I had a chat with Mark at Mozcon 2015 and he blew my mind when he told me you could turn your existing phone number into a call tracking number. Just imagine: all the benefits of call tracking with none of the negative NAP consistency consequences. I asked Mark if he'd write up a post for our blog, and here it is.
Call tracking makes search marketing simpler, more cost-effective, and more efficient for large firms, new businesses, and marketing veterans alike. With call tracking, you don't have to wonder which of your marketing efforts are working. You can delve into the conversion funnel to see hard data that demonstrates where your efforts are paying off (and where they aren't).
While the call tracking industry has a lot to offer, some local marketers are still reluctant to jump on board with call tracking due to concerns over changing their local phone number. I recently wrote a guide to call tracking for local search for Mike Blumenthal’s blog addressing this very issue.
Ghosts of Call Tracking Past
When you hear the horror stories about companies who've tried call tracking only to see rankings tank after the switch, or who lost access to the number when they tried to switch vendors, it’s natural to write it off. The good news is, however, you can get started with call tracking without having to worry about losing your existing phone number or affecting your NAP (Name Address Phone number) consistency.
As with anything, call tracking can be implemented well or implemented poorly. Those call tracking horror stories you've heard about arise from poor implementations, often built into the products of local marketing solutions providers.
Unfortunately, some of these solutions vendors claim ownership over the local numbers they give to their customers. If a customer wants to cancel the service or switch providers, they often have to forfeit the right to the call tracking number that came with the package they bought – a number that’s now all over the internet associated with their business. Some local businesses end up sticking with a service provider they don't like simply because the time and effort involved in switching vendors and cleaning up NAP data is just too much of a headache. Let me warn you, if any marketing solutions provider includes local SEO call tracking and tries to tell you they own the number you'll use, walk away.
Call Tracking in 2015
NAP consistency isn’t the only worry about using call tracking in local search marketing. I hear all the time from marketers whose clients are worried that customers will become confused over which telephone number is the right number to call when a different call tracking number is listed online. Just the thought of having their web presence appear messy, with multiple telephone numbers, can turn these small businesses off of the very idea of call tracking.
I know firsthand how time consuming it is to clean up bad citations, create new citations, and optimize existing citations. Why introduce a new data point into the mix and confuse things for your customers? Even if the likelihood is small that a call tracking number might affect business, why risk it especially when you don’t have to?
There are a few ways to use call tracking while remaining consistent with NAP. The safest, smartest technique is to adopt call tracking without changing your (or your client's) local business number. This way, the NAP consistency is always maintained and your biggest hurdle is seamlessly overcome.
Protecting Your NAP Consistency Through Porting Numbers
Many call tracking services allow you to port your existing business number into the call tracking system, giving you the benefits of call tracking without changing your phone number. (At CallRail porting numbers in and out is free of charge.)
Before you get too excited, know that you will have to provision a new line at your business for these calls. And you'll need to plan ahead: It can take a few weeks to port a number over to a call tracking provider. Once your number is set up as a tracking number, you can then take advantage of all the great call tracking features.
Porting is a great workaround if you want to explore call tracking, have already spent a lot of time and effort on NAP consistency, and don't want anything to sabotage your hard work.
It’s FCC-mandated that you be able to switch service providers and maintain the same number. If you’re using a call tracking service and you don’t like it, you have the right to port your number out of the system when you switch providers.
Even if you haven't given NAP consistency much thought, porting can be a convenient and easy way to embrace call tracking. Since you'll just initiate the port request and wait for things to happen, you won't have to spend time setting up new tracking numbers for your existing campaigns.
With call tracking enabled, you can see all calls received in your activity dashboard. Track calls, record calls, review caller ID information, or analyze other data points to get the most actionable insights. To ensure consistency, you can even set up a call flow to dial specific numbers at specific times, making sure you don't miss a mark. While it can take time to adjust the settings, you can assign the same settings to multiple different tracking numbers. Not only does this streamline your workflow, it creates a more consistent experience for callers.
How To Port Your Number
While the porting option does take time to step up, which can frustrate you if you're feeling like you need to move ahead with call tracking right now, ultimately it's a safe, easy, and secure way to get call tracking without giving anything up.
Getting started with porting is as easy as completing a Letter of Authorization, gathering your phone number data (and a recent bill) and discussing your specific needs with a reputable call tracking provider that takes local SEO seriously.
Here are step-by-step instructions* for porting U.S. and Canadian phone numbers:
- Provision a new phone line to take the place of your existing one you'll be porting away. This is the destination number line that will receive the forwarded calls. For example, if this is a business line with AT&T or Rogers then you will want to set up a new AT&T/Rogers line at your business location to receive the forwarded calls.
- Set up the call forwarding and call flow settings. Input the destination number and any other call flow settings within your call tracking account so that when your existing number is ported, it rings exactly where you want it. No down time.
- Request, fill out, and return the Letter of Authorization provided by your call tracking vendor. While porting often only takes a few days, it can take a few weeks depending on the carrier you're porting away from.
- Watch the data flow in and get to analyzing!
*Note: Number porting varies by country since there is a patchwork of regulations that govern telecommunications in each country. The above mentioned method is relevant for U.S. and Canada based businesses. The process for other countries varies based on regulations and in some cases fees are charged by current carriers to release a number. Be sure to research best practices for your specific country.