• http://nspso.com Pterobite

    Any SEM worth it’s salt will handle all these issues. Yes, customer beware, but done right the citation issues are handled correctly.

    A local business needs to be sure have the ability to port the number, or numbers, to their own provider. Check the contract.

    The tracking numbers can be critical for many reasons not the least of which is the ability to engage in a pay for performance program. Put the SEM to fire and get them to be vested in the results. The local business will come out ahead.

  • http://silvery.com Chris Silver Smith

    I think David’s right — small businesses or chain-store companies which are struggling to achieve healthy rankings should maybe stay away from using call-tracking numbers until their positioning in local SERPs is well-established.

    There needs to be some sort of meeting-of-the-minds between Google Maps, other local search engines, and the other business information directories in order to address this issue, because there’s some lack of clarity all the way around.

    At the recent Kelsey Conference, I understand that the overall yellow pages industry is encouraging one another to provide increased call-tracking to businesses in order to respond to requests for greater accountability. So, IYPs who are going to be pushing call-tracking more are also going to be passing data to local search engines through partnerships, and the question is: What phone number should they send to the local search engines and other partners? The primary business numbers, or the tracking phone numbers?

    My canonical tag solves the issue posed for bot-crawled pages, but another format has to become standard for local directory partnerships. If three different directory sites provide separate phone numbers for a single business to a local search engine, whose number should trump? It’s one thing if each data provider is supplying additive content to a business listing that their partner already has, but quite another if the partner wouldn’t otherwise have the listing at all.

    And, can a tracking phone number redirect to a tracking number that redirects to the primary phone number? I’m supposing it could, in which case three different local search providers could all count a single call…

  • http://niftymarketing.com/blog niftymarketing

    David, great article and great points. I have been playing around with call tracking for a while and agree that in dealing with N.A.P., it can really mess with citations. This isn’t a perfect solve, but since call tracking is important to some companies here a few ideas to make it work….

    1. If you are a newer business with few citations, You could use a tracking number as your main phone number. I have seen people starting this with google voice. But, once you start, you are committed to that number because changing it could seriously effect your listings all over the place.

    2. If you are strictly interested in your website being call track-able, then make sure your real phone number is used as part of your citation, But, use a click-to-call button or an 800 number next to your contact us form or call to action item.

    I have seen both of these methods work, and not effect citations. Just be careful that you stay consistent. The issue currently is if you want to separate and track calls from different website or local listings, you are best off doing exactly what David has said….train a receptionist.

  • http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/ tacimala

    In the implementation of call tracking that we use, the phone number on the website is the business’ actual phone number. That means that if a user goes directly to the website or a search engine spiders the site, the number stays the same. The call tracking portion comes into play when a visitor comes through a medium we are tracking and the HTML phone number on the site changes based on a simple of addition of a piece of JavaScript that handles the number changing functionality. Google organic gets one number, Google AdWords gets one number, Yelp gets one, etc.

    This does not change the number in the local citations or directly at the source, but allows for better tracking of those mediums. This does account for a slight loss of conversion tracking, but we have found that most users do not click call the number listed in Google Local or other local portals without clicking through to the website. This helps bridge that gap of being able to track a very large portion of those leads while still ensuring the lack of interference with the issues you posed in the article.

  • http://www.brownbook.net Marc Lyne

    Hi David, thanks for the mention. Your article makes absolute sense. I too am a great advocate of training staff (receptionists, salespeople…) to track leads. The technology and the need for the IYPs etc to track their success in lead volume is a completely false metric that proves nothing of value. Specific ‘lead conversion’ and ‘order value’ however are real metrics and for most businesses the only way to get this information is from the staff that answer the phones and make the sales. I feel a new article coming on…

  • http://WickCentrick.com Wickerpedia

    Two points:

    1. Training staff to track calls works great in theory but rarely in practice. I won’t pen a long diatribe but it’s a practice that is rarely achievable by an SMB. It’s like telling someone struggling with their weight to just diet and exercise.

    2. I’m confused by Marc. I don’t see why call tracking “is a completely false metric that proves nothing of value.” Call tracking provides data on phone calls generated from a marketing activity. In that sense, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a “false metric.”

    From the points made by Chris and David I can see the negative impact of call tracking to SEO efforts but as David mentions if 50-55% of SMBs don’t even have websites. How much value is there in SMB citations when they don’t even have a website?

    The value on the other hand is certainly debatable. I would argue from the SMB perspective phone calls are the most palpable form of measurement. If I’m a locksmith what other data points are more predictive of a lockout estimate? Is it worth having disparate phone numbers if it means I can cancel unproductive advertising?

    Last point…I know the Yahoo Local feed has room for both an actual number and tracking number. Can’t imagine it will be long for other local search sites of note to follow.