Local SearchSEO

Do You Care How They Found Your Phone Number?

By August 17, 2018 August 24th, 2018 6 Comments

We’ve been reading more and more in search about the “zero click query” becoming more prevalent as Google continues to serve up answers directly within the search results.  For those concerned with drawing customers to their local business, getting searchers to the website is not necessarily the end conversion anymore.

Acquiring a booking, appointment or sale is the goal and Google searchers can now take those converting actions without ever visiting the company’s website.  Let’s review some thoughts and tips for thriving in a zero-search world!

Ultimately, I don’t really care how a potential customer finds my client’s phone number. Whether they get it from a local knowledge panel, a Yelp result, a Facebook page or from the page title that displays in the search results doesn’t matter as long as they call and my client has the opportunity to convert them into a paying customer.

There are a lot of ways to make sure your phone number is showing up in front of potential customers and even though we’re relying less on website visits, there are still a lot of peripheral tasks that can take place to support the discovery of that phone number.

Branded Queries

We see that a large percentage of queries for local businesses include some form of their brand name.  In a small informal poll of Local SEOs I know, most indicated that between 60 and 70% of queries included the brand’s name in some form.  That makes it even more important to have a really great presence in the search results for your recognizable brand name and its combinations.  

We’re finding more and more that zero click search, which came on early in local search on Google, has affected traffic to local SMB websites.  Potential customers are no longer dependent upon your site to find the phone number. They’re getting it right in the search results. That’s the world we live in when it comes to local search and Google, so we have to play the game.

To understand all of the different ways you can take over real estate for a branded query and to help you measure your progress as you work on different tasks, Local University created a tool to help with Scoring Your Brand Page at Google.  Give the quiz a try, and keep checking your score’s progress as you continue to work at improving the results and features you can take advantage of for a branded query.

3rd Party Directories

A branded or non-branded query offers quite a bit of real estate.  We’ve talked about the opportunities for you to shine when your brand is included in the query, and we can’t talk about that kind of real estate without talking about 3rd party sites.  Having good directory listings and citations at sites that consistently rank well for related keyword phrases is a great way for customers to find you, either when your own site can’t quite make it to the top of that query or as a support for your own site’s visibility in that location.

For example, if you’re in real estate, you can’t get along without utilizing Zillow or Realtor.com.  If you’re a painter, Yelp, Porch and Homeadvisor.com rank consistently at the top of the results. By working to rank your own website and getting listings in these sites that face the public on a regular basis, you’re expanding the potential for searchers to find your phone number. This can often happen without the searcher actually visiting your company’s website.

Social Media

For most businesses, a social media listing will show in Google SERPS for a branded query, but it’s unlikely to show for a non-branded query.  I recently (read: as I was writing this) had a bit of an epiphany when it comes to social media profiles that rank well for your brand in Google. If you put your phone number at the beginning of the “About” paragraph in your Facebook business page,  it’s very likely to show up in the search results. You get a bonus if you have some good Facebook reviews and stars are included in that listing as well.

Once Google reindexes our Facebook page, I expect our phone number to show up in the below result.  I’ll update when it shows up!


UPDATE!  Our listing with the phone number showed up today (8/24)!

If your Twitter profile is showing up on the first page of Google search results, then get your phone number into the description, it’s also very likely to show up for a branded query.  

Make a simple edit to the beginning of your descriptions on most directory and social media sites and you have the potential to show your phone number front and center with even more regularity for a branded query.

But Your Website Is Not Obsolete

If your customers and clients are finding your information on Google, either via an organic listing or your Google MyBusiness Knowledge Panel – you could argue, “Well, then why do I need this website.”  The truth is, you do need it because the content and the power of your website is still driving your visibility in organic search from a local standpoint. So don’t go pulling the plug on your website, but be aware that users might not see it as often as in the past.  However, that shouldn’t worry you if you’re set up to succeed in Google’s search results.

Ranking competitively for keywords related to your store, product or service is still an important function for your website. Without a site to crawl, Google would have no idea who you were, where you were or what you sold.  It certainly wouldn’t have an authoritative source on you to compare with information they find on 3rd party sites.  If you want to rank for specific keyword queries in Google, you still need to have pages on your website that are optimized for those queries.  And they better align with your business goals and have some sort of semantic markup if it’s available.

Recently we picked up a Plumbing, Heating and Cooling company as a client.  He informed us that he was mainly a heating and cooling company and that plumbing was less than 40% of his business.  Interesting, considering his entire website is heavily optimized for plumbing keywords.  If you want to be found by searchers and if you want them to call, you have to have website content that matches what you sell or service.

A strong website is your foundation when it comes to making sure you’ve got a strong presence in the search results.  That strong presence supports zero-click searches in this new world of local search. Making sure your marketing strategy also supports this new zero-click world is the next step. Remember, we don’t care how they found your phone number, as long as they call you first.

Carrie Hill
Find Carrie


  • Andy Kuiper says:

    Good tips on having phone number more accessible – thanks Carrie 🙂

  • dave says:

    I’d like to add some perspective with regard to some of our smb’s of a certain type. They are services. We have them in several markets (metropolitan regions) and have had them for years.

    Generally they are rare services in a metro region. That means there are relatively few competitors in the entire region. That also means they get a lot of visibility–region wide.

    That is rare. A pizza restaurant in a suburb might get visibility in maps and elsewhere for a few miles or a town or two. They are very local. Our services are VERY regional almost all the time. They have wide geographical visibility. That can occur in both the organic serps and in the 3pac/maps. How wide they show is a function of how well we have done with seo work/maps visibility and the efforts of our competitors.

    In any case, one of the more significant findings of recent is –our BUYERS GO TO THE WEBSITE.

    Our services occur on site and take HOURS. It allows us to interact with our customers. We do on site marketing surveys. Its a sample but its large. We have survey information from thousands of customers. We have been doing this for years.

    Recently we added some questions with the most significant question being–Did you go to the website. Then we have follow up questions related to some content.

    Having added this data we discovered 60 of 62 recent buyers WENT TO THE WEBSITE. The other 2 went to a social media presence. Then they must have called us.

    So we think the website is VERY IMPORTANT.

    We also strongly believe the Knowledge Panel(KP) is VERY IMPORTANT. Why??? Google is giving us information–good or bad–highly relevant or not—that the KP gets a lot of traffic.

    We are assessing this based on data on how many VIEWS posts get over a 1 week period. We hope its accurate.

    We compare that to data gives us on how many times we show up in google maps and search. The Posts Data seems REASONABLE relative to the other data google gives us.

    But we cannot confirm it. It is Google’s data and there is no way to audit it.

    WE strongly suspect the KP is killer important. It shows up A LOT. Per Google’s reporting on Post views per week–the volume of views of the KP is extremely high relative to other data on which we have more reliability. Specifically it is a high number relative to visits to the site and landing page visits.

    But we have found that if people don’t visit the site they will probably not purchase our services. So our goal is to get people from the KP to the website.

    The KP for our business, all businesses like ours, and on a larger basis MANY MANY businesses in our entire industry doesn’t give a lot of compelling information. It is MINIMAL. Currently we are enhancing it with posts with photos. The content in the posts relate to information compelling to our buyers. We know what buyers are interested in. We have that information from the thousands of survey questions we have given them.

    Hopefully the posts will drive some more visitors to the website–and address the types of questions our buyers ask about and want answers.

    Meanwhile I looked at some of the other information Google provides through Google My Business. Some of it is not very insightful or helpful. Here are a couple of examples:

    Total views on Google Maps. We see an enormous number. It exceeds the volume of searches that Google reports in GMB.

    We checked Google Maps visibility for our SMB’s using some location tools such as BrightLocal’s ranking tool, plus we check with the adwords tool.

    Our SMB’s can show in Maps REALLY REALLY far away. Its due to the fact that there are few competitors. It can show in competitive nearby regional markets. Ours do.

    In other words if Google is giving us ALL the views in Maps and those include adjacent or nearby regional markets it overstates the number of maps views that is relevant to us. We know we rarely rarely rarely get customers from that far away. How do we know??? We have tried for years. We have the addresses of our customers.

    Despite a lot of efforts customers from so far away basically don’t buy from us. They buy from a closer competitor.

    Now for a competitor of ours which is in a DIFFERENT regional market their GMB data on Maps views is WORSE and less helpful than ours. We are in a larger market with a bigger population. Our region generates more searches.

    But their business shows on Google Maps data throughout our region. So their G Maps data is largely irrelevant. Its simply not good reliable data.

    Lastly I corresponded with Carrie on this article in twitter. We discussed a bit. I think we agree that the importance of visiting the website might vary depending on the type of business and service.

    In our industry it seems to be critical. She has clients whose volumes of calls have increased significantly just because their phone numbers are widely visible.

    Really different businesses and services as we acknowledged. The only thing I would emphasize is that smb operators should know their businesses well to determine what is most critical and where to put the emphases of marketing

    • Carrie Hill says:

      Hi Dave,
      Thanks for sharing your findings and comments here. I think there are local businesses that require a website visit to sell – queries that are more intricate or passive than “emergency plumber” or “locksmith” would indicate when people are in the mood to “shop around” and look at a website before they called someone.

      I’m still seeing high volume of calls from search results instead of visiting a website in quite a few verticals and niches. Restaurants, locksmiths, plumbers, HVAC, painters, mechanics, electricians, and we think a lot of branded searches result in a call from the results because the recommendation has already been made, either by WOM, past experience, or seeing the brand somewhere offline.

      There’s no doubt it’s very involved – but ultimately – I don’t care how they found the number, as long as they call 🙂

  • Great ideas, Carrie! I am excited to test out the FB and Twitter tips for some of our clients!

  • Carrie Hill says:

    Hey all! Just updated the post with a screenshot of our Facebook SERP with the phone number I added!!

    Check it out!

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