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How does Google Ads call tracking work?

Clients often ask us how Google Ads call tracking works, and why Google provides a different phone number for tracking calls from ads, so we thought we’d devote a whole blog to the subject.

Essentially, while contacting a business by telephone may seem almost antiquated in our screen-bound, digital age, the reality is that many people still do get in touch this way. Put simply, Google Ads call tracking is a kind of conversion tracking allowing you to see how many prospective customers have called your business having seen or clicked on one of your Google Ads.

It’s something you should definitely be using if you want to better understand if your marketing efforts are helping to drive these phone call leads. Google Ads call tracking makes it straightforward for lead generation and is a free feature.

conversion tracking in google ads

Why do I need a new Google phone number for call tracking?

Where users have clicked on a Google Ad, once you’ve set up call tracking, they’ll automatically see a new unique phone number. When someone calls it, their call is forwarded to your business and is dealt with the same as any other inbound call to your business.

You can set it up to redirect to a specific phone extension if you are running a Google Ad campaign where one person or group within your business are best placed to deal with the call leads, as opposed to your generic approach to inbound calls.

Below is what users see before Call Tracking is set up, note the phone number on the top right

Website phone number example pre Google Ads

After setting up the Google Ad campaign with call tracking the above looks identical apart from the phone number will have changed without the need to do anything to do the website itself.

Website phone number example post Google Ads

Local numbers and freephone numbers

Where possible, Google forwarding numbers share the same area code or prefix that your business already has. Where this isn’t possible, a local number area code or prefix for your locality is used.

If a local Google forwarding number is not available, your ad displays a freephone Google forwarding number instead. And these numbers are either freephone, equivalent to a local number or actual local numbers.

Why do I need to track calls from Google Ads?

Google Ads can be expensive as you have to pay for every click and for either a PPC agency or your internal persons time to manage, so you should be looking at what is your return on marketing spend. If we consider you spend £1,000 per month on the clicks from Google, then you have an agency charging you £300 per month to manage it, your total cost for the month is £1,300. So the question you should be asking is how much business is that £1,300 per month of marketing budget getting me?

Return on ad spend

Step One

It can be measured in a number of ways but the crucial one is how many leads did I get for the £1,300. To keep things simple, lets assume you received 120 phone calls in the month and Google Ad call tracking shows that 100 of those calls came from the Ads (the other 20 calls would come from other sources). You can take the £1,300 and divide by the 100 calls to get a cost per phone call enquiry, being £13 (£1,300 /100).

Step two

Now unless you have the worlds best sales people, it’s likely that of those 100 phones calls only a few will develop into paid business. So you should then look at how many of the 100 calls actually became customer so lets assume it was 10.


Step Three

Then you can do the calculation that for your £1,300 of spend you generated 10 customers meaning the cost of acquiring one new customer in the month via Google Ads was £130.

Step Four

Now if you sell a product to customers for £50, obviously Google Ads isn’t working for you (£130 of cost is higher than the £50 of revenue) but if you’re selling loft extensions at £60k per customer then the £130 per customer is an extremely good return and we’d suggesting increasing the amount you spend on clicks, if you have capacity, to get even more inbound calls. You can only do the above calculation if you know how many of your calls came from Google Ads, hence the importance of call tracking.

How To Assess Campaign Performance

For info, the above example is the exact way we assess Google Ad campaign performance with clients. There needs to be a good flow of information back from our clients on the quality of enquiries so we can see which calls are more valuable than others. Although Google Ads will show us via the call tracking when someone calls from the Ad, it won’t show us if a customer subsequently signs up for your business from the call or the revenue earned.

google ad results

If you get 100 calls from 2 different types of Ads but one of the Ads delivered 90 calls of which zero customers sign up but the other Ad generated 10 calls with all 10 signing up, then we would focus our time on the Ad that generated the 10 not the 90.

Its all about winning the customer not just high click numbers or high call numbers on a report.

How long will my Google Ad call tracking phone number be live for?

People often ask us whether Google forwarding numbers are allocated to their ads indefinitely. These numbers are designed to track your call or message ads’ performance. So the number can vary over time, and therefore is not allocated indefinitely, although there is no specific time limit on it. We don’t recommend that you copy or promote the call tracking number beyond your Google Ads campaign but they are fine to use for the duration of a Google Ad campaign.

What if my customer saves the phone number and calls back in one years time?

There is no guarantee from Google that the call tracking number will be active but the trade off is whether you want to track the calls for your Ad spend or just assume calls are coming in from the Ads. If a customer stores your phone number, then likely they know who you are and when a number doesn’t work they will Google your business name and find you that way.

yellow pages

Similarly, if you have an email marketing system in place as they are a signed up customer then they’ll have emails from you with contract details on. We nearly always advise clients to opt for the Google call tracking as it makes the calls for your spend very clear.

What if someone clicks on an Ad initially but then comes back to the website later, which phone number is shown?

This is one of the benefits of call tracking. Think about a potential customer that has never heard of you but clicks on your Ad on Monday and really likes the content, scrolls loads of pages but leaves the website without calling or enquiring as they’re busy with other things.

The Google Analytics results for Monday will show that this person visited, so you paid for their click, but didn’t call which at the time would make you think Google Ads didn’t work. Then on Tuesday they have more time so go onto Google and this time search for your company name, as they liked what they read the day before. They visit your website, not via an Ad, via your website appearing in the organic (free) Google search results.

The call tracking is cleaver enough to show this person the Google Ad call number so if they decide to call on Tuesday this will be classified as a Google Ad call because of their visit the previous day which was driven by your Google Ad. This way you can better track visitors that leave then come back to the site to purchase but you wouldn’t of won the sale unless you had a Google Ad campaign.

Do I need to Ad the phone number to my website manually?

No, Google is clever enough to automatically replace the number that is shown on your website with its own Google Ad call tracking number without needing to change the phone number in the back end of the website.

What we see a lot of website owners get confused on, is that they go to their website and don’t recognize the phone number. Then they login to their website and see the number is the one they do recognize.

The reason this happens is because they have previously clicked on one of their own Ads (don’t do this as it costs you money) thus Google shows them the Google Ad call tracking number but the back end of the website will always still have the original company phone number. Its actually a good way to know whether your staff are clicking on your own Ads.

What if my staff are seeing a different phone number?

If an employee goes to your website and sees one of the call tracking phone numbers but not your own phone number, then likely they have at some point clicked on your Google Ad and cost you money. Teach them not to do this which is a side benefit of Googles call tracking.

 Why can’t I use my own phone number?

If your normal phone number is used Google isn’t able to distinguish between calls originating from Google Ads versus other sources i.e. you can’t see how many calls came from you Google Ad spend to measure your campaign performance.

If you have any more questions on Google Ads or if you have any queries at all about call tracking with Google Ads then please feel free to get in contact with us. We’ll help you get the most from this feature for your business, to help you understand how visitors engage with your site, so you can better measure results and make informed decisions on how much marketing spend to invest in Google Ads

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