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May 25, 2021
The Best Way to Track Calls from Google Ads (In-Depth Look)

Businesses that run Google Ads and get a decent number of phone leads inevitably want to be able to track calls that come from Google Ads. Without reliable Google ads call tracking, these businesses don’t know how many leads they’re getting from Google Ads (what if some are calling and we can’t trace those calls back to Google Ads?), and therefore, don’t know their true return on ad spend (ROAS).

A recent CNBC report revealed that Google received $147 billion in revenue last year from advertising alone.

Google’s main business is online advertising. In 2020, Alphabet generated almost $183 billion in revenue. Of that, $147 billion — over 80% — came from Google’s ads business, according to the company’s 2020 annual report.

With so many companies spending so much money on Google Ads, businesses must capture every lead that comes in. Otherwise, company's are spending money without knowing the return-on-investment.

Reliable call tracking is the best way to understand if Google Ads are working for a business that takes phone calls.

What’s the most effective way to do Google Ads call tracking? 

Google has a built-in solution that lets you track call leads from both (1) a call or location ad extension and (2) a phone number on your site.

But as we’ll explain below, it has shortcomings, namely that the forwarding numbers Google gives you aren’t unique (i.e. they’re “dirty numbers”) so you often get calls for another business attributed to you. Also, you can’t see who called (so you can’t understand if it’s a good lead or not).

We lived through these problems when running a digital marketing agency for years. To fix them, we decided we needed a dedicated call tracking software.

WhatConverts is our solution, and in this post we’ll...

  • Discuss Google’s native call tracking solution and its shortcomings.
  • Discuss the ideal features of a call tracking software for Google Ads.
  • Walk through how we built these features into WhatConverts to answer questions like: "Which campaign/ad group/ad/keyword drove the most calls?" and "How many of the callers are 'quotable'?" (Our terminology for qualified.)

Downsides to Using Google’s Native Call Tracking Solution & How WhatConverts Solves Those Problems

The way the best call tracking solutions work is by providing a business with a dedicated number. Software on the backend can then track calls to that number as leads.

Google itself does have that option built into Google Ads. You can get numbers from them to track calls from two places:

1. Location or call ad extensions (see how to set this up).

2. Phone number on your website (see how to set this up).

Anytime someone makes a phone call to your assigned number(s), you get charged for the click and it will log a “click” or conversion in Google Ads.

But there are two significant issues with using the phone numbers Google assigns:

1. The major issue:  These numbers aren’t always unique.

Meaning, other businesses could have used the same number in the past. These are referred to as “dirty” numbers, and the result is a lot of “wrong phone number” calls.

This is a significant issue. First, you have to pay for each of those unwanted calls, which can add up quickly. Second, your Google Ads conversion data is inaccurate, making it harder to optimize spend (i.e. campaign #1 drove 20 calls, and campaign #2 drove 40 calls, but how many of those are “wrong number” phone calls?). Third, someone has to field one unqualified caller after another, which is a major time suck.

With WhatConverts, these are non-issues. You don’t have to worry about a stream of “wrong number” calls, because when you purchase phone numbers to be used in ad extensions or on your website, they’re unique numbers that no other business has.

2. Google’s numbers don’t tell you who made the calls, and whether they were a good lead or not.

Google’s built in call tracking counts calls anonymously.

So you’ll know that ‘X’ number of calls came from Google Ads in a given month, but won’t have any idea how many of those callers were qualified (vs. soliciting), what their sales value was, and other information that helps you optimize advertising spend.

Here’s an example: Prior to starting WhatConverts, we ran a marketing agency where this was a major problem for one of our clients who targeted a certain medical devices keyword. We were spending $5,000 each month and getting around a $25 cost/conversion.

On the surface, this seemed like a great result for the client. But what we realized is that most of the conversions were from salespeople calling the phone number they saw on Google Ads to sell their products to the company. Our client joked that not only were they unqualified leads, but “anti-leads”, because their team was throwing money away paying for these so-called “conversions”, and wasting valuable time fielding these calls.

They wanted to shift spend towards phone leads that actually made money for the company, and WhatConverts made that possible.

It’s as simple as pressing “1” after the call if the lead is qualified or “2” if they aren’t.

That info gets captured and pulled into our Google ads call tracking software. You can then see not only the total number of qualified calls from Google Ads in a given time period, but which campaigns, ad groups, ads, keywords, and landing pages generated the most qualified calls (as we discuss next).

This ability to mark and track call leads from Google Ads as qualified or unqualified means you can analyze which Google Ad campaigns, keywords, creative, and more are leading to qualified vs. unqualified leads.

You can then spend more on campaigns that are generating more qualified leads and less on those that are producing non-qualified leads.

This becomes a powerful way to improve return on ad spend from Google Ads.

Use WhatConverts Google Ads call tracking to See the Number and Quality of Calls

In addition to giving you unique call numbers, WhatConverts is a full analytics platform where you can generate and view reports on calls and leads generated from Google Ads, and any other traffic source to your website.

Our call tracking reports are pre-built and can be instantly customized in a few clicks. You can use this to answer complex questions about calls from Google Ads easily and quickly.

For example, knowing you got 60 calls from Google Ads in a given period is great, but it’s also useful to dig deeper and identify:

  • Which campaigns drove the most phone calls?
  • Which ad groups (and ads) drove the most phone calls?
  • Which keywords drove the most phone calls?
  • Which landing pages drove the most phone calls?

In a matter of a few clicks, WhatConverts allows you to access reports that answer the above questions (see more details here).

You could also tweak the settings so that those reports (calls by campaign/ad/keyword/landing page) only show qualified leads versus all leads (both qualified and unqualified).

Furthermore, if you choose to add a sales value to each call lead, you can get granular and generate reports to answer questions such as: which campaign/ad/keyword/landing page drove the most sales for the business?

For example, in the “Quote Value by Keyword” report below, the keyword “dental implants cost chicago” drove the most revenue at $7,500, followed by “lookalike brighter smiles veneer”, which generated $5,000 for the dentist.

Monthly quote value by keywords

This is just one example and you can learn more about our many reports here.

Integrate WhatConverts with Google Ads to See CPL (Cost Per Lead) by Campaign, Ad, and Keyword (Allowing You to Accurately Optimize Spend)

The first step to optimizing spend is seeing the number of calls by campaign/ad/keyword, along with information about the quality of those call leads (i.e. quotable or not, sales value, and so on).

But the picture is incomplete without knowing the cost per conversion. 

For example, say your agency works with a local dentist in Chicago. You’re trying to optimize their spend to get leads at the lowest possible cost, and are drilling down into the keywords that drove the most revenue. Say in October the keyword “dental implants cost chicago” generated $7,500, and the keyword “lookalike brighter smiles veneer” generated $5,000.

Does that mean you should shift spend towards “dental implants cost chicago”?

Not necessarily. You have to take into account the cost per lead for both of those keywords. Only then can you make an accurate decision on where to shift spend.

For example, “dental implants cost chicago” may have generated more revenue, but at a much higher cost per lead (i.e. $500/lead vs. $150/lead for “lookalike brighter smiles veneer”).

Clearly, seeing the cost per conversion for calls at the (1) campaign, (2) ad group, (3) ad, and (4) keyword level is important to accurately optimize spend. 

With WhatConverts, this can be done via a simple integration with yours (or your client’s) Google Ads account. 

Easily capture conversion data & sync in Google ads. See CPL (Cost per Lead)

While you have the option to send all call leads to Google Ads, those call leads may not be qualified, making it harder to optimize your spend.

For example, given an equal spend, say campaign #1 drives 20 calls and campaign #2 drives 40 calls. On the surface, campaign #2 is the better performer. But how many of those leads are qualified?

To take that into account, we designed WhatConverts so that call conversions would only get sent to Google Ads after a certain trigger signifying a “good lead” occurred. For example:

  • The call lasted over a certain duration (i.e. more than 60 seconds).
  • The lead was marked as “qualified” post call.
  • A sales value has been added to the lead.

Again, these triggers are optional, but we highly recommend setting them up, as the process is easy and the benefits are substantial!

Note: If you’d like more information on the Google Ads integration, see this article

Interested in Trying Out WhatConverts for Google Ads Call Tracking?

Sign up here for a free trial or request a live demo.

In addition, see our recent article, Best Call Tracking Solution for Marketing, where we dive deeper into how WhatConverts works, and what differentiates us from other call tracking software.

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Michael Cooney

Michael Cooney is a co-founder of WhatConverts. Connect with him on Twitter or via email at [email protected].

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