Call tracking has long been criticized by Local SEOs and others as violating the sanctity of what Localeze’s Gib Olander has called the “NAP” (name, address and phone number) — the central currency of all local business listings. The concern was and is that the rented tracking numbers (metered phone numbers) would be crawled or otherwise distributed out across the internet and pollute the key listings data.
Now call measurement firm Telmetrics has introduced a solution that may satisfy call-tracking critics: “m.Call.” Intended initially for mobile publishers and developers, the approach can use an icon, button or the actual business phone number as a tracking vehicle. There’s no need to replace the phone number to get data on call volumes, duration or sources.
Call tracking has been one of the key tools to do lead attribution across media and pre-dates the internet.
In a phone interview with me late last week Telmetrics President Bill Dinan talked about the genesis of the product. He said the challenge was “overcoming the primary hurdle of replacing the phone number.” The new approach involves the click or touch of the smartphone screen (on an icon or phone number), which pings the Telmetrics servers and initiates the tracking process.
Because there’s no phone number required to substitute for the actual number the approach is both cheaper and more scalable than traditional call tracking. Dinan also said that the model Telmetrics is using is pay for performance. Publishers and developers will only pay on a per-call tracking basis rather than a fixed fee tied to the number of lines rented — because there are no phone numbers required.
The service is rolling out first on Android, then iOS and Windows Mobile. There are instances of similar approaches being used elsewhere. For example, European Directories, a yellow pages publisher and producer of numerous mobile vertical apps, uses a similar strategy to track leads and calls from its mobile apps.
I asked Dinan if this approach would work online as well. “In theory it would,” he said.
However there would need to be a click or touch of a phone number or icon. Click to call (call connection) was prevalent on many sites several years ago, including both Microsoft and Google’s local sites. However it was infrequently used by consumers who preferred to simply pick up the phone and “dial” the conventional way. Thus “click to call” on the PC was mostly phased out.
But as laptops with embedded mics and, especially, tablets proliferate the Telmetrics m.Call approach may work its way online as well. Many PCs of the future — think Windows 8 — will mimic the functionality of tablets with touch screens.
But it’s also not as strange as it once was to click a phone number on a PC and initiate a call. Skype and Google Voice users do this routinely.
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