Local Search Marketers Can’t Afford to Ignore Call Conversions

Last month I presented on a webinar with LSA’s Greg Sterling and Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co. about the importance of tracking, managing, and optimizing call conversions from local search. It was a great webinar with a great turnout – but if you weren’t able to attend, here is a summary of some of the key findings.

Calls Are the New Clicks for Local Search
Everyone today has a smartphone, and they are using those devices to find and contact businesses near them with increasing regularity. 25% of searches take place on mobile devices today, and that number is expected to surpass PC search by 2015. What’s more, Google states that 50% of all mobile search is local, and studies show these searchers have high-purchasing intent, often making purchases or appointments within an hour of running a search.

But as search goes mobile and local, it’s important for marketers and SEM agencies to understand that when smartphone users find a business near them, they aren’t converting by filling out a web form – they’re calling. Thanks to click-to-call, Google reports that 61% of mobile searches result in a phone call. 30 billion sales calls were made to businesses in the U.S. last year from mobile search alone, and that number is expected to reach 75 billion by 2018 (BIA/Kelsey, 2014).

Use Keyword-Level Call Tracking to Prove and Improve Search ROI
To compete on search engines like Google and Bing, you can’t afford to ignore phone calls in your analytics. Local search has become too competitive, and the stakes are too high. It’s why search marketers are now in a race to adopt solutions to measure and control calls the same way they do web conversions.

Keyword-level call tracking solutions provide the critical missing piece to your marketing analytics puzzle. While competitors try to outmaneuver you using inaccurate and incomplete SEO and PPC data, you can use call attribution data from call tracking solutions to see what keywords and PPC ad and landing page variations are driving calls, opportunities, and revenue. You can then drive more calls and revenue by optimizing PPC campaigns and bid strategies for the most lucrative keywords, while simultaneously cutting spend on search terms, ads, and landing pages that aren’t driving calls and sales.

Analyze, Score, and Route Calls Like Clicks
Tracking call conversions back to their source is a critical first step, but here are some other things to consider to optimize ROI from search-generated calls:

  • Track Sales, Not Just Calls: Generating calls is good, but generating sales is better. If a $20,000 monthly PPC ad campaign generates over 1,000 phone calls, that may seem like a good return. But what if none of those calls ever become revenue? Conversely, a similar campaign that generates 100 phone leads may seem like a failure – but not if those calls bring in $100,000 in sales. When using call tracking data to optimize search advertising, you want to optimize on what’s driving sales, not just calls. Integrating your call tracking data with a CRM system like Salesforce can help.
  • Call Scoring to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff: Not every call from search is sales-ready. Many are mundane inquiries for things like business hours and account information. Some will also be job requests, misdials, or solicitations. Paying search engines to drive these calls is bad enough, but you don’t want to compound the problem by having your sales staff waste time dealing with them. That’s why marketers often send calls to an IVR virtual receptionist first to answer and qualify callers. The IVR will ask callers the questions you determine work best to qualify them. It can weed out the misdials and solicitors, provide answers to callers inquiring about non-sales related matters, and score the leads to determine if they are really sales-ready. For the ones that are, they can be routed to a sales manager to assist.
  • Route Callers to the Closest Store, Office, or Agent: Routing mobile callers from your local search campaigns to the closest store, office, or sales agent is important, but it can be tricky. It’s not as easy as simply using the caller’s area code; you need more precision, plus a mobile caller can be calling from anywhere. Call routing solutions with geo-location technology can help. Geo-location determines a mobile caller’s precise location based on cell phone triangulation and automatically routes the call to the closest store, franchise, office, or agent to answer their questions, take their reservation, or process their purchase.
  • Track Calls by Caller’s Location and Time/Day of Call: Understanding where callers are located geographically can help you advertise more intelligently. For example, if 60% of your callers are coming from New York and Chicago, you can bid more for Google mobile PPC ads targeting smartphone users in those areas. That strategy also applies to when in the day people are calling you. If most of your calls are in the afternoon, you may wish to reduce your PPC advertising spend during slower times.
  • Include Call Conversion Data in A/B Test: Test everything. This is true for any marketing activity, but it is especially true for PPC landings where so much of your ROI rests on your pages’ ability to generate conversions. But if your A/B tests only measure web form conversion metrics without including phone call conversion data, you could be picking winners that aren’t driving the most leads, opportunities, and revenue. Using call tracking to see what landing page variations are driving phone calls can be a real eye-opener and an important metric in any A/B test.
  • Include Call Conversion Data in Bid Management:If you use a bid management solution like Kenshoo, Acquisio, Marin, or DoubleClick to optimize web conversions from local search, you can leverage call tracking data to do the same for call conversions. Call analytics can be integrated with bid management, so you can use it to automatically reallocate budgets to keywords and ads that drive both clicks and calls – while eliminating those that don’t.

Call Tracking Does Not Negatively Impact Google SEO
There is a still an old misconception among some search marketers that displaying different call tracking phone numbers violates Google NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency and thereby negatively impacts your SEO rankings. But the truth is that call tracking solutions that use dynamic number insertion (DNI) do not negatively impact SEO.

DNI works by automatically displaying a unique phone number on your site based on each visitor’s Google search. It does this using a snippet of JavaScript code in place of your phone number. And since Google indexing doesn’t spider JavaScript, you can use DNI to display trackable numbers on your site that Google can’t see. The end result is that with DNI, you get the full benefits of tracking calls back to Google SEO and PPC ads, and your Google local search rankings aren’t impacted. It’s a win-win.

Calls Are Now a Critical Part of Search, So Stop Ignoring Them
Search marketers have been optimizing campaigns to drive clicks and web conversions for years. Doing the same for phone calls is still a new concept for many, but thanks to the rise of mobile search, it’s now vital. You simply can’t afford to ignore what may be your most lucrative lead source. Tools exist to help, and the sooner you embrace them, the sooner they will reap their benefits.

To learn more about call tracking and automation for local search, you can download the Ifbyphone eBook: Marketer’s Guide to Call Tracking for Local Search.

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