One of the best ways to use call tracking is to make it an extension of your online marketing efforts.
Early pioneers of call tracking like Mongoose Metrics and Marchex came up with some ingenious ways to link SEM to phone activity in order to help marketers understand which pay-per-click advertisements or organic search links generate phone calls (we give them major props for this). The industry coined the term Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI) or Dynamic Number Replacement (DNR). This functionality was a significant benefit to advertisers and led the way to legitimizing call tracking as a required tool for anyone doing SEM.
So how does DNI work?
If you are not already familiar with the basic functionality of DNI, the following description may be a bit too technical and I would recommend checking out this article from searchengineland.com or this article in the LogMyCalls blog as a primer first.
The DNI Description
Many of the early versions of DNI are “session-based”. They work by establishing a unique session ID when a visitor clicks to your website from a search engine. This session ID, along with referring source and keyword information, are passed to the call tracking provider’s application similar to Google Analytics. The session ID, phone number and web analytics data are stored in the application for reporting purposes. Then a random phone number is selected from a pool of phone numbers reserved for the website and returned to the web page for display. Each visitor session gets a unique phone number which expires and goes back into the number pool when the user ends the browser session.
The benefit of this method is that you have the potential to connect referring sources and associated keywords with specific phone calls to tell which keywords are actually producing phone calls.
Problem solved and search marketers were happy. But just like many good things in life, all good things must come to an end…
The Ignominious End of Session-Based Call Tracking
A couple of months back, Google’s search update significantly changed the information they send to destination websites and limited the information they show within Google Analytics, putting a serious crimp in the fire hose of data marketers were collecting for their website.
What did Google do?
Well, Google’s privacy changes actually block keyword data from being sent if the searcher is logged into a Google account.
For example, if I’m logged into my Google account and search ‘call tracking,’ that keyword will not appear in Google Analytics and it won’t be fed to any other applications (like call tracking applications). The keyword is private.
This has a catastrophic effect on any solution that relies on keyword data for metrics (like session-based call tracking).
How Many People Are Logged In To Google When They Search?
Taking a look at our own company’s Google Analytics, missing keyword data has grown from 17% in May to 40% now. Search experts estimate that it could range between 30%-70% of website traffic. Indeed, we seem to be slowly going keyword blind.
And it is going to get worse because of the mobile search explosion.
Google owns 90% of mobile search and 52% of the mobile smartphone market. Just about everyone with an Android phone is logged into a Google account all the time. You have to be to use the various applications Google provides with the OS. It won’t be long until the vast, vast of your visits have no keyword data whatsoever.
Where does this leave the session-based call tracking method we described earlier?
Is Session-Based Call Tracking Dead?
Not dead, just dying.
The entire value proposition of session-based call tracking is that you can easily determine which keywords are generating phone calls. That information is quickly becoming unavailable.
So, if you’re counting on getting down to keyword detail for every phone call, forget it. It’s broken and won’t be fixed anytime soon. You’ll still get good data related to referring website and will be able to tell whether a click-through was organic or paid. But paying for session-based call tracking and buying a pool of hundreds of phone numbers to track calls from keywords is a costly way to accomplish SEM call tracking that increasingly less than effective. It simply doesn’t give you adequate visibility into which Pay-Per-Click ads or organic searches are generating phone calls because of missing keyword data.
So Google did ruin call tracking for SEM? Not if you’re armed with a little knowledge.
Other Dynamic Number Insertion Options
There are other approaches to DNI that can help you work around the Google blind spot. Several call tracking providers offer different methods like assigning a dynamic phone number based on referring source website or URL. Using “source-based” and “URL-based” call tracking offered by companies like Call Rail and LogMyCalls provide SEM managers with the ability to assign specific numbers based on referring web sources and even specific PPC ads without the need for number pools or unique session tracking. To be frank, vast number pools are expensive and now, because of this Google update, they are rendered increasingly useless.
The good news is that solutions like LogMyCalls can handle both source and URL-based tracking while still collecting keyword information wherever possible.
In short: far lower cost and higher accuracy is the result of adopting one of these newer methods of DNI.