Why Call Conversions Aren’t Necessarily the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

imagesOne of Google’s most recent changes in AdWords is the ability to track phone calls as conversions. While this might be the answer to some advertisers prayers, some other advertisers aren’t sure what to do with this new found power. Some automatically opt in while others avoid it like the plague. But what’s the best plan of action? Below is a rundown of things to consider before you start tracking phone calls as conversions in your AdWords accounts.

Value of a Phone Call

Not all conversions are created equally. For example, lead ten companies might consider a phone call more valuable than an online lead simply because the person is already on the phone. They trust their sales people to then be able to move them through the conversion funnel with great efficiency.

Ecommerce companies on the other hand may see phone calls as less valuable than a conversion. Those calls haven’t generated any revenue that’s easily trackable through the AdWords system. In many instances, these are best to be left out of conversion numbers.

Moral of the story, if your company knows, and by knows I mean you can use customer/client data to back it up, that a phone call has equal value to an online conversion, then I would say tracking phone calls as conversions is a reasonable choice.

More Time Doesn’t Mean More Value

We can all agree that calls lasting under ten second are most likely not very valuable to a company. But when you begin comparing a 2 minute phone call to a 4 minute phone call, things begin to get a bit vague. Just because a phone call only lasts 65 seconds doesn’t mean they didn’t convert. Maybe the customer knew exactly what they wanted and the sale was wrapped up quickly.

Similarly, just because someone is on the phone for a long period of time, let’s say 10 minutes, doesn’t mean they’ll provide any value to you. Say you have a current customer with a question for customer service. They Google the same thing they did to purchase your product, call the number in the call extension, your sales team transfers them to customer service, then they spend 15 minutes talking to someone about the product they’ve already purchased from you. Fifteen minute call, 0 profit, 1 conversion. Something’s not right here.

Ease of Reporting

Once you start counting phone calls as conversions, your reporting can take a bit longer than it has before. First of all, your conversion numbers will most likely be higher month over month. Maybe even the best of all time. But that doesn’t mean you’ve actually improved performance. As long as you’re OK with writing lots of caveats and explaining the increases in performance to your clients/bosses, go right on ahead and check that box on the call extensions settings.

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Second, breaking out conversion type for your own knowledge isn’t as simple as segmenting by conversion type. To calculate the exact number of phone calls vs. online conversions, you’ll have to jump to the Call Details portion of the Dimensions tab, filter for calls over X number of seconds, then subtract that number from the conversions counted on the ad group or campaigns tab. Looking at the Conversions tab or segmenting by conversion type will only yield many-per-click conversion numbers.

Ease of Optimizations

CPA Targets

Similar to the changes in reporting, the way you gauge success in your campaigns will need to change. For online conversions only, maybe a CPA of $25 was acceptable, but with a sudden influx of call conversions into your CPA calculation, you’ll have to adjust your standards. Before setting up calls as conversions, take the time to calculate a new target CPA based on spend, online conversions, and phone calls over your allotted time for the past few months and get a baseline of performance.

This is the case whether you use manual or automated bidding. Don’t forget about those automated rules you’ve got running in the background. Be sure to update those parameters to your new CPA targets based on calls and conversions.

Call Types

The difference in call type can also change your optimization tactics. Mobile optimizations aren’t made the same way desktop optimizations are. If all of your call conversions are coming in from mobile click-to-calls, adjusting keyword level bids isn’t the best optimization to make. In that case, you should be adjusting your mobile bid modifier. The same goes for the opposite. If none of your call conversions are mobile click-to-call, you should look at lowering your mobile bid modifier rather than lowering keyword level bids.

Data Gaps

Lastly, there’s also a few data gaps with phone calls you should be aware of. If your ad groups don’t receive a minimum number of clicks in a 4 week period, the Google forwarding number will not show in your ad, taking away all of the tracking used to count calls as conversions. Be aware of the impact your optimizations make and always reach that minimum threshold of clicks where you can. Otherwise, you may be generating phone calls you can’t attribute back to your campaigns.

Like all settings in ppc accounts, counting calls as conversions can be a good or bad thing for your account. Be sure to take the time and evaluate the pros and cons and make a decision based on your optimization habits, your account’s goals, and the value of phone calls to yours or your client’s company.

Comments (5)

  1. Great post, Michelle!

    If employees are spending 10-15 minutes on the call or more, I hope they have an exponentially high average sale! In such instances, click-to-call reporting can be a call to action to improve internal process.

    We find it best to focus on one KPI with click-to-call and as short as possible time to count as a lead. Yes, more reporting and client follow-up is necessary with click-to-call. If a client receives erroneous calls from the click-to-call, we stop it and use only sitelinks, location extensions and social extensions, etc.. exclusively.

    Thomas — Clix Marketing Alum

  2. Hey Thomas, thanks! I completely agree, those long calls can be a clue to shorten the sales process. I’ve seen lead gen companies assign conversion value to calls only to realize that most phone calls that came in were not qualified to use their product. Having the resources to evaluate calls coming in on the back end is really helpful. Need to know if calls are spammy, window shoppers, or really high quality customers before you can assign any kind of value.

  3. Exactly, Michelle! When clients are spending on click-to-call and other actions in PPC, it often helps improve numerous processes, especially sales. There is so much value in PPC outside of direct (immediate) response. That’s what I focus on now in managing client expectation and in the pitch, which I am now part of.

    Local and regional clients, because of mobile and click-to-call data are as exciting as the digital strategies I work on for the biggest brands.

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