Call Tracking Can Kill Your Local SEO Results

Local SEO Telephone Sheep

Sheep Made From German Phones – Courtesy Loop_Oh

Call tracking is an idea thought up by marketing companies to use as a tool to track which strategies are producing the most return on each advertising dollar.

The idea of call tracking is pretty simple.  A business sets up an account with a calling service that provides them with several different phone numbers that all ring at the business.  A different one of these phone numbers is then used for the business listing for each advertising source.  Once in place, the call system software can then monitor which numbers are calling the business with the most frequency and the owner will know immediately which advertising is paying off and which isn’t producing results.  This sounds like a good idea, but in the age of Google Local Business Listings and local seo it can have an adverse effect on page rankings.  Here’s why.

In traditional Search Engine Optimization for websites, the primary factor for determining page rank is the number of back links, or other sites that have links to the ranked site.  However for businesses, even extremely popular and reliable businesses may not have a web page to link back to.  This can skew the results and make a relatively unpopular business with a well optimized web page rank above a huge business without a site.  To correct for this, Google and other local search providers reduced the importance given to back links and instead rely on what are called citations.  Citations are simply a reference to the business somewhere in the vast world of cyber space.  A citation is something that lists the business’s name & phone number, name & address, or both.  In local SEO parlance this is called the name, address, phone number or NAP factor.  Are you beginning to see why having multiple numbers can be bad?

Local searches use what are called trust factors.  These are merely consistent indicators that a particular listing is legitimate and refers to what the engine thinks it does.  This makes having all of you business information standardized across the board.  Multiple numbers can confuse the engine and citations will be disregarded as unreliable.  In the world of local searches, a business’s NAP is how they are identified.  It’s the DNA of online business listings.

If a marketing company is telling you that call tracking is a good idea, then you might want to reconsider your company.  At least give them a pop quiz and make them tell you exactly how such a technique will not affect your local listings.  Be prepared for a song and dance.

7 Comments Added

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  1. jay April 13, 2010 | reply
    Interesting and good point. What are some other ways you believe are affective ways to tracking sources like Google Local, etc. that wouldn't adversely affect your local rankings? Thanks, Jay
    • Anonymous April 13, 2010 | reply
      Jay, Tracking Google Local is tough but I will detail a method [free] in an upcoming article. I'll try to get that out this week.
  2. Michael April 14, 2010 | reply
    I understand and agree with the importance of consistency in data to achieve ranking. However I have seen other articles that indicate that a properly executed tracking number or use of code behind a tracking number (that contains the primary number) allows for the best of both worlds. A way to track local SEO results as well as consistency to the search engines. Can you please comment on what you see as the proper ways to implement call tracking into local SEO?
    • Anonymous April 14, 2010 | reply
      Michael, I have a follow up article planned detailing how to do it right, as most people are sold a service that is doing them harm.
  3. Amy April 23, 2010 | reply
    I understand and agree with the importance of consistency in data to achieve ranking. However I have seen other articles that indicate that a properly executed tracking number or use of code behind a tracking number (that contains the primary number) allows for the best of both worlds. A way to track local SEO results as well as consistency to the search engines. Can you please comment on what you see as the proper ways to implement call tracking into local SEO?
  4. admin May 4, 2010 | reply
    Amy, Here is an updated article: http://localseo.org/does-call-tracking-really-hurt-my-ranking/ Hope it helps.
  5. Scott Frey July 14, 2010 | reply
    Would having a specific conversion page (without addresses) that had a call tracking number plus appointment request form have a similarly adverse affect? If location addresses with phone numbers were included in the footer or on another page of the site, could that offset the number, or is it just all bad? -----Answer----- The answer is that if you can avoid it, I would recommend doing so. Otherwise, make sure the number is an image and have it on just the 1 page. That way google can't read it.

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