Gain Full Accountability With Call Tracking

More Accountability

We’ve talked in the past about tracking conversions on your website, but that doesn’t really cover tracking a customer who calls you from a phone. This is super important; it’s very possible that a majority of your customers will call instead of filling out a form. That’s a huge area of missing accountability. 

But if you have call tracking in place, then you have the full meal deal for accountability. You have:

  • conversion tracking (the online form component)
  • call tracking (the offline phone component)

But how do you track the calls?

How It Works

Using a piece of code on your website, you can swap the phone number displayed on your website with a fake tracking number. The customer then calls that number, which goes directly to your regular phone number.

At this point the customer is none the wiser, but you can now find whether your call came from:

  • Google organic search
  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • …and other sources

This is pretty fancy stuff, and it’s relatively cheap too. If you’re going to set it up yourself, you’ll want to find a provider that gives you toll-free numbers, keyword-level tracking, and call recording.

Call recording?

Record Calls

You automatically get data into how long each call was, and who it came from – this we know.  But you can also activate a feature to record the audio from calls.

We’ve all heard that little call whisper “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes”. What are they doing with all these calls?

 They’re doing exactly what you should be doing – listening in. Most call tracking software will give you the option to record the calls that come in, so you have an actual audio of every person that calls your business from your website.

As a business owner, this helps you in a few ways:

  • you can audit your processes to find out if your receptionist is doing her job well, and is friendly enough. Is her manner turning away customers?
  • you can measure exactly what customers are calling in for and buying. At that point you can see exactly how much money your advertising is making you.

Call recording isn’t for every business though. If you’re a medical practice for example, you might not be allowed to record your customer’s calls due to the confidentiality of your industry. 

For everyone else, there’s call recording.


  • with both conversion tracking and call tracking in place, you know exactly what results your website and online ads produce.
  • call tracking is dynamically inserted onto your website based on how the visitor found your website
  • you can record calls for more valuable data.
  • if you don’t want to record calls, then don’t.
  • you can even use call tracking on your offline ads to see if they’re producing results.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 11: Modified Broad Match Keywords

By this time you’re familiar with the basic Google Adwords match types:

  • broad match
  • “phrase match”
  • [exact match]

Each one gives you a higher level of control over your keywords, from just “similar keywords” (broad) to requiring the exact isolated phrase (exact match).

Some advertisers find broad match just…too broad, but phrase match too specific! Isn’t there something you can use in between? There is!

Modified Broad Match Keywords

Modified broad match is a fairly overlooked match type because it’s not in the “match types” dropdown when using your Google Adwords interface. It’s also not as simple to understand as the other match types, so it makes sense that it doesn’t have a wide adoption.

Start by opening the using broad match modifier help article from Google.

Let’s go for an example here, using the keyword “Nike shoes”.

If you are using just plain ol’ broad match, the keyword “Nike shoes” might trigger a wide variety of searches, including many searches that don’t even include one of those words:

  • jogging shoes
  • Nike runners
  • plus-sized shoes
  • running shoes
  • Nike apparel

As you can see, some of these keywords are totally irrelevant. You could eliminate them using negative keywords, but let’s not focus on that strategy right now.

While phrase match requires both keywords “Nike shoes” to be in that order, modified broad match allows you to make sure that both words are present, but the order doesn’t matter.

So with the modified broad match keywords “+nike +shoes” (you can make broad keywords modified by using the + symbol), you might receive searches such as:

  • Nike shoes
  • shoes made by Nike
  • buy Nike shoes
  • what type of Nike shoes should I buy?
  • shoes from Nike

These keywords are obviously much more relevant, but still will gain more traffic than if you used phrase match (because they can be unordered).

It Gets Better

Beyond just allowing the keywords to be unordered, you can selectively put the + mark beside keywords that absolutely have to be included in the search.

For example, with “+Nike shoes”, only the word Nike has a plus sign in front of it. That means that the search MUST contain Nike, and may or may not include the term “shoes”.

  • Nike socks
  • new Nike apparel
  • which sizes of shoes does Nike make?
  • Nike factory labour process

As you can see, some of the keywords include “shoes”, but not all of them. All of them include the term “Nike” though, because Nike had the + sign in front of it.

To Your Betterment

If you’re struggling for traffic from your phrase and exact match keywords, try adding in modified broad match keywords. You may find that your CTR or conversion rate on those keywords goes up, while still driving some serious traffic.

If you put your list of broad keywords into this tool, you can have modified broad match keywords generated automatically for you (since Google’s tool doesn’t do this natively).

Quick Tip: Use The Google “Change History Report”

Your Adwords account can become pretty messy as you’re always testing what works and what doesn’t. Keeping track of the changes you’ve made can also be a bit of a nightmare.

Using the Change History Report, you can find out every change that’s been made on your account, who made the change, and when they made it.

To access this report, open up a campaign, or ad group, and then click “View Change History”:


Make sure you set the date range as well.

By analyzing the data in the change history report, you can gain key insights about what changes really made a difference.

Say you have a spike in traffic at one point in time. Was that related to a bid change you made? Or was it just a seasonal thing? The data in the change history report can help you determine what’s going on.

If you have multiple users on your account, this can also be paramount to finding out who made a destructive change that negatively affected your campaign. Google has some thorough documentation on the report too.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 10: Ad Review

Getting the best click-through-rate (CTR) on your ads is mighty important to achieving relevant traffic for cheap. And there’s a process you need to follow to get a high CTR.

Part of a high CTR has to do with selecting relevant keywords, but simply writing good ads can make a huge difference in your CTR too. Here’s the process:

  • run about 4 ads for each ad group. Keep the ads running until they have at least 1,000 impressions each
  • after a few weeks, pick the top performing ad and delete the others.
  • write new ads to replace the ones you’ve just deleted
  • rinse and repeat

By continually shifting through new ads, you have new opportunities to see what works.

Major Changes

When writing these ads, you’ll want to start by making major changes to your ad text. For example, you might have Ad #1’s headline be the name of your business, while Ad #2 has your catchy slogan for a headline instead.

By making the changes in your ads that are wildly different, you’re able to see which direction to go in. You may find that the ad with your slogan performs insanely better than the others, so you might save that ad and then make copies of it with very small differences for your next testing run.

As a “small difference”, perhaps you decide that you’ll simply swap description line #1 with description line #2. Or maybe rearrange some of the words in the description. You could even add a call-to-action such as “Call Us Today!” at the end of your ad (or at the beginning, but you’d have to test them against each other to see which one works the best!).

Headlines Are The Biggest Thing You Can Change

From there follows the ad text, and then the display URL. Keep that in mind when deciding how “major” of changes you want to make.

So start with the big stuff (like headlines), and then pair-down to minor changes. Measure which ones get the highest CTR, as well as the best conversion rate.

You may also find that some ads get a good CTR but a bad conversion rate. If this is the case, you have a few questions to ask yourself: Is your ad misleading? Do your ad imply that you’re giving away something for free, but when they arrive on your website they don’t get what they expected?

Whatever the case, ABT: always-be-testing!

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 9: Call Tracking

We all know you can track conversions on your website when someone fills out a form or makes an order. You simply put the Google Adwords conversion code on the “thank you” page, and voila: instant tracking.

But what if you want to track a customer calling you? How do you put a tracking code on the phone number of your website? 

IMPOSSIBLE (right?).

But not really.

Billboard Tracking

Before the invention of the internet (and after, actually), there still existed advertising! Yes, imagine that: advertising before the internet. What a concept.

And those marketing professionals still needed ways to track their marketing efforts. If we put up a billboard, how do we know if it’s a effective? How do we know if it’s driving calls?

So the invention of a dummy number was born. Here’s how it works – a fake phone number is put on the ad (or billboard). When a customer calls the number, they are routed to your real number. Of course, the customer is completely unaware of this happening at all.

The calls are then counted, and you know how many calls came from that billboard!

The Exact Same Thing Can Be Done With Your Website, Only Smarter.

With 3rd party tracking, you can have fake phone numbers dynamically inserted onto your website depending on where the customer came from. 

You can track whether they came from:

  • Google organic search
  • Google paid search
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Radio
  • and more.

A simple google search can show you quite a few different call tracking companies to use. Some of them are quite expensive. If you’re new to call tracking, pick an inexpensive option.

Buy a new number for each source that you want to track.

It’s a good idea to also consider getting a toll-free number to use. That way if a customer calls from outside your city, they won’t be charged for long-distance.

Importing this conversion data for use in Google Adwords and Analytics takes a bit of training. But even if you don’t take advantage of that, you can still find out whether your general campaign is driving calls.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 8: Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are like the condiments for your hamburger. The burger will keep you alive just fine on its own, but it sure is more enticing with some ketchup and relish.

If you don’t have ad extensions set up for your campaign, you’re missing out on CTR gains, and extra conversion sources. There are 6 types of ad extensions, and you may find that one of them converts really well. If you didn’t have them running in the first place, you’d never know!

So get ad extensions turned on, even if it’s just a few of them (more on this below).

Here’s a quick video intro to ad extensions:

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The basic premise of ad extensions is that you can tell your visitor more about your business before they even click to your website. You’re effectively adding on extra lines of ad text (for no extra cost!).

A List Of Ad Extensions

There are:

  • app extensions
  • call extensions
  • location extensions
  • review extensions
  • sitelink extensions
  • callout extensions

Each of these adds a reason for customers to click to your site. It would be a great idea at this time to learn what each extension does (if you didn’t check out the above video already).

You can probably tell by now that not every extension will make sense for your business. For example, if you don’t have an app to offer, then the app extension will be a big loser for you.

Use These Extensions

The bread & butter extensions that EVERYONE should be using are:

  • sitelink extensions (links to 4 specific pages on your website).
  • callout extensions (highlights specific features your business offers, such as “free shipping”).

Regardless of your type of business, you can probably find a way to use these two types of extensions, as they’re really just extra lines of ad text.

Call Extensions

The next most common extension is the call extension, which lets people call you directly from their mobile phone (without visiting your website). Although these extensions are useful, they come with a warning:

Back when we were younger and less experienced, we ran campaigns without external call tracking (above and beyond what Google provides). At one point we ran a campaign that chewed through hundreds of dollars in “calls” from Google, but we had no call tracking to prove that these calls happened. It was a hard-learned lesson.

Now we have special tracking numbers that record calls, so we know exactly how many calls we’re really getting; we even have a recording of each call for total marketing accountability.

We see differences between what Google reports for calls, and what we actually receive. This is because sometimes people click-to-call, but then hang up before they reach you. Still, the call extension is still very profitable so long as you can track your results.

Review Extensions

Review extensions are also relatively easy to setup. You simply take a customer testimonial and add it to your campaign. It will appear occasionally alongside your ad.

How exciting that you can actually show your customer testimonials with your ad, without even using up characters in your ad text! What a great way to make an impression!

Location Extensions

Lastly we have location extensions. Location extensions can be difficult to setup as you have to link your Google for Business account to access them – still, they will help increase your CTR if you put them in (setup location extensions here).

Let’s Finish Up

Decide on which extensions you want to implement, but at the least make sure to put in the sitelink and callout extensions. Don’t leave this article without implementing these features!

From there, decide which other extensions you want to add in. The more, the merrier (except for the caveat about cal extensions)!

After you’ve been running the extensions for a while, see which ones are performing the best and adjust accordingly. If your call extensions are not performing, you may want to delete them so your budget can go towards something more profitable.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 7: Negative Keyword Review

You may have a refined list of keywords that provide conversions for you at a reasonably low cost, but do you have a refined list of negative keywords?

If you aren’t familiar, negative keywords make sure that someone typing that keyword is excluded from seeing your ad. Why would you want to exclude someone from your ad?

Imagine you are a shower company, and you make deluxe shower stalls for high-end homes in Vancouver. You decide “Hey, I think I’ll bid on the keyword ‘shower’, because we sell showers!”.

All good and dandy so far, right?

And then someone searches the term “meteor shower”, and triggers your ad because you were bidding on the keyword “shower”.

Uh oh! We have a bit of a problem here, because that person doesn’t care about home-showers at all! They clearly just want to find out more about meteors and how they soar through the night sky!

By adding the term “meteor” as a negative keyword, we can keep out anyone looking for meteor-shower related stuff, and your campaign becomes that much more targeted.

Does that all make sense to you? Do you now see how we might want to exclude some people from seeing your ad, because they aren’t the right fit?

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get to adding some negative keywords in. When you’re just starting out, I recommend using campaign-level negative keywords.

Start with this Google guide to adding negative keywords if you’re not sure how to put them in your campaign.

Once you know the technicalities, you have one problem: “where on earth do I come up with negative keyword ideas?”

One way is to use the “search terms report”, which shows you the exact searches that someone made to trigger your ads. To learn how to use this report, go here and find the heading that says “Get negative keyword ideas” – expand that section and follow the instructions.

When looking through the report, look for any single-words that indicate that the search is irrelevant (such as our meteor shower example above). The more you spend time looking at these keywords, and thinking about the possible “search intent” behind them, the better you’ll get at creating negative keyword lists.

By excluding irrelevant keywords, you can increase your CTR, increase your quality score, lower your bids, and lower your cost per conversion. It’s really important to do this regularly, especially if you’re using broad-match keywords.

You can also use the dimensions tab to find more search terms for negative keyword ideas. Just go to Dimensions > View: Search Terms.

Select a date range, and you’re good to go. Add any new ideas you get from here to your negative keyword list.

Searching online is also a good way to find negative keywords. Just search your industry + negative keywords. That search might be something like:

“hair salon negative keywords”

Here is a sample list of negative keywords that are suitable for most small or local businesses at Whitespark..

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series 6: Search Partners (Not)

When creating a new search campaign, you have the option to opt in or out of Google  “Search Partners”.


What the heck are these “search partners” they’re talking about?

Sometimes a 3rd party site, such as CNN or AOL, will have a custom search bar on their site. When a visitor goes to search on their site, they are taken to a special search page, where your ad can be displayed.

Here is a search bar from the AOL home page:


And here is the Google search results after you click “SEARCH”:


You can immediately see that the top 6 listings are paid ads (which is a bad user experience). Regular Google search only has 3 ads above search results.

By opting-in to search partners, you’re agreeing to show your ad on these pages, which are different than Google’s regular search engine; visitors act and search a little bit differently.

There are some instances where search partners is a good idea, such as:

  • taking advantage of the Google Shopping network
  • if you have a campaign that you need more traffic out of (and it isn’t reaching your budget), you can squeeze some extra traffic out of it by adding in search partners.

If you need more traffic, use a remarketing campaign before turning on search partners. It can deliver huge ROI (more on this in a later article).

If you’ve already explored every nook & cranny of your Adwords campaign (including remarketing and display), then search partners could give you a little boost in traffic (with the cost of slightly high cost per conversions) for your search campaign.

The bottom-line is that you should not include search partners when making a new campaign, unless you really know what you’re doing.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series – Part 5: Mobile Ads

You should already be running multiple ads for each of your ad groups, but are you running mobile versions of each ad too?

A mobile ad gets priority in the ad auction when someone is searching on their phone. If Google has 2 similar ads, but one is mobile, they are going to show the mobile ad.

The big benefit here is:

  • a boost to your CTR (in most cases)
  • a higher quality score
  • which in turn brings you lower bids.

Here’s an example of the type of CTR difference you might expect from a mobile ad (CTR is the % on the right).


Although we have hidden the ad text (for the privacy of the customer), you can see what a difference a mobile ad makes. The mobile ad has a CTR of 2.61%, while the identical non-mobile ad has a CTR of 1.56%.

Now obviously you can’t just make mobile ads exclusively (they won’t show to desktops or laptops, which is still a very sizable portion of the market), but you should still run them whenever you can.

You don’t even have to change the ad text to reap the benefits! The ad above used the exact same ad text!

If you want though, you couuuuld change that ad text to be customized for a mobile offer. For example, maybe you give 10% off to mobile visitors only – you could do this with the mobile ad! I think this was probably the primary purpose that Google invented a mobile ad for. It’s only really necessary to change the text in special circumstances though.

So how do you insert mobile ads into your workflow?

Give your regular ads a few tests to find some winning ad variations. Once you have some decently optimized ads, then duplicate the winners into mobile ads.

You can keep testing all your ads together from here, but testing your regular ads first is more efficient because adding in mobile ad = more work, so it’s best to have a good variation running before increasing your workload.

Adwords Conversion Optimization Series – Part 4: Rotate Indefinitely

You should have 4 ads per ad group running at a time. That way you’re able to:

  1. test which ad gets the best response
  2. delete the losers
  3. and create some new ads to test again. Rinse and repeat.

This process of constantly testing lets you find the absolute best ad for your market, and is absolutely required to get the most bang for your buck.

There is a problem with the way the ads Google rotates your ads. By default, Google Adwords will display your top 1-2 ads more than the others, in an attempt to “automate” optimization.

For the smart marketer, this is a bad thing. Because your ads don’t get equal treatment, you can’t really see which ones are doing the best. You’ll want to make a custom change to enable your ads to rotate evenly, so that you can optimize them manually.

To start:

  1. Go to the campaign you want to change.
  2. Click on the “settings” tab.
  3. Go down to “Ad delivery”.
  4. Click “edit”.
  5. Choose the “Rotate Indefinitely” option.

You will receive a warning from Google saying that Rotate Indefinitely is not recommended – ignore this warning.


By evenly rotating your ads, you can truly measure which ad provides the best results, and give every ad an even chance.

It’s true that your CTR may go down in the short run (as some of the lower performing ads are allowed to keep showing), but in the long run you’ll be able to increase your CTR far more than if you used the “Optimized” options.

The extra special benefit of doing this is that you can also optimize better for which ads actually convert, even if they don’t receive as high of a CTR.  This means your campaign will be optimized to make money, not just please robots.

It’s true that Google has an option to optimize for conversions, but that holds the exact same problem as the “optimize for clicks” option: you don’t get to see the true potential of every ad you write.

Next week we’ll be covering how mobile ads can increase your CTR.