Concerns with Call Tracking
Companies using Search Engine Optimization techniques such as Pay-Per-Click marketing, Google Places, CitySearch and other things often use a feature known as call tracking. With call tracking you have a paid search campaign that brings you information pertaining to phone conversions along with call recording. This is designed to provide you with online and offline numbers to see which advertising campaigns are working and which ones need some tweaking.
Businesses turn to call tracking to boost SEO campaigns as it will provide you information on the customer to see exactly where they are coming from along with call recording. The call recording feature can help you to monitor the quality of the phone calls, which can boost in better training of your staff. Offering better customer service on the phone can be the direct result you are looking for in order to boost your reputation.
The problem is most companies using call tracking do not see the negative impact it may have on your SEO campaign. For example if you are using call tracking it on Google Maps it can actually hurt your search engine results. Many businesses use Google in order to help them effectively market, especially those mom and pop organizations that are unable to afford a website along with an expensive SEO campaign such as Google AdWords.
With Google Places and other free programs your company is given an outlet to make small advertising posts and provide details of the company. However since SEO is driven primarily by links you really do not have a lot of control over the relevance of the page you are given. Google will in turn use other things to give your company relevance such as grabbing information based on user reviews of the company like Yahoo, CitySearch, Urbanspoon and so forth.
Citations about the company will also make a difference in the page rank. Citations can come from advertisements in local newspapers and other things. It is basically information that another person or company will post in reference to your website somewhere on the internet. Any time your name, phone number, address, etc. is mentioned it is called a citation and it will be used to give you a higher ranking.
The problem with the call tracking program is that it will basically assign a different citation to your company. Basically this means you have two different platforms on the web, when you are hoping to have a singular platform. The algorithms that are used to offer you a PageRank do not place importance on one or the other but instead will split them based on which gets more hits and that one will have a higher ranking. This means that negative reviews of the company on CitySearch can end up above your website because of the phone number or business information that is referenced.
Since the company that is using call tracking will place so much importance on the phone number your Pay-Per-Click programs and other things can basically become irrelevant. Then when you do try to cancel your service with the call tracking company, you will find that you are bound to a contract. Similar to that of Vonage you can either pay a cancellation fee, which can be costly or you can choose to wait out the duration of the contract which can take months for it to be completed.
So why is this a bad thing? Some companies like it because it does get more information out there about their business. However the information is not always consistent. This can lead to confusion for the customers along with confusion to the search engines themselves. Google is one search engine that will punish companies for anything they see as a violation of their terms. The call tracking programs run on a very thin line between what they see as spam and what they feel is legitimate.
Instead of using cal tracking to find out where your customers are hearing about your website, you can use other things to gather this information instead. Perhaps you can install an application on your website for customers to include that information. You can also send out surveys via email along with social media sites to ask this information. However one of the best ways to really find out is to ask the customers themselves. When they are on the phone with you or in the store, simply ask them how they heard about your company.
If you are using Google AdWords, they include a feature that shows you where the majority of your website traffic is coming from. This too can help you to place more emphasis on online advertising or offline advertising.
Like any online and offline marketing program it is important to understand all of the information that you are working with along with the pros and cons to the system. While call tracking may present you with great information and establishment of your local presence, it may do a lot of damage to your existing SEO campaign and creating a stronger long-term presence online and locally. Proceed with caution when using call tracking as it can damage your reputation with the search engines and may also make it difficult for the search engines to assign an appropriate page rank to your company.