The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking

old-telephone-250pxThe call tracking debate goes on and on and on and on. Why? Because, when done incorrectly, it severely cripples a business’ ability to rank well in the Google local search results.

While experienced local marketers can tell which types of call tracking are harmful and which are not, the average small business owner — and many marketers without adequate experience in Local Search — don’t have a clue.

As Mike Blumenthal says:

The sad reality is that the traditional yellow page companies like Dex with large sales forces on the ground and some of the more aggressive local search firms, like ReachLocal, still use call tracking inappropriately on local phone listings both off and online. While these companies that don’t follow best practice are few, their reach is wide and a large number of SMBs continue to be affected by the practice.

Since it’s guesstimated that about 80 percent of the “action” small businesses can derive from the internet comes from Google, this can truly make or break a company — especially start ups and those operating on shoestring marketing budgets and narrow profit margins. Without the ability to rank organically in the local results in Google Web Search, Google Map Search and in the mobile apps that are based on Google Maps, an enterprise becomes nearly invisible online.

SMBs: You May Have A Call-Tracking Problem

It’s usually only after harm has been done by improper call tracking that business owners learn that they have a problem. Then, if they are savvy enough or lucky enough to know what caused it and that the damage can be reversed, they have to engage someone to reverse the damage that they paid the call tracking company to do in the first place. It’s not a quick or easy task and most SMBs can’t do it without professional assistance.

When the business is not aware of the cause and its solution, it’s not unusual for the injurious call tracking company to prompt them to invest more money in paid advertising in order to get new customers from the web. Hopefully, that is not the ultimate goal of companies selling toxic call tracking, but who knows? Do they not know or do they not care if the form of call tracking they are selling is harmful or not?

Here’s a case study from Mike Blumenthal:

Here are the numbers from a recent case study of a lawyer in the Midwest US that bought the idea of suburban phone numbers via the print yellow pages over the past three or four years. Every year they would cancel his old numbers in the phone books and start him anew. Obviously these numbers “leaked” far and wide online and we are still finding them in the wild associated with the business.

Unfortunately, many of them are either disconnected or even ring through to other businesses. Imagine the customer side experience with numbers like this associated with his listings.

(309) 637-7000 Rings Through
(312) 346-8780 Rings Through
(312) 410-8356 Goes to —–> rings, rings and rings, no answer
(312) 488-1400 Your call may be monitored for quality assurance – rang through
(312) 945-7020 Rings Through
(708) 675-7300 Goes to —–> rings, answers, rings again and then forwards to office
(773) 442-6546 Disconnected
(815) 407-7859 Goes to —–> rings, answers, rings again and then forwards to office
(847) 929-9803 Goes to —> anonymous mail box.
(877) 629-7135 Rings Through
(773) 698-6844 Not in Service
(847) 268-4738 Rings Through
(630) 481-7473 Not in Service
(708) 290-0354 Goes to —–> rings, answers, rings again and then forwards to office

The confusion caused by this situation can be clearly seen in this screenshot of the business on Yahoo.

yahoo-ankin

Contrary to some opinions, the Local Search Marketing industry doesn’t hate call tracking. It hates call tracking that harms small businesses and it questions the motives of the companies that sell it. It’s unclear why that prompts such venom from call tracking companies that do no harm.

Here are more articles on the topic of call tracking:

(Telephone image by Frederic Bisson and used via Creative Commons license.)

2 Responses to “The Real Truth About SEO & Call Tracking”

  1. The biggest problem with call tracking nowadays is that a lot of marketing agencies consider them just to be a “placeholder” to use for tracking. Once a client stops paying for the agency’s services, they just release the number back to the wild, but listings, content and pages with the wrong number still exist in the world wide web.

    A potential solution to this problem is if marketing agencies could *somehow* convince business owners to migrate their existing numbers to their call tracking platforms so that they could track phone calls without having to create new “slash and burn” numbers. The number could be transferred back to the business owner if they decide to part ways for a small fee.

    Another, easier, alternative would be for the small business owner to just buy back their call tracking numbers from the agency at the end of the engagement – but, this doesn’t happen today because businesses themselves and some agencies have no idea of the impact of random call tracking numbers dangling across the web.

  2. To lump all companies into this bucket is just ridiculous. What if your tracking numbers sit in a cool off pool making sure they don’t get any calls for 180 days before you assign them to another business? What if when you assign a number to a small business they get that number for the duration of their contract and a one year period after? Numbers for bing companies like Reach and Yodle cost so little at scale that the cost doesn’t force them to do bad things with the numbers. Whoever wrote this simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about as it relates to one of the large players in the space. Maybe they speak from experience running a small SEM/SEO shop.

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