How to track phone calls on a budget

A reader wonders:

“How do I track conversions for a service where the only way people can opt in is by phoning? My client does not want a separate phone number for ads. I don’t know how to increase CTR (click through rate) and QS (quality score) because conversions are not being recorded.”

My reply:

Don’t get me started about clients who don’t do everything that us marketers tell them to do. That used to happen to me too, and it was so very sad ;)

So I’ll deal with the question assuming the problem is the expense of setting up call tracking (although Google Voice is available for click to call in certain accounts, with more to roll out at some point, and my friend and NC neighbor Ryan Pitz has a very reasonably priced call tracking solution for US-based businesses).

What’s the most old school, duck tape and baling wire, McGiver sort of way to track calls off of AdWords ads?

The old standby, the secret phrase.

As in, on landing page number one, you instruct your visitor:

“Call 1-800-555-1212 now to schedule an appointment to get your legs waxed. Make sure you mention the magic word ‘Agony’ to get your free cuticle bronzing as well.”

And on all the other landing pages, you substitute a different word.

Now all you have to do is convince the person answering the phone to tally the magic words, and if possible, link the source to the customer and their spend.

Semi-snooty final word:

For the record, conversion tracking will not help you with either CTR or QS. It will help you with another reasonably important metric, WYMMON (“Whether You Make Money Or Not”).

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