Who’s Tracking Your Tracking Numbers?

If you’re paying to track phone calls, pay close attention to the process.

In concept, “call tracking” phone numbers are brilliant. And in reality, they’re often very valuable. But, if used improperly, they can be very poor investments or, worse yet, incredibly misleading.

To confirm, we’re talking about toll-free numbers that are assigned to a media channel or specific advertising vehicle to gauge response. (They’re also valuable for monitoring and managing how calls are being handled, but that’s another topic).

Here are just a few things you should consider to avoid problems:

1. Assigning Numbers
Limit who can assign numbers and insist that a written database of those numbers be kept and reviewed regularly. Most call tracking vendors can generate the list, but it’s up to your team to implement a disciplined method for assigning — and naming — numbers. For example, results can be distorted if multiple numbers are inadvertently assigned to the same media channel, or vice versa.

2. Double Redirects
Be aware that some third party vendors like to assign their own tracking numbers, which in turn redirect to your tracking numbers. That complicates the management process and your call tracking vendor won’t have a solution for you. You need to create a system for documenting double redirects. Then perform an online audit of those numbers to ensure they’re pointing to the proper phone lines.

3. Abandoned Numbers
Without a regular review of your tracking numbers, you could be paying for numbers that monitor media channels or advertisements you’ve long since stopped using. Clean your list regularly and reassign or delete abandoned numbers. Be sure to note what changes were made and when.

4. Data Scraping
Even with careful control of your numbers, it’s possible that the number you assigned to one online source has been replicated on another site. Many websites, such as online directories, “scrape” data from other sites to build their content. That means tracking numbers can be pulled without your knowledge and used elsewhere.

5. Media Channel Bias
Some media channels are more appropriate for the use of tracking numbers and therefore will report results at a higher rate. That doesn’t necessarily mean the media channel works better than others, it just means a phone call is a more logical action for that media. For example, expect direct mail to be more reliant upon a phone call than, say, an eblast; the eblast more logically leads to a click, not a call. Keep that bias in mind when reviewing reports.

West’s Word
This is not about bad data. It’s about bad decisions and bad business. We’ve seen clients inadvertently divert leads to competitors and/or former employees, invest in service providers based on overstated call volumes, or simply ignore the process entirely. Like so many other systems, it’s not enough to simply write a check for it each month. To get any value, you need to have someone capable of properly managing your call tracking investment.

Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about West’s perspective on this or any other marketing subject.


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