True story: at a recent conference, a member of the audience asked this question of the speaker:

“Phone calls are really important to our clients.  Is it possible to track that with Analytics?  If so, how?”

The response?

“It’s complicated.  I’ve never actually done it, but Google it and you’ll find some software.”


Call Tracking 101

In one sense, he was right: a simple Google search will show you different companies that offer call tracking, such as Mongoose Metrics, Log My Calls, If By Phone, Call Rail, and more.

But call tracking actually isn’t all that complicated.

What IS complicated, however, is when you’re running A/B tests and you want to know which variation generated more phone calls site-wide (i.e., if they click beyond the initial landing page).  Or you have more than one goal, such as a phone call AND a form fill, and you need to know which variation led to more effective revenue.

A/B testing tools are affordable and easy to use, so it’s easy to run an A/B test to see which variation generates more ecommerce sales or more form fills.  But testing phone calls is a whole other animal.  After all, if someone does a search on their laptop, then picks up their phone and calls the number on the website, there’s no way to tie that phone call to that specific variation if they click around the site (if you’re just measuring calls from a landing page, you can hard-code different phone numbers to track this.  But that doesn’t work once they click past the landing page).

Did variation A result in more people calling, or did variation B?

You don’t know unless you’re integrating call tracking with A/B testing.

Some of the tools have recently made these integrations easy: Log My Calls now integrates with both Optimizely and Convert, for example.  Call Rail also integrates with Convert, etc. If you’re already committed to another call tracking service that hasn’t made an integration like this, however, you’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time working with tech support at both the call tracking provider, as well as your A/B testing solution so you can accurately account for which variation resulted in more phone calls.

But here’s where it gets crazy:

Let’s say your primary conversion goal is a phone call and your secondary goal is a form fill.  This is a common situation. After all, phone calls are usually more valuable than form fills, since it’s easier to close a deal when you have the prospect on the phone, rather than trying to follow up via email or calling them back after they fill out your form.  But you still need to capture form fills for reluctant or after-hours visitors.

You’d like to run an A/B test to see which headline is better.

Since we just established that phone calls are more likely to lead to a sale than a form fill is, the first thing we have to do is figure out how much more valuable it is.  So you back out the relative value: if you close 1 in every 25 form fills and 1 in every 5 phone calls, then we know that phone calls are worth 5 times as much as form fills.

So which headline is better?

-Headline A generates 100 form fills and 10 phone calls
-Headline B generates 67 form fills and 20 phone calls

If you were simply looking at the number of conversions, you’d declare Headline A the winner, since it resulted in 110 conversions, whereas headline B only resulted in 87.

But if you take into account the relative value of those conversions, you’ll see that headline B is actually the winner.

Here’s how to check:

Assign a dollar value to each conversion goal.  If you don’t know the actual amount that each one is worth, you can do this with relative values.

So if you say a form fill is worth $50, a phone call would then be worth $250, since we determined that phone calls were 5 times as valuable as form fills.

Now plug these values into the results of your A/B test:

-Headline A: (100 form fills x $50) + (10 phone calls x $250) = $7,500
-Headline B: (67 form fills x $50) + (20 phone calls x $250) = $8,350

This teaches us not to go for the quick answer, but to dig into which variations ultimately lead to more effective revenue.


Back to the Conference…

While the questioner and the speaker at that conference were both still stuck at step 1 – collecting data on phone calls – they didn’t realize that that’s actually the easy part.  There’s a whole other level of complexity as you get more sophisticated in your marketing and start doing two advanced activities together, such as A/B testing AND sitewide call tracking.

It’s not prohibitively complex; it just means not settling for the easy answer.  Instead, you have to dig a little deeper to know that the conclusions that you’re drawing reflect an accurate picture.

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Theresa Baiocco is the Founder of Conversion Max, which helps mid-sized businesses increase their online revenues with Conversion Optimization. She has a Master's Degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado in Denver, a Master Certification in Conversion Optimization from Market Motive, and she's a Google AdWords Qualified Individual. She's also a dog-lover and a travel junkie.