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Google Call Tracking Interview with Anthony Nichols from Ethology


Anthony Nichols is a paid media analyst for Ethology and works directly with both client and account teams on all items related to paid search, display media, and retargeting. He has four years experience working with national brands like AAA, Culligan, and American Signature Inc.

When Google call tracking first came out, Ethology was selected as a beta tester which means they’ve been using it for several months now. We decided to talk with Anthony about their experience to learn more about the lessons they’ve learned.

You’ll learn about how they found that:

  • Google call tracking helped them account for 42% of total conversions for one client.
  • Which industry it’s the most useful for.
  • Why every website should be using it.
  • How to track phones numbers on multiple pages with different placements.

The Interview:

Joe: Hi Anthony, I really appreciate your joining us today to talk about PPC Marketing and Google call conversion tracking. In order to get us started could you just tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and the type of PPC work that you’ve done.

Anthony: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on. I’m Anthony Nichols. I work out here in an agency in Scottsdale called Ethology. We’re a full service kind of digital agency working with various clients across the country as well as some in other parts of the world.

My day to day tasks are as a media analyst. Working a lot in search, display, and things like that. Working with brand awareness campaigns for different clients, as well as eCommerce initiatives.

Joe: Very cool. I know specifically we talked before about call conversion tracking, a new feature Google released recently. What can you tell us about your experience with that and some of the results that you’re getting?

Anthony: Initially, Google opened this up to us as a beta program. It was a white list beta for a while so you had to be in the ins of ins to get on board. Obviously, call tracking is a big initiative for a lot of clients that do brand awareness and things like that. There’s not a lot of providers and they’re relatively expensive. Things like AvidTrak, Mongoose, things like that.

Google pitched this and it was a really great idea because its in the UI. We got on the beta list and really top level call tracking is a huge tool for a lot of these clients. If you’re not doing on-page call tracking, you’re only tracking maybe form conversions and calls from ads so you’re missing about a third of those methods.

Joe: Based on that, what have you seen as far as a percentage of conversions that happen from calls and the type of metrics you now have with call tracking?

Anthony: Initially we had a lot of emphasis on calls from ads so we were doing a lot of click-to-call stuff with one of our clients. We implemented the call metrics beta and saw what we had already known. We knew we were going to need calls on-page but also to make sure we could track them. We saw I think it was 42% of all of our conversions for a week were coming from on-page call conversions. Really, really big for the client. It was massive. We spend a pretty hefty amount of coin each week.

Knowing that we were missing or we were gaining 42% of conversions, they were there we just weren’t tracking them, really has quantified what we were doing. We also tried to start doing some more kind of on-page efforts behind that just to really reinforce getting those on-page calls.

Joe: That makes sense. What about the client-agency interaction there. How did that help you guys as far as showing more value? Is that something that the company was really impressed with? This helps to show what you guys are getting out of the budget, was there any kind of feedback there?

Anthony: Absolutely. I think for all agency marketers or marketers in general it’s good if you can show that you’re being tasteful and you’re being “strategic,” which is a word everybody loves to use, and that you’re doing things outside the box to help drive revenue, track business, and drive awareness.

A really big crutch for us is these are not just clients; these are our friends. We’ve developed relationships with them. What can we do to greater extend the duration of the budget or drive more leads? That was a really big plus. Obviously clients love to hear, “Hey we got a great Google beta opportunity, it’s like the cats meow so that’s very exciting?”

We got them on with that and then really just saying this is what we’ve seen from using it. The opportunity to do on-page call tracking with Google through the UI versus using a third party provider is saving you money and its quantifying your leads.

Joe: Got it. What about, from your experience, I think you mentioned before that you’ve been using it something like 4 or 5 months now. Are there any best practices, anything that you’ve found really stands out related to Google’s call tracking versus the other call tracking that’s available? Is there anything that you’ve learned and would recommend other people look into?

Anthony: I think the initial thing is that Google tag manager (GTM) is in the midst of being this great tool and people are starting to get on board with it. Initially, we, the single client that we had the beta on, ended up just laying the call metrics tab on the site. It was a manual pixel implementation versus putting it in a container for GTM.

I think, from my experience working with some of our analytics team too, it’s best to throw it in GTM. It’s a little bit more efficient obviously as a tag manager; it helps a lot. Really, making sure that if you have this phone number in a single place on the site, a header and a footer, it’s very simple to implement the call metrics. But if you have your number in text or somewhere else throughout the site, you’ll definitely need someone to develop a pixel for you that fires the code when somebody comes through a paid-search medium.

In our case, with the first client we implemented it with via the beta, we just had a header and a footer number so it was relatively simple. We’ve moved along since its come live. We’ve actually developed some dynamic pixel implementation so that this pixel knows when to fire the paid search code whether its in the body of the header or the footer.

This is just a heads up. I’m sure that a lot of people will think about this, but it’s something to think about more in depth because if you have one place that phone number’s not and you’re firing it somewhere else, you’re going to lose tracking.

Joe: That makes sense. What about the types of businesses that this makes the most sense for. I guess one answer could be it makes sense for everyone, but are there particular businesses or industries you see it being more important for?

A lot of searches happen from a mobile phone and it’s really easy to click to dial a number for the mobile phone. I’m just wondering if you have any perspective on who this kind of tracking makes the most sense for.

Anthony: I’m an advocate of if there’s a tool that will help you quantify anything that you’re doing from any kind of strategic standpoint, you should do it. I think obviously you might not need it for eCommerce. You’re probably going to get a lot of phone calls that are about customer service versus,
“Hey I want to purchase a couch online.”

For the sake of the experience that we have here in the beta, we were working with a commercial industrial client. It’s kind of a smaller brand but definitely a challenger brand in a big market. People don’t consume these commercial industrial goods like eCommerce. There’s information and then you follow up with a dealer or a rep.

Really, that is the industry I would recommend it for. Something where you need to get someone on the phone whether it’s passive or active. They call you. You generate a lead and you reach out to them and nurture it. I think that’s a good one.

Brand awareness as well. Anybody calling about more information is a really good opportunity for it. Really, if you take the three kind of core lead gen, brand awareness, and eCommerce, you’re looking at lead gen and brand awareness to really use call tracking.

For the sake of Call Metrics being a free service, you should have it implemented on everything. I think that’s the differentiator in AvidTrak or Mongoose or any other third party platform, is that you need to have some capital to use those. Call metrics on the other hand is free.

Joe: From that perspective, you mentioned about any time there’s an opportunity to gather more data, especially if it’s free, you might as well do it and find ways to implement or optimize based on what you find. Do you have any specific examples without getting too specific and giving client information away, any specific examples of ways you’ve used the new data to optimize and, whatever it is, improve the click through rate or improve conversions, things like that?

Anthony: We’re still in the midst of a testing phase. We got out of the honeymoon phase on it with it being implemented and just driving the leads. Right now we’re really working on doing on-page testing. Where’s this phone number? What is associated with this phone number? Where can you find it on the page or even through the site map? Things like that. Obvious kind of user experience things.

In another way, we really supplement analytical data, GA for the most part, on where our leads are coming from. Knowing that maybe in Texas a lot of the leads are form leads and maybe people in Texas don’t want to talk to people on the phone.

Then we look at California maybe where there’s a lot of phone calls versus forms. Things like that. Just the nature of the business in certain states with behaviors.

Joe: That makes sense. I don’t think I would have thought about that, but it makes a lot of sense that before you’re going to pay a lot of attention to your form and your call to action and things like that. Now that you can track the phone number, you can start thinking of how prominent should this be, where should it be placed. It’s really interesting.

Anthony: Absolutely. Our client has a back-end system so you don’t just call and talk to a person; you have to go through a system.

For the most part, most marketers measure a phone call or quantify it by 60 seconds. Well this kind of helps us really convey that maybe this doesn’t need to be 60 seconds. Maybe the time it takes them to get through the process is 2 minutes. We need to adjust our conversion ranges to facilitate how long it takes to get through and talk to someone to really generate a lead.

That goes for a lot of clients. I’ve worked with a ton that don’t have a person on the other end of the phone. It’s a system, an automated system. There’s definitely that metric you need to adjust accordingly, again behind behaviorism.

Joe: Got it. I’m not sure if I have any other questions at this point, although there might be more to talk about. Is there anything you feel like we’ve missed and you’d like to add to the mix?

Anthony: No. I think a lot of digital guys and gals know that phone calls are really big. It’s really great that Google has kind of been a first mover and now provides a free service. It’s still one of those that people aren’t totally aware of.

I’m really hoping that this discussion will help get awareness up for call metrics because, from a standpoint on search marketing and display marketing, we need to make sure that we’re capturing all the leads and we know where they’re coming from. This is just a really great tool that I’m definitely passionate about and I think a lot of marketers will be.

Joe: I do feel a little bit bad for the companies who created a solution for this and were making money from it and now Google comes in and has a free solution, but for everybody else who’s using it and advertising, it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of call metrics without having to pay for it.

Anthony: Absolutely. I think those third party providers still have a niche. They are able to track through all mediums. They have phone numbers for organic, affiliate, paid, display. Whereas Google right now is just moving into the search market.

If somebody comes in through the organic, it’s still the stock number that’s on the site. If they come in through paid it has Google’s tracking number. They’re getting their feet wet with this great tool, but those third party providers still have quite a bit of headroom before Google’s going to catch up or at least implement something that is a differentiator on why people would even use them. They’ve got some time. Definitely still great products.

We use AvidTrak on a lot of our clients. Hospitality clients across the country, across the globe. If you have the capital to use those tools, they’re fantastic. The reporting is great on them, but for some of these smaller clients that maybe don’t have $25K a month for call tracking or they don’t have the volume, the call metrics is a really great tool.

Joe: I didn’t realize that. Good to know. That also happens to be it on my side unless you’ve got anything else to add, although the final question I would have is just an opportunity for you to talk about Ethology. Can you mention where people can go to find out more about you guys and what types of listeners might be interested in the services that you guys offer?

Anthony: Absolutely. I appreciate that. Ethology, again we’re based out in Scottsdale, Arizona. We’re a full-service digital agency. We pride ourselves on being an integrated agency. Whereas a lot of agencies might be siloed where you have pay to search, content strategy, analytics all separate.

When we come together on a call, we work in tandem, we work together. We’re all client facing individuals. We have a lot of great talent here and we work with a lot of great clients, some big, some small, so we’re very well-versed. We really just like the idea of community marketing.

We are involved in webinars. We’re involved in trade shows. We’re friendly people that are passionate about marketing and we again pride ourselves on being an integrated agency. We’re working very hard to be one of those top agencies, an agency of the decade in the few coming years.

You can find us on-line at We’d love to hear from everyone if there are any questions.

Joe: Awesome. Anthony, I really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing all this information about Google call tracking and thank you for taking the time to join us.

Anthony: Absolutely. Thank you for the opportunity.


Joe Putnam HeadshotJoe Putnam is the blog editor at iSpionage. You can get in touch with him on Twitter at @josephputnam to talk about PPC advertising and on Clarity to talk about content marketing.