There has been quite a bit of discussion as to whether call tracking really does hurt a business’s local search results. Though this is not a cut and dry issue, from what I have seen it does hurt results for any of my local seo clients that have tried it.
Local search is still in its infancy and companies like Google are working hard to come up with valid and effective ways to rate the credibility of business listings found online. At this time, one of the most important factors is still consistency. Since matching a business’s name, phone number and address is one of the most important indicators of consistency, having multiple phone numbers for the same business confuses the search bots and leads to a lower ranking. Though this is not a perfect system and is likely to improve in the future, for now it’s the only one we have.
There are some things businesses can do to track their advertising success without resorting to call tracking. Though it has been temporarily discontinued (pending improvement one would think), Google previously offered a widget for websites that would connect a customer through the businesses Google voice number. This allowed businesses to determine from where the call originated. This isn’t a cure all since it only works for online advertising and probably only more advanced computer users will utilize the feature.
Another technique that many businesses are using that has proven effective is the use of coupons with special tracking codes. Each advertising source will have a coupon for a service with its own unique code that can easily be tracked. This approach has the added benefit of adding a way to attract customers. At the present time, if you really need to track customer origin, this is a good option.
Many marketing companies still insist that they can offer call tracking without affecting local search but, as of right now, I have never seen it work. As local search matures this will change. Also, Google and the other major search providers are constantly improving search algorithms and coming up with new ways to determine popularity and validity.