What is Google Ads Call Tracking and how does it work [2024 step by step guide] ?

Google Ads Call Tracking

Reddit, Quora and the web in general, is flooded with questions about Google Ads Call Tracking and how to track calls in Google Ads.

I’m sure you’ve stumbled into numerous questions like the ones below:

While there are some good answers, even Google hasn’t provided a detailed guide on how to actually track Google Ads call conversions.

Today’s mission: Explain what Google Ads call tracking is, how it works and how you can track calls in Google Ads!

What is Google Ads Call Tracking?

Let’s start with the basics.

Google Ads Call Tracking is a feature within Google Ads that allows advertisers to track phone calls made by customers as a result of their ads.

This tool is essential for businesses that rely on phone calls for customer interactions, as it provides insights as to which ads, campaigns and keywords are driving calls!

In other words, you can use Google Ads call conversion tracking to help you see how effectively your ad clicks lead to different kinds of phone calls.

How do I track calls in Google Ads?

Before we dive into the details and provide steps on how to track calls in Google Ads let’s first explain how Google Ads Call tracking works in general:

  1. Call Extensions, Call-Only Ads and Calls from a Landing Page: Advertisers can add call extensions to their ads, which display a phone number alongside the ad. They can also create call-only ads, which are specifically designed to encourage users to call the business directly from the ad. Google can also track calls when a user clicks on the ad, and lands on the website. With the use of Google Forwarding Numbers (GFN) Google dynamically inserts a unique forwarding number in place of the business’s actual phone number. This forwarding number routes the call to the business’s actual number while allowing Google to track the calls’ details.
  2. Tracking and Reporting: Google Ads records various data points about the call, such as the call duration, call start and end time, and the caller’s area code. Advertisers can access this information in their Google Ads account, helping them understand which campaigns, ad groups, and keywords are generating phone calls.
  3. Conversion Tracking: Advertisers can set up conversion tracking to measure when calls lead to valuable customer actions. For example, they can define a conversion based on the duration of the call, assuming that longer calls are more likely to result in sales or bookings.
  4. Optimization: With call tracking data, businesses can optimize their campaigns to focus on keywords and ads that drive the most valuable calls. This helps improve return on investment (ROI) by ensuring marketing efforts are directed towards the most effective strategies.
Toy Story Meme

Before you go all Buzz on us, let’s see why Woody has a point and why thousands of marketers out there are turning to guides like this, to find an answer.

Types of Phone Call Conversions Google Ads can track

Before you start setting up your account for call conversion tracking you need to check what type of phone call conversion you wish to track. Each type has a different setup – this is where things start to become complicated.

Let’s see the 4 different types of phone call conversions you can track:

4 types of phone call conversions you can track in Google Ads

Here are the primary types of phone call conversions you can track in Google Ads:

  1. Calls from Ads:
    • These are phone calls made directly from call extensions or call-only ads. When a user clicks on the call button in the ad, it initiates a phone call. Google Ads tracks these interactions as conversions.
  2. Calls to a Phone Number on Your Website:
    • These conversions occur when a user clicks on your ad, visits your website, and then calls a phone number listed on the site. Google Ads can track these calls using dynamic number insertion (DNI) to attribute the call back to the specific ad and keyword that drove the traffic.
  3. Click-to-Call Conversions:
    • In this case, a click on call ad or asset counts as a conversion based on Google’s estimation of whether a meaningful phone call occurred after a person clicked your ad. Google can also track clicks towards a phone number, not the phone calls themselves.
  4. Imported Call Conversions:
    • These conversions involve importing call data from other systems into Google Ads. For instance, if you use a third-party call tracking solution that provides detailed call logs and outcomes, you can import this data into Google Ads to better understand and optimize your campaigns.

Before we go through the steps of setting up each of these 4 conversion types let’s check the pros and cons of each.

#1 – Calls from Ads

Google Ads Call Extensions add a phone number to your ads, making it easy for users to call your business directly from the ad.

If generating phone calls is a primary goal of your advertising campaign, call extensions make it easy for users to contact you directly.

Mobile users often prefer to call businesses directly rather than filling out online forms. Call extensions provide a convenient click-to-call option for these users.

Call Extension Example

Google Call-Only Ads are designed specifically to drive phone calls. If your business relies on phone interactions to close sales or book appointments (e.g., healthcare, legal services, home repairs), call-only ads are ideal because they facilitate direct contact.

When phone calls typically result in high-intent leads or immediate sales, call-only ads ensure that your advertising efforts focus on generating these valuable interactions.

For businesses that offer urgent or emergency services (e.g., locksmiths, emergency plumbers), call-only ads enable potential customers to connect with you instantly, addressing their needs promptly.

Below are the pros and cons of enabling conversion tracking for these types of conversions:

Pros:

  • Track when the call was placed, the call duration and the source.
  • See summarized (not individual) data in Google Ads reports.
  • Free of charge to activate.

Cons:

  • This method uses NON-UNIQUE Google Forwarding Numbers. This means that Google may have shown the number to an ad for another business.
  • A lot of users are complaining of receiving calls asking for businesses not related to them but Google charges for each of these calls.
  • Only available in the following countries.
  • You also must have met the threshold of clicks in a 4 week period for Google to show and report your call conversions (for Desktop).
  • Calls are tracked in total with no visibility on individual lead insights.
  • On some calls, Caller ID shows a Google number, not the user’s number.

The verdict:

Good as an introduction to call tracking.
Unfortunately for marketers that are serious about their Google Ads setup and bidding strategy, the insights are limited and can sometimes skew performance rather than improve it.

Here’s an example:

You might see that campaign #1 drove 50 calls and campaign #2 drove 20 calls. This might indicate that campaign #1 performs better but this is only on the surface. In reality campaign #1 might be driving non-quality or spam calls, so you might be wasting money on leads that don’t bring revenue.

How to set up:

#2 – Calls to a phone number on your website

When a user visits your website after clicking one of your ads, website call conversion tracking helps you identify and measure calls originating from your site.

This type of tracking considers a call as a conversion if it lasts longer than a minimum length you determine, allowing you to filter out shorter, potentially non-valuable calls.

Pros:

  • This setup enables you to evaluate which specific keywords, ads, ad groups, and campaigns are contributing to call conversions, providing valuable insights for your business.
  • See summarized (not individual) data in Google Ads reports.

Cons:

  • This method uses NON-UNIQUE Google Forwarding Numbers. This means that Google may have shown the number to an ad for another business.
  • Requires deep technical knowledge to setup.
  • A lot of users are complaining of receiving calls asking for businesses not related to them but Google charges for each of these calls.
  • Only available in the following countries.
  • You also must have met the threshold of clicks in a 4 week period for Google to show and report your call conversions (for Desktop).
  • Calls are tracked in total with no visibility on individual lead insights.
  • On some calls, Caller ID shows a Google number, not the user’s number.

The verdict:

Very valuable for businesses who rely on phone calls for their day to day operations.

Unfortunately you don’t get insights at the individual level (what was the call about, did the call result in a booking).

How to set up:

#3 – Click-to-Call Conversions

Conversion tracking is a crucial tool that helps you measure the effectiveness of your advertisements by showing how many users click on your business phone number on your mobile website or on call ads and assets.

Unlike traditional phone call conversion tracking, which monitors the initiation of calls, this feature is dedicated to tracking the number of clicks on your phone number.

Call Extension Example - Dentist

Pros:

  • You can track conversions from clicks on call ads, call assets, and the call button on location assets without using a Google Forwarding Number (GFN).

Cons:

  • You are not tracking actual calls.
  • Conversion tracking is counted based on estimations, after someone clicked your ad.
  • Needs technical expertise to setup and use of Google Tag Manager. Either you or your web developer will need to be able to add the tag to your website and add a JavaScript snippet with an onclick event handler.

The verdict:

Use this only as a last resort and if calls are not that important for your performance strategy.

Counting clicks and not calls can be misleading and skew your performance data.

How to set up:

#4 – Imported Call Conversions

Importing call conversions (automating uploading of phone call conversions in Google Ads) is the best and easiest option if your business relies on phone call leads.

A third party call tracking software that integrates directly with Google Ads is essential for this to work.

Through a call tracking tool like Nimbata, you will be able to track calls from Google ads (including options #1 and #2 described above) and automate a process of having these phone call conversions in your Google ads account.

gclid tracking

Pros:

  • Comprehensive Call Analytics: Third-party call tracking software provides detailed analytics that go beyond basic call logs. It offers insights into call duration, call source, caller demographics, and even the conversation’s content through call recording and transcription.
  • Attribution Accuracy: These tools can precisely attribute calls to specific keywords, ads, or campaigns within Google Ads. This level of detail helps in assessing which elements of your advertising strategy are driving the most valuable calls, allowing for more effective budget allocation and optimization of ad spend.
  • Seamless Integration: Third-party call tracking solutions often integrate smoothly with various customer relationship management (CRM) systems, marketing automation platforms, and analytics tools. This integration ensures that all call data is synchronized across your marketing and sales ecosystems, providing a unified view of customer interactions and facilitating better decision-making.
  • Automated Reporting and Alerts: These tools can automate the generation of reports and real-time alerts based on predefined criteria. For instance, you can set up alerts for missed calls from high-value customers or generate reports that highlight trends and patterns in call activity.
  • Call Recording and Transcriptions: Many third-party solutions offer call recording and quality monitoring features. These tools allow you to review and analyze call interactions, knowing exactly which leads convert.

Cons:

  • This is a paid solution that involves a license fee and usage costs.

The verdict:

If your business relies heavily on phone calls generated from Google Ads and you need advanced analytics, better attribution, and improved customer experience, using third-party call tracking software is a must.

How to set up:

Conclusion: Is Google Ads Call Tracking a good choice for me?

Well, the answer depends heavily on the objectives you have set for your own business.

If inbound calls do not contribute that much to your sales revenue, a solution like Google Ads call tracking might be a good option.

But if you count a considerable amount of phone conversions for your business, you should better make the most of them with a 3rd party call tracking software, such as Nimbata.

Call tracking doesn’t end at measuring performance but also helps businesses to improve their interactions with customers.

To summarize, Google Ads call tracking provides meaningful insights into the campaigns, ads, and keywords that generate inbound calls for your business.

You don’t need to pay for fees and tracking numbers.

On the other hand, it’s a free tool with limitations compared to paid tools, which combined with Google can be a game-changer for your business…

Either way, you shouldn’t leave your phone calls unattributed!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *