Google AdWords Conversion Tracking – More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

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 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.

2. We used some JavaScript to display his regular phone number across all pages of his site for regular visitors; those who come from natural searches on Google proper, not his Google Adwords campaigns. That JavaScript also displays the new phone number for only those visitors from Google Adwords. Again, this is across all pages of his site. So visitors from Google Adwords will see only the new phone number, which isn’t published anywhere else. They won’t see his regular phone number anywhere on the site.

So if that new phone number rings — it’s gotta be a Google Adwords conversion.

And that’s how we can track them.

12 Responses to Google AdWords Conversion Tracking – More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

  1. Brian April 8, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    What was that javascript code. Do you have a link to where you found how to implement it?

  2. Jere Matlock April 8, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    Our programmer wrote the JS code herself, using pieces of the JQuery JavaScript library, so there’s no way to link to where she figured it out.

    Here’s the JS code we put in place on the landing pages (0f course you’d need to put in your own domain name instead of example, and the phone number you want instead of 555-555-5555, and you’d need to put in the URLs of your actual landing pages):

    < script type="text/javascript" src="jquery/jquery-1.2.6.js">
    < script type="text/javascript" src="jquery/jquery.cookies.2.0.min.js">
    < script type="text/javascript">
    $(document).ready(function() {
    if (document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’ ||
    document.URL == ‘’)
    $.cookies.set(‘gRefer’, ‘googlerefer’)
    var cookie = $.cookies.get(‘gRefer’);
    if (cookie == ‘googlerefer’)
    $( ‘#phone’).html(‘Call 1-555-555-5555‘);
    $( ‘#contactphone’).html(‘

    Toll free: 1-866-555-5555
    Fax: 555-555-5556

    Using Internet Telephone? (VoIP?)
    < a h ref="tel:15555555555" rel="nofollow">Click here to Dial our number.

    }); // end ready()

    < / script>

    There may be a more elegant way to code this (instead of having the list of URLs), but this works. Be sure to take out the extra spaces in the a h ref and the script tags — I had to disable those by adding spaces, to get them to display here.

    Good luck with it.


    Jere Matlock

  3. Brett August 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    Great post Jere.

    You can also use ClickPath for tracking offline clicks. This is something I tried to get my clients to use when I worked for a nameless PPC management company but the price tag was pretty high for our accounts – small businesses and self employed people.

    I like the solution you came up with.

    Muchas Gracias,


  4. Hallie Condit February 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m in the same situation that the dentist you described. I am a psychotherapist advertising with Google Adwords. The adjective of my campaign is to make the phone ring. How much would you charge to do what
    you did for the dentist as described below:

    “We used some JavaScript to display his regular phone number across all pages of his site for regular visitors; those who come from natural searches on Google proper, not his Google Adwords campaigns. That JavaScript also displays the new phone number for only those visitors from Google Adwords.”

    Hallie Condit

  5. Jere Matlock February 3, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    Hi, Hallie –

    Not to be rude, but as a matter of policy we do not do any work for any websites involved with psychiatry or psychology, drugs, porn, or gambling. A few minutes spent reading any of the many posts in the Psychiatric Abuse category of this very blog will tell you why.


  6. ellie February 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    i have just finished developing a website and bought a few other domain names relevant to the developed site. so, i should not set up mirrors or utilize these domain names? should i redirect instead? if i use adwords do i just need to make sure that i use the original developed site , i guess… parent site for the url and not any of the mirrored sites? is there a problem with using adsense.

    well, thanks for any input. i would prefer no answer to well…an unkind one…

  7. Jere Matlock February 5, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Hi, Ellie –

    I will try to be kind.

    If you have a bunch of domain names all pointing to the same website it is best to put them into an “IP Funnel”, which you can read about here: IP Funnel.

    It’s not a good idea to try to get these other domains indexed by Google. Better to use the “canonical” relationship tag to identify each page of your site as belonging to only one domain. I have a half a dozen domains pointing to my site, but only one of them is the main domain. For example, points to my main site, as does and some others. I bought them back in the day for various reasons, but they haven’t been particularly useful for anything. It’s better to own a domain and not use it than to let it fall into somone else’s hands. Some day I may split it off into another website.

    As far as using these other domains for Google Adwords advertisements, I will get our Google Adwords specialist here to answer your question.

    Best of luck to you —


  8. Desi Matlock February 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm #

    What Ellie suggested there, creating mirror websites and hosting AdSense, is against Google’s TAC (terms and conditions) and I’ve seen it get penalized.

    I agree that she needs an IP funnel and any other action is accidental SPAM of one kind or another. Unless she wants to create completely unique websites on each domain, which is a huge undertaking, it’s better to simply look at the reason to have those other domain names as this: You have them only so that your competition cannot have them.

    The rule is: One website = one primary domain name.

    Plus this simplifies the process of building legitimate links to your website. It’s much better to work in ways that pay off longterm without violating the Google TAC.

    Desi Matlock
    Google Adwords Specialist
    Words in a Row

  9. PPCAffiliate Rockstar July 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    Hi Jere,

    Thanks for the post and the great JavaScript solution, I will definitely be able to use this.

    After reading the comment made by Ellie and your responses to it I was left wondering weather or not it is a good idea to have parked domains which all point to the main domain. There are obviously nothing on these domains, they simply act as though they are the actual domain.

    Would I need to set up an IP funnel for this or how would you suggest I optimize this type of setup. The domains simply cater for different spelling of the name and is aimed at catering for the miss spelled names when attracting direct traffic.

    Thank again for this article.

  10. Jere Matlock July 22, 2010 at 9:54 am #

    Yes, you’ll need an IP funnel for this. There are really good directions for setting up an IP funnel on the Bruce Clay site:

    Good luck.



  11. Robert O'Rourke August 16, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    Clever stuff – just a note about your JS script though, try this:

    if (document.URL.match(/src\=googlead/gi)) {

    It’ll be more reusable and maintainable that way.

  12. PPC Affiliate Rockstar Review October 28, 2010 at 5:28 am #

    What a fantastic solution. I have been trying to figure out a work around for a Chiropractor client of mine. What I had come up with is if there was a way to track a 2nd number. What a brilliant fix. Simple….. I love finding these kind of blog posts. Sometimes when bringing an offline business online, it requires a little out of the box thinking, so thank you for helping me figure out an 8 month old problem. I can’t waite to call the client.

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