The Dirty Truth About Call Tracking and What Every Marketer Wants You to Know

To get aggressive with their advertising efforts, marketers are turning to pay per call advertising to push their agendas. A phone call has always been coveted, but honing in on the types of phone calls needed takes a bit of practice and tracking.

Call tracking in a pay per call campaign allows you to generate a read on the performance of a call campaign. By setting up call tracking, you can properly measure the results. See, while calls do matter, generating the right calls during the right time and for the right price matters, too.

What Is Call Tracking?

It’s quite simple really: call tracking allows you to track a phone call.

When you perform call tracking, you allow a technology to track the phone calls associated with a performance-based campaign. Call tracking is done by providing analytical information about each phone call received. For instance, you can:

  • Track the number of phone calls by source.
  • See the total number of unique callers.
  • Track the number of calls received, and missed, by employee.
  • Identify employees and call sources with the highest converting calls.
  • Listen to the calls so you can coach employees.
  • Review call disposition reports to see the outcome of each call.

Knowing details about how customers found your ad, coupled with what resulted in the phone call, can help you fill gaps in your lead generation efforts.

Attributes of a Generated Call

With every pay per call campaign, it’s important to understand how a call was received, what it did when you received it, and what the outcome was. To isolate the campaigns that work well, and eliminate those that don’t, review campaign attributes for each campaign. These attributes can all be measured with call tracking so that you can refine call campaigns faster.

Caller ID and Location

The caller identification number can tell you a wealth of information about how well your campaign is optimized. With the caller identification information, the name of the caller or business is often available, along with the phone number and location the caller called from.

Wilmington area map with radius
Source: All Area Codes

Say you have a very specific call campaign set up to target those in Wilmington, Delaware. Parties located within the 302 area code would be expected to be targeted (fun fact: Delaware is so small that 302 is the only area code in the entire state).

Now, it’s not inconceivable that calls are also received from the 410 (Maryland), 267/610/215/484 (greater Southwest Pennsylvania), and 856 (southern New Jersey) area codes. As people move, and their cell phone numbers become their primary phone line, they are more likely to hold onto their original phone numbers.

Those are all normal circumstances. However, if your Wilmington, Delaware targeted call campaign is generating a ton of calls from the area code 910, you need to review the setup of your campaign. 910 is the area code in Wilmington, North Carolina — not Wilmington, Delaware.

Time Stamps

It helps to understand what time of day calls are coming into your business. It can help you:

  • Identify Increased Staffing Hours. Nothing is quite as bad as missing a lead because you’re understaffed and unable to handle all the calls. Increase staffing onsite or at your call center during the ‘rush’ hours and cut back during the ‘off’ times.
  • Stave off Wasted Spend. If you find you’re receiving a ton of phone calls when your business or call center isn’t open, you have one of two options: change your business hours or change when your campaign is active. Don’t waste your budget when you’re not around to take the call.
  • Isolate Peak Performance Hours. Over time, you might see trends in which hours people call to convert, versus which hours they call for more information. You can optimize your call campaign based on these hours.

Look at a local pizza shop. They may be open at 10 a.m. for the lunch crowd, but see the majority of their sales between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. – dinner time. Instead of having their call ad run during all open business hours, they can isolate their budget to reduce spend between the lunch and dinner rush, but ramp up during peak times.

Call Duration

Generally speaking, the longer the call, the more likely it is to convert… sometimes. Exceeding your expectations on the number of phone calls is good, but only if they are strong calls.

For instance, say you want to achieve 50 calls each hour. If each of those calls are only a few seconds long, you’ll never get the chance to convert those callers. This could indicate a problem with the number (wrong phone number), an issue with the source (they’re sending you poor quality leads), or possibly the source is incentivizing phone calls that will never convert.

Conversely, say you plan for 50 calls each hour and you have three representatives to answer the calls. That’s great — until you see your calls are averaging 10 minutes each, and your three representatives can only field 18 of those 50 calls.

Knowing your call duration helps you identify your break even point, aids in staffing needs, and can help you determine if you’ve allocated enough budget to a campaign to see success.

How to Determine the Number and Cost of Calls

Device Targeting

Sometimes you need to get people on their mobile device, and other times it makes sense to get their attention on a desktop computer. Pay per call will allow you to target whichever device makes sense for the type of caller you’re looking to receive.

For instance, products and services targeted to busy professionals will benefit far greater from desktop calls generated Monday through Friday during business hours, rather than early afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday.

Freshdesk Advertising with Phone Number

Freshdesk, an automated ticketing tool, targets me with an ad but also encourages me to call them. On average, ads with phone numbers have an 8% higher click-through rate than ads with no number. Why? Sometimes people just want to talk to a live person, not fill out a form and wait to be contacted.

Now, Freshdesk’s call-to-close ratio may be much higher than their click-to-call ratio, so having their desktop ad include a phone number is very helpful. And with call tracking in place, Freshdesk can review this particular phone number and know which specific campaign resulted in my call.

Call Outcome

In a performance-based campaign, calls matter. But so does the outcome of those calls. Are the calls you’ve received converting or hitting your key performance indicators? If you’re getting calls, but they’re not doing what you want them to, are you really benefiting your campaign at all?

There is a cost associated with each conversion, and your calls should be segmented to leverage the best converting calls. If your organic search engine traffic is converting best on only a handful of landing pages, can improvements be made to other landing pages to aid in stronger conversions? Perhaps focusing your budget around the keywords that work best in your campaigns will help.

Likewise, separate phone numbers placed on different digital advertising campaigns help indicate which campaigns perform and are the most profitable for your business.

How Is This Useful?

Pay per call campaigns are often met with resistance due to their higher cost of entry over a typical pay per click campaign. But, while the cost per call is usually higher, so is the conversion rate, meaning the cost per conversion is generally lower, too.

Cost of Calls versus Clicks

With your pay per click advertising, you would never fail to produce an A/B test of a campaign or use generic keywords, would you? Running a pay per call campaign with no call tracking in place is just like setting up a pay per click campaign and doing nothing to it. It won’t perform, and you won’t succeed.

With call tracking in place on a pay per call campaign, it can help you:

Refine Your Territories. Tracking all details of a call campaign helps identify exactly where to dedicate your budgets. Just like optimizing a pay per click campaign, you can optimize a pay per call campaign.

As calls start to roll in, start to identify states, cities, and even zip codes that perform above your metrics and knock out the areas that don’t. By reallocating budgets to areas where calls are performing, and reducing them where they’re not, your budget goes further and your campaign becomes successful.

Bid Adjustment by Location

Isolate Your Performance. With any type of performance-based campaign, there will be good days and bad days, on times and off times. Getting a good grasp on what is working and what isn’t can help you isolate days and times where you might reallocate budget to drive the best results.

Integrate Call Disposition Results. Call disposition reports simply tell you the outcome of each call. It can tell you things like:

  • Which calls converted best.
  • Who they connected with or left a voicemail to, if you’re using a call center.
  • Which numbers are disconnected or busy.

Not only can call disposition reports aid you in campaign optimization, but they can be a valuable mechanism for employee training and performance evaluations.


Pay per call advertising continues to increase in popularity, but to do it right, you’ll need to have some form of call tracking on your campaign.

The easiest way to track is to use a call intelligence platform that monitors campaigns to help you make better decisions about your performance marketing campaign. For more tech savvy users, try a JavaScript tag via the web to recall caller information via a webhook. This would pass real-time information to deliver data and other applications immediately.

There’s no right or wrong answer on what you use – whether it’s third-party or JavaScript – so long as you are using something to monitor your call campaign performance.