0
0
0
0

Where AdWords Website Call Conversions Can Go Wrong

July 23, 2018

When Google AdWords launched their website call conversions program in August, I was ecstatic. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for an agency that focuses on marketing for apartments, so our clients primarily rely on phone calls—their business objective is lead generation, rather than e-commerce transactions or ad impressions. The website call conversion program was a huge step forward in our ability not only to report the success of our AdWords marketing to clients, but also to help us optimize our campaigns by finding what was working and what wasn’t in the campaigns we were running.

But as we rolled this out to clients, we discovered a major flaw in the Google AdWords website call conversion feature that may also affect you, depending on your configuration. This flaw causes the tracking number of one website within your account to show up as the tracking number on your other websites within the same account.

To be clear, if your AdWords account only runs campaigns for one website, then you will not run into this problem. If, however, you use one account for campaigns to multiple websites, then you should be aware of this problem with Google AdWords website call conversions.

RELATED: 10 Industries That MUST Use Call Tracking

A Closer Look at the Problem

To use our own configuration as a concrete example, we are a marketing agency serving apartment companies, and many of those companies manage multiple apartment communities. As part of our marketing services, we create websites for each of those apartment communities, and then we manage their AdWords marketing within one account for the whole management company. We could split out each community into a different account, but we have chosen this strategy as a way of avoiding any possibility of breaking the rule against “double serving” ads by “promoting the same or similar content from multiple accounts on the same or similar queries” through sister properties of the same management company.

But one day, a client reported to us that the dynamic tracking phone number generated for one community’s website showed up on the website of another of their communities in the same account. Here is a screenshot of the two websites side-by-side:

adwords call tracking bug

Again, if you use Google website call conversions for multiple websites from a single account, your end users might dial a number that connects them to a completely different business than the website they are calling from.

This is especially problematic in the apartment industry, where apartment shoppers (like hotel shoppers) go through a “lay of the land” phase in their decision-making process, looking at many different apartment communities to try to figure out all the options available to them. In doing so, it is easy to imagine a scenario where someone visits the websites of multiple communities managed by the same company, so that the phone number points to an entirely different community than the one they are trying to contact.

How to Work Around this Problem

We contacted Google about this issue, who acknowledged that this configuration would cause a problem with the accuracy of the website call conversions destination phone numbers. That said, they told us that they are not likely to address this issue soon, since there is a relatively simple workaround.

The only way to fix this problem is to split each website into its own account so that the dynamic phone number of one website cannot bleed onto any other site. Or, simply don’t use the website call conversion tracking until Google fixes the problem.

Technical Details About Why This Issue Happens

Curious about why this actually happens? Here are the technical details if you are interested in reading further.

Google’s technology for tracking website call conversions is pretty simple—in concept, at least. Basically, when someone clicks on one of your AdWords ads, a couple of small snippets of JavaScript code on your website seamlessly replace your normal phone number with a dynamically generated phone number, unique to that one person who clicked the ad. Then, if the person converts as a lead by calling that phone number, AdWords can track that phone call as a conversion all the way back to the campaign that generated the click.

The first snippet to place on your website is a tracking tag:

call tracking javascript

This tracking tag includes two custom variables:

  • ak: This numeric variable identifies your account. It isn’t identical to your account ID number, but if you generate multiple website call conversions within the same account, this number stays the same across all your “Calls from website” conversions.
  • cl: This alphanumeric case-sensitive string is the conversion label, identifying which specific website call conversion was triggered in your AdWords account. This is unique for every website call conversion that you set up.

The second JavaScript snippet is the portion of code that actually replaces your business phone number with the AdWords dynamic tracking number that registers a call to that number as a website call conversion.

One of the best features of this program, then, is the fact that Google lets you specify a conversion window. So, if someone clicks an ad one day and then returns up to 60 days later, the phone number on your website will still display the dynamic tracking number to register that call as a conversion days, weeks, or months after the initial ad click.

It seems, then, that the variable in charge of assigning a user’s unique tracking number is the “ak” variable. In other words, this snippet provides for an account identifier, but not an individual website identifier. The “cl” variable only identifies the specific website call conversion, but nowhere in setting up the website call conversion within AdWords do you add a specific phone number or a specific website to associate with that conversion—all of that is done through the JavaScript snippet.

So, since the “ak” account identifier is the same for every website call conversion, that same unique tracking number will follow a user from site to site whenever that user finds a website from the same AdWords account.

TL;DR

If you use one Google AdWords account to run campaigns for multiple websites with different phone numbers, then Google AdWords website call conversions may not show the correct phone number if a user visits more than one of your websites. The only way to fix this (for now) is to separate each website into a unique AdWords account.

About the author:

Jacob Gerber is the Chief Marketing Officer for Rentping Media, a digital apartment marketing agency. Jacob has written extensively for the apartment industry about video marketing, SEO, Google AdWords, and website design. Jacob lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife, daughter, and son. You can follow him on Twitter @JacobGerber or on Google+.

Check out Jacob's previous article for Wordstream: How to Use Google AdWords for Apartment Marketing