call tracking

Call Tracking has been around for a couple of years and is offered by Google in the US. If you’re not in the US or would like a more robust solution there are some great options available. Today I’ll discuss what it is, why you’d do it and how you can implement it.

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Call Tracking is essentially conversion tracking for inbound phone calls. In the same way, we associate actions such as online sales, mailing list signups or service registrations to different campaigns we can also do so with phone calls. Call Tracking can be implemented in a variety of ways, most simply at the campaign level. In this implementation, you will have analytics that associates your calls with various ad campaigns. This may include online ad campaigns such as display ads, email blasts, organic search or offline campaigns such as print ads or business cards. In a more robust implementation, you can track keyword and ad level detail and feed conversions back into Google AdWords.

Many call tracking solutions offer additional features such as 800 numbers, dynamic website phone number insertion, email notifications and call recording.


The main reason to set up call tracking is to get more accurate reporting on campaign performance and thus increase your ROI. Call Tracking can be helpful for many companies but particularly those that receive a large percentage of leads via telephone. Let’s say your company provides electrical services and you receive roughly 50% of your leads via telephone. Without call tracking you might assume that your “contact us” form leads are representative of all the leads you receive, however you could very well be wrong. It could well be that 90% of callers are contacting you to deal with an urgent issue such as a power outage whereas 90% of contact form fillers are contacting you to deal with a less urgent requirement such as a new electrical installation.

So, in this case, a campaign manager might optimize for electrical installations thinking this is where most of the new business is coming from; they would be dead wrong!

Not only does call tracking give you more data to analyze but in many cases a much more accurate picture of campaign performance. Other benefits of call tracking can include call recording, 800 numbers, email notifications and more.


I am going to cover two different configurations for call tracking. The first one is a basic solution that supports mobile phones through Google Adwords call extensions. The second solution is more robust fully integrated call tracking from CallRail. There are other options but these implementations cover most scenarios.

Google Adwords Call Extensions

Adwords call extensions provides some call tracking but only from mobile devices; it is easy to implement and certainly better than nothing.

google call tracking

Call Extensions are really easy to set up and importantly there are two types. The first type is a standard call extension which will display your phone number in your text ads which are not trackable as conversions. The second type is a trackable mobile call extension which will display a call button (you can click to dial) in mobile ads. To display your phone number in text ads and mobile click to dial ads you will need to create two call extensions (they can be for the same number) where one is (mobile). You must also create separate mobile ads in order for the call button to show up on mobile devices.

Lastly, you can optionally insert a mobile clickable number or text on your website using a small bit of code provided by Google as follows:

<a onclick=”goog_report_conversion(‘tel:949-555-1234’)” href=”#” >CALL NOW</a>

This implementation will only track conversions when a lead comes in via clicking the “call” button or the “CALL NOW” link on your website. When somebody dials manually on their mobile or landline a conversion will not be recorded.

In the US and some European Countries, Google offers Forwarding Numbers. This enhances your ads by inserting a forwarding number that will track manual calls as conversions. This service still only tracks calls made directly from numbers displayed in your ads. Should anybody call from your landing page(s) a conversion will not be recorded.

CallRail Call Tracking

CallRail provides a comprehensive solution that will track all calls that originate from anywhere as conversions and associate them at the campaign level for print, organic, display, etc. The service can also provide keyword/ad level detail when fully integrated with Google Analytics & Google Adwords. CallRail can provide as many numbers as you need and 800 numbers are available as an option.

callrail call detail

Setting up CallRail for Google Adwords is fairly straightforward but does require several steps:

1. Create an AdRail account
2. Install the small script provided by AdRail into every page of your website right before the closing </body> tag. If you have WordPress you may skip this step; simply install and configure the AdRail plugin.
3. In Google Analytics create a new Goal for Phone Calls using the instructions provided by CallRail
4. Connect Google Adwords to Google Analytics on both sides (if not already done)
5. Import the new Goal into Adwords (sometimes it takes 24-hours for the Goal to propagate so check back later if it isn’t currently available)
6. Add the argument /?keyword={keyword} to the end of every destination URL for your ads (this is required for keyword tracking by Google as of April 9th, 2014)

Now any textual phone numbers on your website will be replaced with a dynamic phone that feeds conversions back into CallRail, Google Analytics and Adwords. Let’s say somebody searches Google for “Toronto electrician” and clicks on your ad. When that person calls your dynamic number several things will happen:

a) The call will be recorded and logged in the CallRail system; email notification gets sent via email
b) Google Analytics records the call as a call and associates to the correct traffic source, organic search, referral, CPC, etc. (in this case Google Adwords CPC)
c) Google Adwords records a conversion for the keyword, ad, ad group and campaign

Don’t forget that you should also assign one of your CallRail numbers as a Google Call Extension so that ads that generate direct calls (without a click to your website) will also be captured by CallRail and Analytics.

Besides the benefit of being able to track all your calls in Analytics and Adwords CallRail provides in-depth analytics that shows each call in great detail.

As a bonus you can dedicate a phone number from the pool CallRail provides to any offline campaign. How great would it be to know how many calls your radio, tv or newspaper ads are generating?


Call tracking can substantially help optimize your ad spend for higher ROI. If your business gets at least 25% of leads from inbound telephone calls you really should consider a call tracking solution. We routinely set up Google AdWords call extensions for our clients as part of our inclusive AdWords management service.

Need help with implementing this, check out our Search Engine Optimization services.