PPC call tracking shows which Google Ads are driving calls to your business. Learn how to set it up, what tools to use, and expert tips to help improve conversions and increase ROI.
Here, you’ll find:
- What is PPC call tracking?
- How to set up PPC call tracking
- Expert strategies to optimize PPC call tracking
- Essential call tracking mistakes to avoid
- 4 Top PPC call tracking software platforms
Enabling PPC call tracking for Google ads is a little like switching on the lights in a dark room. If inbound calls power your sales funnel, you need this type of tracking to get better visibility into your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and leads.
In this article, we’ll cover how to track PPC calls step by step, top tools, expert strategies, and mistakes to avoid. You’ll be able to see which ads and keywords perform best so you know which leads provide the most value to your business.
What is PPC call tracking?
PPC call tracking is a method for monitoring phone call conversions from Google search ads. It lets you track the phone number, timing, and call length for every call that results from a search ad.
As an advertiser, you have several options for tracking these outcomes. You can collect data from all these sources simultaneously:
- Connections from call ads that display on mobile devices
- Clicks on phone call assets attached to your search ads
- Phone calls from your website after leads click on your ad
- Offline conversions that you get from ad-related calls
One of the biggest perks of call tracking is that you can keep it simple while still getting a ton of value. If you have limited resources, you can set up call conversion tracking in Google ads to attribute leads and optimize ads.
But when you want a more advanced solution with more detailed attribution, you can use one of the third-party tools we recommend below. If either option sounds too complicated, reach out to the PPC experts at HawkSEM. We’re happy to help.
How does call tracking differ from other PPC analytics?
Most PPC analytics focus on clicks and impressions. While these metrics can certainly help you understand how many people see and engage with your ads, they often focus on the top of the funnel. They don’t tell you as much about the leads and conversions that actually impact your bottom line.
If your search ads focus on lead generation, then you may also track signups. However, lead forms shouldn’t be the only conversions you track.
“While most businesses only track form fills, phone calls can be equally important and hold the same amount of weight. We always implement call tracking within our campaigns, and it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked,” explains HawkSEM CEO Sam Yadegar.
“In fact, by implementing proper call tracking, we were able to help Rachel’s Challenge grow significantly. HawkSEM drove 4x leads for Rachel’s Challenge while cutting cost per conversion in half.”
Keep in mind that phone calls often reflect purchase intent. Think about it this way. Anyone who calls your business after seeing your search ad probably doesn’t have just a casual interest in your offer. Instead, they have specific questions they need answered before they can make a purchase decision—or they’re ready to buy.
Why is paid search call tracking so important?
Curious if call tracking is really worth the time or resource investment? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest benefits.
Improved ROI analysis
Call tracking offers insight into the exact ad elements that create the most value or the highest ROI. When you know what works for your audience, you can learn how to lower cost per click (CPC) and adjust bids to zero in on the PPC key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most.
“By tracking which ads result in phone calls, we can pinpoint the specific messaging elements that drive engagement,” explains Debbie Chew, Global SEO Manager at Dialpad.
“For instance, if we’re running PPC ads for Dialpad’s cloud communication solutions, call tracking might reveal that ads highlighting ‘Seamless Remote Collaboration’ generate more calls than those focusing on ‘Cost Savings.'”
Real-time PPC optimization
With a robust call tracking system, there’s no need to wait days or weeks to analyze and adjust your ads. In many cases, you can essentially optimize call ads or ads using call assets in real time.
“PPC call tracking has greatly amplified the efficiency of our ad campaigns at Softlist.io,” shares Fawaz Naser, CEO of Softlist.io. “By tracking call data, we’ve been able to fine-tune our ad messaging in real time, which has enhanced the quality of leads we generate.”
“For instance, by monitoring keywords in call conversations, we adjust the focus of our ads to reflect the language our customers use. This targeted approach leads to higher customer engagement and quality leads.”
Enhanced A/B test analysis
Phone call tracking and A/B testing go hand in hand. If you’re already using A/B testing to iterate and improve on successful ads, tracking call conversions can give you greater insight into the optimal ads for your audience.
“We meticulously A/B test elements like ad headlines, calls-to-action (CTAs), and landing page messaging to see what resonates best with our target personas from enterprise companies evaluating digital services partners,” shares Gianluca Ferruggia, General Manager at DesignRush. By considering call tracking, the team can get more nuanced results.
Increased lead quality
Find that your search ads are driving a lot of unqualified leads? Call tracking can provide the data you need to turn this trend around.
“I used to think that the quality of leads I generated through PPC was determined by how awesome the ad copy was and how well it matched up with what I wanted to sell,” explains Will Yang, Head of Growth & Customer Success at Instrumentl. “But now I realize that the quality of leads is also determined by how well-targeted my ads are.”
He adds that, with call tracking, it’s easy to see which keywords are generating the most calls. As a result, he knows exactly what terms need to use in his ads. And if they’re not working? “I can change them immediately.”
Who can benefit most from call tracking?
If your team communicates with customers by phone, then basic call tracking may offer helpful insights. But if your business fits into any of the three groups below, call tracking should be integral to your ad campaigns.
Inbound sales teams
If you run call-only ad campaigns to connect customers with your sales team, call tracking is an essential tool. It’s especially important for businesses with high-ticket offers and B2B sales teams.
“The power of call tracking is the direct feedback loop on what motivates viable prospects to engage. For B2B lead gen, it’s an indispensable optimization tool,” confirms Ferruggia.
Does your service-based business convert more customers over the phone than it does using online lead forms? Tracking these conversions is crucial for measuring ROI and optimizing ads.
Call tracking is also critical for local businesses, especially those that offer high-touch service. If your company tends to have a lot of offline conversions, then you’ll also benefit from tracking calls.
It’s easy to assume that ecommerce companies won’t need to track calls, since they do business online. But that isn’t always the case.
“An e-commerce client used generic ad copy. With call tracking, we linked calls to ads,” explains growth marketer Abhi Bavishi. “Ads promoting ‘Fast Delivery’ did well in certain areas. This changed our ad strategy, boosting call volume and lead quality.”
How to set up PPC call tracking
To configure call tracking, all you need to get started is a Google Ads account and a phone number. Let’s walk through how to set up Google Ads call tracking.
1. Create a new conversion
Start by opening your Google Ads account and clicking the plus button. From the menu, click “Conversion Action.”
From the list of conversion types, select “Phone Calls.” Then choose the source that best aligns with the type of call you want to track. For example, if you’re using call ads or assets, select “Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads.”
If you want to track post-click calls from your website, select one of the other two options. To track all of the above, repeat the steps below to create a separate conversion for each.
2. Configure conversion tracking
Next, choose how Google Ads records these conversions and optimizes for them. By default, the platform typically records calls as phone call leads. If you’d rather record them as appointments booked, contacts, or other conversions, use the dropdown menu to change this setting.
By default, Google Ads also adds the conversion as a primary action and an account default goal. If you don’t plan to track calls across most or even many campaigns, uncheck the box. And if you don’t want Google Ads to optimize bids based on this conversion, choose “Secondary” rather than “Primary” action.
3. Input the call value and count
How much is a phone call worth to your business? You can opt out of tracking the value. However, if you know the average value of a phone lead, enter it here.
Next, confirm whether you want to count every single phone call or only the first one from each lead. For sales-focused ads, “Every” is usually a better option. For leads-focused ads, “One” is more relevant.
4. Input a phone number
If you’re tracking conversions from call-only ads or call assets, you won’t see an option to enter a phone number here. Instead, you’ll enter the tracking number when creating the ad.
If you’re tracking calls from your website, however, you’ll need to enter both the display and the destination number. Note that if the display number is different, you’ll need to set up a Google Forwarding Number.
5. Confirm the call length
Google Ads only counts conversions if phone calls last longer than the minimum amount of time you choose. By default, the platform counts calls that last a minute or longer. Review your benchmarks before increasing or decreasing this number.
6. Conversion window and attribution model
Finally, confirm the time frame and attribution model for the call conversion. By default, Google Ads uses a 30-day conversion window for call tracking. If your sales cycle tends to be much longer or shorter, adjust as necessary.
Google Ads uses a data-driven attribution model for most conversions. Although most other attribution models have been deprecated, you can switch to a last-click model if it’s better aligned with your customer journey.
7. Begin tracking phone calls
If you opted to track phone calls from your landing page, the next step is easy. Make sure you’ve enabled this new conversion for any campaign you want to track, and then monitor the results.
But if you opted to track call ads or assets, you’ll need to add one or the other to a campaign. Start by creating a search campaign and selecting this conversion goal.
From the list of options, select “Phone Calls” and enter a phone number to display in the ad. Note that this setting creates a call-only ad.
If you select other conversion options instead, you can still add call assets to the ad. Input your business’s phone number and add an optional schedule to ensure that this asset only displays during open hours.
Whether you’ve opted for a call-only ad or a standard ad with a call asset, finish building it out with headlines and descriptions. Double-check that you’ve entered the phone number correctly before publishing the ad.
Expert strategies to optimize PPC call tracking
Want to make sure you get maximum value from your call-tracking efforts? Follow these expert strategies as you use PPC call tracking to monitor conversions.
Use dynamic number insertion
For advanced call tracking, use a third-party tool to set up dynamic number insertion (DNI). Using the same concept as dynamic keyword insertion, this tactic displays different numbers for leads from different sources. It aims to show more relevant information—like local phone numbers — to improve conversion rates.
“One tool we found exceptionally useful is DNI. This tool dynamically changes the contact number on our website based on the source of the visitor,” explains Naser.
“So when a potential lead interacts with our PPC advertising and calls the number on our website, we can directly attribute this call to that specific ad. This allows us to accurately measure the success of our campaigns and assists us in optimization efforts.”
Look beyond surface-level paid search call analysis
PPC call tracking reveals a lot of basic information about your leads. But when you want to improve conversion rates, it’s important to look beyond these surface-level insights.
“I focus on call duration, time, and caller location. When compared with ad spend and conversion, it reveals trends,” explains Abhi Bavishi. “If longer calls lead to conversions, it suggests targeting long-form queries.”
“This data also allows us to refine those personas and profiles,” shares Ferruggia. “We now target decision-makers with very specific titles and functions that our call data proves to convert at high rates for our niche. This level of granular, actionable data has dramatically improved the quality of our B2B leads.”
Consider full-funnel attribution and campaign optimization
With the right tools and analysis, you can use call tracking to improve outcomes across the funnel. “With ConversionIQ, we built a full-funnel tracking platform knowing how phone calls also contribute to conversions. We also use phone call tracking data and optimizing towards revenue,” explains Rambod Yadegar, President of HawkSEM.
“We once managed a campaign for a client where the call tracking data revealed that a specific keyword was driving a significant number of calls,” shares paid search expert and agency founder Magee Clegg.
“By cross-referencing this with our other analytics, we realized that the same keyword was also responsible for a high number of form submissions. This influenced our optimization strategies by increasing our bids on this keyword, leading to an increase in both call and form conversions.”
Essential call tracking mistakes to avoid
Call tracking can be relatively simple to set up. But to maximize the value you get from this conversion tracking method, avoid making these common mistakes.
Don’t forget to customize your call tracking setup
When you configure phone call conversion tracking, Google Ads automatically applies default settings. However, these settings may not align with your typical customer’s phone calls — which can result in inaccurate tracking.
Use the data you collect to fine-tune these settings. For example, you may find that people who call for directions or hours tend to have short call durations and don’t usually turn into customers.
In contrast, you may find that people who call to book appointments (i.e., leads) or make purchases (i.e., customers) have much longer call durations. As a result, you may need to adjust the minimum call length in Google Ads to improve tracking.
Don’t neglect ad scheduling
If your business relies on a 24-hour call center, then you won’t need to worry about the timing of your ads. But if your team can only answer calls during limited open hours, take this timing into account when setting up your call ads or assets.
One option (pictured above) is scheduling the ad to run during preset hours only. Alternatively, you can set call assets to display during certain hours only, allowing the ad to drive leads to your website at other times.
Don’t depend exclusively on automated analysis
PPC ad call tracking unlocks a ton of data you couldn’t access otherwise. But like any PPC analytics, call tracking data tells a story that requires expert insights.
“To analyze and interpret call tracking data effectively, we use a combination of manual analysis and automated reporting,” shares Clegg.
“This allows us to identify trends and patterns that can help us optimize our PPC campaigns and improve call conversions. For instance, we found that calls from a specific geographic area had a higher conversion rate, leading us to adjust our geotargeting settings.”
Don’t stop at analysis and attribution
As powerful as phone call analysis and attribution can be, they shouldn’t be the end game. Use your insights to drive a plan for experimentation and optimization.
“In managing a PPC campaign for Dialpad’s unified communications platform, which includes video conferencing, we discovered that calls increased significantly whenever the ad mentioned ‘Video Conferencing with Screen Sharing,'” explains Chew.
“Based on this data, we decided to create a dedicated ad group and landing page specifically for this feature. We also adjusted our bid strategy to prioritize desktop users, as most calls originate from professionals conducting virtual meetings on their computers. This strategy shift substantially increases demo requests and allows for a more efficient ad spend for Dialpad.”
4 Top PPC call tracking software platforms
With Google Ads, you can use call tracking to monitor leads and conversions. With the tools below, you can create more advanced reports, attribute cross-channel conversions, and integrate your tech stack.
CallRail is a call tracking platform that attributes calls to relevant digital marketing campaigns and PPC ads. With this platform, you can see which channels are driving the best and most cost-effective results so you can optimize ad spend. Along with Google Ads, CallRail can attribute leads to direct mail and other types of advertising campaigns.
The platform also has automated call routing so you can always connect potential customers with the right agents. In addition, CallRail has a robust tagging system designed to label lead types and next steps—so you can keep moving deals forward.
CallTrackingMetrics is a conversion analytics platform that can enable teams to run more like call centers. DNI is one of its core features, providing tracking numbers and improving attribution for PPC campaigns.
The platform also offers intelligent call routing to cut down on handling time and improve conversion rates. WithCallTrackingMetrics, you can set up routing rules using elements like audience segments and previous site visits.
CallTrackingMetrics also offers call recording, which is ideal for analyzing interactions with potential customers. The platform even offers real-time coaching to help agents provide accurate information and positive experiences on calls.
Invoca is an AI-powered call tracking solution that attributes calls to campaigns, monitors, and reports on customer journeys, and helps reduce wasted ad spend. It’s designed to tie each call to its original web page, advertising channel, campaign, and keyword for maximum visibility into phone call conversions.
Along with attribution, Invoca also uses custom signals to monitor lead quality, which enables much faster lead qualification. It also has a tagging system and DNI functionality that lets you display local numbers on your website.
The platform also integrates with tools like Google Ads, Google Analytics, and major customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce and HubSpot for full-funnel reporting.
JustCall is an AI-powered customer communication platform that empowers businesses to connect with leads across voice and SMS channels. Its CallRoot add-on has PPC call tracking and DNI capabilities to streamline attribution and optimize conversion rates.
CallRoot also has interactive voice response (IVR) tools to record conversions and measure PPC campaign performance. In addition, the platform can record calls for deeper analysis and integrate with your existing tech stack for advanced reporting.
For many businesses, PPC call tracking is key to increasing lead quality, improving ROI analysis, and driving ad optimization. Whether you need a hand with setup and optimization or you’re looking for a PPC consultant to handle your paid search from end to end, we’re here to help.
Connect with our Google ads experts for a free consultation.