The Truth Behind Call Tracking and SEO

27th May 2016
The Truth Behind Call Tracking and SEO

There has been much controversy about call tracking and SEO over the years, with many discussions lately centering on marketers complaining about call tracking, arguing that it can hurt SEO. There are also many opposing viewpoints which insist that if call tracking is used correctly it cannot hurt SEO. As always, with a jumble of expert opinions it’s inevitable to get lost and to feel confused, so what is the truth behind call tracking and SEO?

First and foremost, let's talk about...

What actually is call tracking?

Call tracking is a way to reveal the keywords, campaigns (offline and digital) and sources (i.e. PPC ads) that will drive phone conversions. Over recent years there’s been a rise in the number of call tracking providers, particularly as one of its key benefits is that it can provide you with valuable data about where your calls are coming from. It allows you to optimise your marketing campaigns and close more sales, while at the same time, reducing your costs. Some may say that it is the perfect way to close the gap on your marketing ROI calculations. No wonder large firms invest heavily in call tracking and use it to measure the effectiveness of their SEO, PPC campaigns and retargeting. It also comes as no surprise that marketing agencies are now using call tracking alongside their SEO campaigns as it’s a great way to prove their expertise to their customers.

Now, let's get to the important part…

Can call tracking hurt SEO?

It all has to do with one's experience. If used correctly, it doesn't affect SEO and this is where most marketers (both those who are advocates and opponents of call tracking) agree. So, what is the right way to use this powerful tool?

In short, by using Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI). DNI is a call tracking method that uses a snippet of Javascript to display a unique phone number on a website that is based on the keyword (or source) of the visitor. Since the default number doesn't change, neither SEO nor NAP (Name Address and Phone number) are affected. That's the safest way to gather metrics without harming SEO. It's also the same method used to accomplish ad generation and dynamic content. If these don't affect SEO, why should call tracking?

The problem is that many marketers don't know what this actually means and have little knowledge regarding the right use of call tracking.

What makes some marketers say that call tracking can hurt SEO?

Undeniably, tracking numbers are fantastic, especially in local lead generation, and an awesome way to measure the results of your campaigns. However, where most marketers criticise call tracking is in regards to the NAP (Name Address and Phone Number). Google dictates that the NAP is consistent across all directories but, understandably, Google’s algorithms get confused if you have different phone numbers in many different places. As a result, your SEO is hurt, which is why many marketers criticise call tracking.

The truth is that call tracking numbers are better not used in several directory listings across the web because they will indeed hurt SEO. Everybody knows that, or at least they should.. BUT, SEO only gets hurt when marketers use call tracking in directories incorrectly. Not all uses of call tracking hurt SEO and most articles condemning call tracking lump all its uses together with a particular focus on on-site DNI.

Yes, if you’re an agency or are responsible for your company’s SEO, and if you place call tracking numbers all over online directories, you should be worried about how this will affect your or your clients' SEO. So, the key is to operate with utmost care and take precautions to ensure your own or your clients' tracking number don't get scraped by Google.

Why use call tracking for search?

Communicating clearly and convincingly is one of the most challenging parts involved in local SEO. What every business owner wants is more accountability from their local SEO campaigns. For a search marketer, call tracking is a valuable tool that helps them get deeper into their customers' lower funnel metrics, become more accountable and give them better KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). However, unlike in the past, when the only KPIs important to local SEO were those based solely on traffic and rankings, today call track call, allows to go deeper than that and not miss conversions that your SEO could benefit from. Needless to say, search marketers will have a better perception of how well their work is paying off with a better KPI, i.e. call volume.

Besides accountability and better KPIs, modern call tracking platforms also come loaded with advanced features. It's more than just tracing calls back to a marketing campaign. Now, call recording, customisable dashboards and superior call handling and routing are just some of these features helping you can get the most value out of a remarkably valuable tool like call tracking. If your clients can identify training opportunities for those answering the phones and find ways to significantly reduce the amount of time their employee’s converse on the phone replying to customers' repetitive questions, then you, the marketer, can heave a sigh of relief for having managed to provide your clients with the best advice you could offer.

That aside, call tracking platforms are versatile and combined with CRM platforms, as well as Google Analytics and other built-in integrations, give numerous ideas as to how to utilise the potentially valuable data provided by your inbound calls.

Bottom line, call tracking numbers should not be criticised for always (or most of the time) hurting SEO.. However, we can't say that they never affect SEO either. If a call tracking company says that call tracking numbers never hurt SEO, they are wrong. Likewise is a local marketer who says that call tracking numbers always or even, mostly hurt SEO, they are also wrong. It’s important to remember that using call tracking numbers on directories is bad, but using call tracking DNI on your site is good.  Local marketers should have the required knowledge regarding the right use of call tracking and use call tracking DNI on their clients' websites, rather than on directories. So, educate yourself or work with professionals experienced in Local Search and call tracking who  know what can severely cripple a business' ability to gain great rankings on the Google Local Search engines and what can deliver the results every small business owner desires. 

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