A Call for Call Tracking

There is an increasing amount of interaction between online and offline behavior. One common way that this happens is that someone searches on the web for a product or service they want, and then gets a phone number from the website of a company and calls it.

Just how big a phenomenon is this behavior? Some businesses are seeing their online marketing campaigns drive more conversions via phone than on the web site. One business reported that their PPC campaigns drove three to four phone conversions for every online conversion. Another business reported a 10:1 ratio in favor of phone calls.

Increase Conversions, Order Size

How can this be? Largely, it’s because certain products and services lend themselves to some amount of interaction. Web pages may not be a good environment for communicating certain types of information. Sometimes, even if the information is on the page, the user may not spot the key info they’re looking for.

In addition, the user may simply want to interact with someone about the product. Another major factor is simply how hard the advertiser/publisher pushes people toward calling the business.

For some businesses, it makes sense to push hard for a phone call. This can be desirable because of the ability to upsell the user. The average order size for their business online may be $50, but the average order size for people who order by phone may be $75 (or even higher). This is a pretty compelling reason to drive someone to the phone.

Another reason is that, for some people, a web-based order form is much more intimidating than picking up the phone and punching in 10 digits and making someone at the other end of the line do all the work. So if you consider someone who is “ready to buy,” your close rate may be higher over the phone.

Ultimately, people are different, and it makes sense to offer both options. Increasing conversion and increasing average order size always makes sense!

The implications of this are profound. How do you measure this? Can you afford to not measure this? No, you can’t.

PPC Implications

Let’s look at a simple scenario. You’re spending some money on a PPC campaign, and half of your resulting conversions happen online and half occur via phone. Installing a bid management tool can do wonderful things for you, but, if the only data you give the tool is the online conversion data, you’re only giving it half the data.

Imagine that you have a set of 100 underperforming keywords, based on online conversion data, and you bid them down. However, given that you’re using only half the data, some of those keywords could actually be rock stars and bidding them down will lead to a drop in revenue and profitability.

How big an impact this will have on you depends on the depth of data you have available. If transactions are relatively small in quantity, the impact of missing that data could be high. But even if you have tons of conversions the impact may still be high. Consider the possibility that users who convert more by phone have a different persona and may be searching on different keywords.

SEO Implications

The impact of missing detailed call data isn’t limited to PPC. It also affects your SEO.

You may not need to worry about keywords being bid down in the world of SEO, but you do need to worry about how you prioritize your SEO efforts. Data on the best converting keywords can play a powerful role in that.

Call Tracking Software

If taking orders by phone is a material part of your business, you need to consider installing call tracking software that will tie back into the rest of your analytics tools (bid management, web analytics, or both). My company has worked with Mongoose Metrics, which offers a good toolset. Other companies offer similar functionality, such as ClickPath and ifbyphone (though we haven’t tried these out at this point).

So leverage the phone to help drive your business, and then make sure you measure how it does for you all the way down to the keyword level.

Join us for SES San Francisco August 16-20, 2010 during ClickZ’s Connected Marketing Week. The festival is packed with sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, ad networks and exchanges, e-mail marketing, the real time web, local search, mobile, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization and usability, while offering high-level strategy, keynotes, an expo floor with 100+ companies, networking events, parties and more!

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