:

Why Is That Bad?

Depending on the type of advertiser, many times ad respondents may not convert on the first visit. That’s why Google uses a 30-day tracking cookie to track click conversions.

But if an ad respondent chooses to click on the ad, read the landing page, and call the phone number listed there (which does not match the phone number on the ad), the call will not be tracked via Call Metrics. That means that the advertiser may lose the tracking for that ad respondent and may never know the customer’s true originating lead source was Google AdWords.

Good News! You can fix this in four steps.

Fret not, advertiser. Until Google has a simple code snippet you can add to your pages, you can fix this disconnect yourself in four easy steps:

1. Find out the Google Voice phone number associated with each Call Metrics campaign.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t currently list the Google Voice phone number associated with each given campaign in the Google AdWords interface. That’s no problem, but it does mean an extra bit of digging on your part.

Using keywords from each campaign, perform Google searches to see your ad generated. Record the phone number for each campaign as you see the number in the campaign’s ad.

2. Tag the destination URLs from each campaign with a campaign ID.
Next, you’ll need to be sure that you have a way to tell the landing page which campaign the searcher is responding to. This is especially important if you use the same landing pages across multiple campaigns.

This is easily accomplished by adding a variable on the end of your destination URLs for the campaign. For instance, in the ad example above, the landing page is located at: http://www.roomandboard.com/rnb/ and could be tagged with a variable to denote the campaign, like this: http://www.roomandboard.com/rnb/?campaign=brandname.

Caveat: If you are tagging your URLs with Google Analytics tracking code, you may also already have a campaign identifier on the destination URL. In the Room and Board example, for instance, the destination URL is actually: http://www.roomandboard.com/rnb/?kw=room%20and%20board&Camp=knc_Brand&gclid=CLGj2u7m16UCFeFw5QodGAuVyA where the “Camp” variable denotes the campaign. This could also be used instead and help save this step.

3. Set a cookie on your landing page.

Next, you’ll need to make sure that the landing page reads the variable in your URL and stores it. This can be done easily with most dynamic programming languages. For instance, in PHP and Javascript, using the example I gave above, you could use:

PHP

<? $campaign = $_GET['campaign']; ?>

Javascript

<script language=”javascript”>

var campaignvalue = getQueryVariable(“campaign”);
function getQueryVariable(variable)
{
var query = window.location.search.substring(1);
var vars = query.split(“&”);
for (var i=0;i<vars.length;i++)
{
var pair = vars[i].split(“=”);
if (pair[0] == variable)
{
return pair[1];
}
}
}
</script>

Next, you may also want to store the campaign value in a cookie. Why? For the same reason that Google’s conversion tracking cookie exists — to attach the campaign to the ad respondent so that if he/she does not convert this time, we have attached the campaign information to him/her for use when they return again to the site. Again from our example above, here’s how you can set the cookie that expires in 30 days, altering my PHP and Javascript code above:

PHP
<? $campaign = $_GET['campaign'];
setcookie(“campaign”, $campaign, time()+3600*24*30); ?>

Javascript
<script language=”javascript”>
var campaignvalue = getQueryVariable(“campaign”);
function getQueryVariable(variable)
{
var query = window.location.search.substring(1);
var vars = query.split(“&”);
for (var i=0;i<vars.length;i++)
{
var pair = vars[i].split(“=”);
if (pair[0] == variable)
{
return pair[1];
}
}
}
var exdate=new Date();
exdate.setDate(exdate.getDate()+30);
document.cookie=”campaign=” +campaignvalue+”;expires=”+exdate.toUTCString());
</script>

}

}

4. Anywhere your company phone number appears, read the cookie and show the appropriate phone number.

Once you’ve captured the campaign info and put it into a cookie, you’ll now need to display the correct phone number on the page for that campaign. Wherever the phone number appears on the page, you’ll want to replace it with new code. So for instance, if your phone number appears on the page as such:

<p>800.301.9720</p>

then you could use the following PHP or Javascript code to replace the company phone number with the Google Voice phone number for that campaign, if a campaign is present:

PHP

<?$campaign = $_COOKIE["campaign"];

if ($campaign == “brand”){

print(“<p>888.339.6826″</p>);

} else {

print(“<p>800.301.9720</p>”);

} ?>

Javascript

<script language=”javascript”>

campaignvalue = getCookie(‘campaign’);

if (campaignvalue==”brand”) {

document.write(“<p>888.339.6826″</p>);

} else {

dcoument.write(“<p>800.301.9720</p>”);

}

</script>

This code essentially reads the cookie, and if the cookie matches one of our campaign names, then we will show the phone number associated with that campaign.

In the end, using this method will allow you to track back more of your inbound phone calls from Google AdWords campaigns to their correct lead source and, through Google’s Call Metrics measurements, provide more tracking data regarding call duration and other factors directly in the Google AdWords interface.

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  • http://calltrackingblog.com/ Andrew

    Good solution, but why not just use a 3rd party call tracking service that can assign unique numbers to ALL of your traffic sources at the keyword level (if desired) and provide much more robust data (recorded calls, voice transcription, etc.)?

    I’m betting the AdWords Call Metrics will soon morph into a more full-featured offering within Google Analytics, but until then there are turnkey solutions out there that require no more coding than it takes to drop a snippet in a site template.

    All in all, Google is smart to start marketers thinking about call tracking as integral to conversion optimization. It’s certainly driving a lot of business to the vendors that are years ahead of the Google offering.

    • http://www.search-mojo.com Janet Driscoll Miller

      Well why would anyone use Google Analytics versus a paid analytics tool? Cost. While companies can choose a call tracking tool, most don’t. Google is making this easy to set up and fairly easy to integrate. They will charge for it in the future, but the seamless integration makes it an easy choice for most advertisers, in my humble opinion.

  • http://calltrackingblog.com/ Andrew

    Agreed, but I suspect the 80/20 principle applies here. I don’t have numbers to back this up, but based on my experience, 80% of Google Analytics users just poke around the basic reports (if they look at all) and don’t bother customizing it with goals, segments or campaign tagging. 20% of users see the bigger picture and invest time or resources in generating insights to improve their business.

    I’d wager the call tracking market is similar. The AdWords Call Metrics feature will work for the 80% that just want to see how many calls they get, but the 20% that really want to make more informed business decisions will benefit from a tool with more under the hood (and don’t mind paying a little bit more for it).

    Still, that 80% is a huge market and should be an easy win for Google. If I ran a call tracking company right now I’d be thinking pretty hard about what my business looks like 5 years from now.

  • http://www.emagineusa.com BrettMCohen

    Janet,

    Do you think you would be charged twice? Once for the click through and once for the call?

    • http://www.search-mojo.com Janet Driscoll Miller

      Brett, good question. For now, they are not charging for the feature, so no worries at this time. But in the future, when they do charge, you would certainly only be charged for the click IF the searcher clicked on your ad. It will be interesting to see how Google prices it.

  • http://www.roomandboard.com John Schroeder

    Janet, Some really good suggestions on taking 1.800 tracking further. Something we will consider.

    The current way we analyze this info is assigning a dedicated 1.800 to the Google 1.877 number. This allows us to match back callers origination number to our customer master records phone numbers captured at the point of sale. By doing so we are able to see where they purchase and length of time from call to order. Here is the exciting news. 53% of the sales come from our Stores, 30% from our call center (shop from home) and 17% from the web. And our conversion rate from callers is 30%.

    The Google 1.877 option is a great solution for those who just want to talk to a live person.

    John Schroeder
    Director of Business Intelligence

  • http://www.thomascreekconcepts.com/ Tom Hale

    Like the give and take between Janet’s clever approach and Andrew’s counter. Being a small agency with small biz clients, I see the benefit of both.

    Like all things AdWords: depends on the situation.

    Here is something I have been poking around about and can’t get anywhere. Support has been getting back to me for weeks, nobody will touch this in the AdWords Help Forum.

    I’ll try and be concise.

    1 – Seems to me there is nothing stopping the combination of a toll free 1.877 number ringing through to a non-800 number. I came across one of our accounts set-up that way, I nixed it before it went anywhere, because….

    2 – Seems to me that is bait and switch. I didn’t want any of our clients having to explain a charge on a statement.

    3 – Nobody seems to care, because of dying land lines I suppose.

    As a wonk, this is bugging me. Am I just old? Are long distance charges really that rare anymore?

    -T