We manage the Google AdWords accounts for many of our clients. Tracking the results of a Google Adwords campaign is, most of the time, pretty easy. Put the conversion tracking code on their sites and let Google Analytics take care of it.
Some clients want their website to sell things, and we set up shopping carts for them. Google Analytics is great for tracking those conversions that result in a sale. Although when you track the sales directly–how many orders actually came in–it doesn’t always line up exactly with what Google Analytics tells you. But Analytics provides a pretty close approximation.
Other clients want their website to collect email addresses so they can promote their bigger-ticket items to them, and Google Analytics does a pretty good job of tracking those kind of conversions too. Again, it’s not a perfect system, but Google Analytics is a fairly reliable conversion tracking program for these kinds of conversions.
But what if the objective of a Google Adwords campaigns is to make the phone ring? How can you track that? One of our clients, a very pragmatic dentist with an office in Beverly Hills, wanted proof from us that our Google Adwords campaign is driving people to his site that then call him and schedule appointments.
Obviously there’s no “conversion code” for “making the phone ring” in Google Analytics.
Now, my dentist client has enjoyed #1 through #4 rankings for some of his top search terms in Google’s natural search results for the last couple of years, since we built and optimized his website; we’ve also used the marketing services of SendArticles.com to help maintain his top rankings by getting great links to his site. It’s been a joint effort.
This dentist likes to use every possible service that makes sense to him, to market his site – he’s a very smart man.
Without my knowledge, another internet marketing firm whose name I shall not sully here, approached my dentist client with a method to achieve this objective for him (verifying the Google Adwords campaign was making the phone ring) by setting up a mirror site that was in every respect the same as his regular website, except for the phone number, and they sent the Google Adwords traffic to that mirror site instead of his regular site, and answered the phone for him so they could track the conversions.
In essence, they set up a .net domain name registered in their name (!) for him, and copied the content of his .com site over to it.
This is a BAD IDEA for SEO! Don’t do this!
The mirror site resulted in duplicate content being registered by Google when both sites were indexed and cached by Google, and BOTH sites were dropped entirely from the Google natural search results for trying to spam Google with duplicate content; it was quite a crash from his #1 rankings for his keywords in Google’s natural search results. All traffic to the site dried up.
In all fairness to that nameless marketing firm, they had put in place a robots.txt file that should have kept Google from indexing the mirror site — but it didn’t. Their lesson learned: Google doesn’t always obey what it says in the robots.txt file. I could have told them that, but nobody asked me.
So after his site disappeared from Google’s natural search results, my dentist client called me saying he wanted us to manage his Google Adwords campaign again because he was paying 5 times as much per click as when we used to do it for him, and by the way, could we get him back in the natural search results at Google?’
Well, yeah, I told him, “That’s what we do!”
The first thing we did was take down the mirror .net version of his website and reroute it to his regular .com site, and set up mod rewrites so any crawls by Googlebot only get the .com site, with 301 permanent redirects from the .net site pages to the .com pages. Within a week his site was back in the #1 spot in Google’s natural search results.
But what about his original objective of tracking the phone calls received from his Google Adwords campaigns? How to distinguish those visitors calling off the the Google Adwords campaign from the phone calls he gets from just having terrific placement for his site?
Basically, he needed to know whether it was worthwhile spending his money on Google Adwords, when he has such terrific placement in the natural search results. Is it worth it?
We thought about this for a while and kicked around some php solutions, but we wanted to keep all the pages as static HTML pages.
So we ended up with a simple solution:
1. We set up a second phone number for this dentist that rings on a new line in his office.
So if that new phone number rings — it’s gotta be a Google Adwords conversion.
And that’s how we can track them.