Can You Use a Call Tracking Number in Google My Business? – Whitespark Local Insider

Using a call tracking number for your local citation listings was a hard no in the past. Especially when it came to maintaining citation consistency in the local search ecosystem. The risk of creating bad data and having a messy citation profile was not worth the tracking efforts. But, did you know that this isn’t a cause for concern anymore? It is safe, and even recommended, to incorporate a call tracking number on your Google My Business listing, as long as you do it the right way.

In this first edition of the Whitespark Local Insider (formerly the Weekly), Darren discusses how to add a call tracking number to your GMB listing, without having the stress or worries of creating a citation inconsistency problem.

Video Transcript

Welcome to the very first Whitespark Weekly. This is going to be a new video series that I’m producing, and every week, I’m going to come up with a really quick video that gives you some information on one local search tip or tactic for a specific topic. The production quality on this first one is going to be pretty basic, but in the future, maybe I’ll step it up with better lighting and some kind of space backdrop or something. But, you’ve got to start somewhere. If you’ve ever seen Rand Fishkin’s first Whiteboard Friday, you can see where he started and where they’ve come to now. I’ll post a link to the first Whiteboard Friday in the show notes. It’s pretty entertaining to watch now.

But, yeah, this is where I’m starting, and the very first topic I want to talk about is: Did you know that you can use a call tracking number on your Google My Business listing?

You totally can. It’ll work, as long as you do it in the right way. I’ll give you an example of how we did it.

Real Life Example

So, we have this legal client, and they were ranking very well in the local pack, but it was their practitioner listing that was ranking. This is not that specific example. This is just another practitioner listing that is ranking. In this case, the phone calls that the business was getting on this listing were going right to the lawyer’s desk. He didn’t want that. He wanted all the calls to go to the front office where the reception could answer them. They were happy to get all those calls coming in, but they just needed a better way to manage them.

What we thought we would try is, we would edit the listing in Google My Business, and we would edit the phone number. All we did is, we replaced the primary phone number with the office line, but then we put his desk line number in as the secondary line under ‘Additional phone’. So, what happened was, we did that, we made the change, and the main phone number on the listing was now the main office line, and all the calls were going to the right place, and his rankings didn’t change at all. There was no problem at all with their rankings.

So, that was a big success. We even took it to the next step where we then also changed his business name. Instead of it being his practitioner name, we changed it to the business name, and that stuck as well.

That’s interesting on its own, but, taking that to the next level, you could use that same concept to use a call tracking number, and a call tracking number on your Google listing is far more valuable than the metrics in GMB insights: clicks to call. Those numbers are basically only for mobile clicks-to-call, and so you’re going to miss a lot of the actual calls. To get a real sense of how effective your Google listing is at driving business, having a call tracking number on your listing is very good.

How to Add a Call Tracking Number to a GMB Listing

You can put the call tracking number in the ‘Primary phone’ field, and then, in the first ‘Additional phone’ field, put the real business phone number. That will make sure that all your business listings stay connected with the GMB listing, and you shouldn’t have any citation consistency problems.

Quick Fix For Citation Consistency?

Taking that another step, it really raises the question, can you use the same concepts if, let’s say, you know the business has had a couple of other phone numbers they’ve used in the past, and you’ve got business listings out there that have the old phone number?

Well, it’s an interesting thought, that you’ve got your primary number up there, and then in the secondary numbers, these two spots… if only Google gave you more. There’s only two additional spots, but you can put the most frequently used other phone number into spot one, most frequently used other phone number into spot two, and still keep all your citations connected to your GMB listing. It’s almost like a quick fix for citation audit and cleanup if you know you just have those phone numbers.

This is probably a good tactic that any business could use to potentially pull in more citations, give themselves a little bit of a prominence boost. But more valuable, I think, is just using this idea, this concept, to use a call tracking number on your Google My Business listing. And we’ve done that with another client, also a legal client, and doing the call tracking thing there was no problem at all with their rankings.

So, that’s my first tip. This is my first Whitespark Weekly video. And I hope that you got some value out of it, and I hope you’ll join me next week for another one of these.

All right. Thanks, everybody. See you later.

AUTHOR

Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw founded Whitespark in 2005. The company specialized in web design and development, however, Darren's passion and curiosity for all things local search led Whitespark to focus primarily on local SEO in 2010 with the launch of the Local Citation Finder, followed by the Local Rank Tracker.

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51 comments on “Can You Use a Call Tracking Number in Google My Business? – Whitespark Local Insider

  • Good tip Darren!
    Having several tracking numbers with some of my clients for landing page purposes, I’ve been wondering for a long time if incorporating these tracking numbers to GMB will affect rankings or plainly would get rejected by Google.

  • With a lot of other companies using Google’s APIs for citation management, lookup, etc. have you encountered problems? We use the AdWords option in GMB for paid map pack attribution, but have held off . I’ve added tracking numbers for Yelp for clients – and Amazon is using the Yelp data for Alexa, and is giving out the Yelp tracking number for the business number on all companies we use tracking numbers for.

    I’m of course concerned that the Google APIs, used by so many other citation vendors and service provides, will pick up the GMB tracking number as well.

    • Hi Phillip,

      I’d be more concerned with a call tracking number on Yelp spreading since Yelp distributes their data so far and wide through many partnerships. It is less of a concern on Google. People use Google APIs for look up in tools and whatnot, but it’s too cost prohibitive to use their APIs to build out databases of business listings. People can find better sources of mass business data by buying it through the data aggregators. In our experience, the information on GMB does not typically spread. Google is gatherer of data from around the web, not a distributor.

  • I’m not sure I follow. Help me understand.

    How is adding a tracking number the same as adding their main phone number
    (which after you changed the name on the listing, then actually should have produced 1. a duplicate listing, and 2. correct NAP on the listing because you changed it to the business name and the business number)

    How does that tell us that using a tracking number, from say, whatconverts.com work in a case like this? Yes you’d be able to track calls, but the case study is flawed because we don’t know if the new phone number added propogated to other listings because:

    1. the case study doesn’t go on that long
    2. The data that would have been propogated was the correct NAP (because you added the business number as their primary number and you changed the name to the business name

    I’d love to use tracking numbers in GMB, but I’m not sure if this post covers the ramifications….

    • Hi Tyson,

      Adding a tracking number isn’t the same as changing a phone number to be the firm’s primary number. I mentioned that as a case that we tested, which worked out well, and gave us confidence to use a tracking number on other clients. We have now added tracking numbers to GMB for a number of other clients and have seen no negative impact to rankings.

      When we did the work on the practitioner listing to convert it to the firm listing, it did essentially create a duplicate, which we eventually had removed. The actual firm listing never had any decent rankings of note, so it wasn’t actually much of a problem. In the time that we had both listings up there (over 6 months), the duplicate didn’t cause any ranking problems.

      This video doesn’t go into much detail, because I’m deliberately trying to make them bit sized, but we have used call tracking numbers on many GMB listings and they do not propagate out into the ecosystem. I know of many other local search agencies that do this, and at least one digital marketing service that does this for thousands of listings, and everyone has noticed the same: no ranking problems and no propagation of the tracking number.

      • Interesting, thanks for the clarification.

        Is there any case where you wouldn’t want to add a call tracking number as the primary number in their dashboard?

        It would be great to be able to track these calls, and it sounds like its a possibility for sure.

        • Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a case where you wouldn’t want to do this, as long as you also add their real number as the secondary number. Seems to be all positives with no negatives.

          • It looks like what happens is Moz Local picks up the tracking numbers and that is what Moz uses as the trusted data, and then that is what they send out to their data partners, so if you use Moz Local, it is very likely that these tracking numbers will be distributed to business listings in other directories and data aggregators.

            Darren, I take it you guys don’t use Moz Local for data submission to the big 4?

          • So, if you already have Moz Local set up, and then you change the phone number on your GMB listing, Moz Local will pick it up and start distributing that instead of using what you entered into Moz Local? I don’t know, Tyson. I’m skeptical about this. I know one of the engineers on the Moz Local team. I’ll ask him to comment.

            No, we don’t use Moz Local for distribution to the aggregators. We have direct relationships and do our submission and cleanup work manually.

          • Darren, thanks for looping me in.

            Hi Tyson! Moz Local engineer here, and the occasional partner in crime with Darren at the local pubs when he makes it down to Seattle.

            I think I can clear this up. We maintain a firm distinction between Google Places (from the Maps API) and Google My Business:

            – Google Places – A “verification source”, from which we *read* NAP data, and distribute any changes found there
            – Google My Business – A “distribution partner”, to which we *push* NAP data, but not ingest with intent to distribute out to other partners.

            Changing a phone number in GMB would not get picked up by Moz Local and propagate throughout our network. In fact, if I were to imagine what would happen for Moz customers that tried this, I suspect our systems would detect the change and either cause them to “unsync” (because we can’t find the NAP match we expect), or we would push to GMB and overwrite the change with the canonical phone number you gave us.

            You can read more here: https://moz.com/help/guides/local/local-dashboard/google-my-business

            We took care to bold the part that is most relevant:

            “Note: We only push updates from Moz Local to GMB, so please check you’re happy with the listing name, address and phone number in Moz Local before you sync.”

            Hope that helps! Happy to answer more, and our help team is always a click away to walk you through it.

          • Darren, thanks for looping me in. Sorry for the delay; apparently this didn’t post successfully the first time.

            Hi Tyson! Moz Local engineer here, and the occasional partner in crime with Darren at the local pubs when he makes it down to Seattle.

            I think I can clear this up. We maintain a firm distinction between Google Places (from the Maps API) and Google My Business:

            – Google Places – A “verification source”, from which we *read* NAP data, and distribute any changes found there
            – Google My Business – A “distribution partner”, to which we *push* NAP data, but not ingest with intent to distribute out to other partners.

            Changing a phone number in GMB would not get picked up by Moz Local and propagate throughout our network. In fact, if I were to imagine what would happen for Moz customers that tried this, I suspect our systems would detect the change and either cause them to “unsync” (because we can’t find the NAP match we expect), or we would push to GMB and overwrite the change with the canonical phone number you gave us.

            You can read more here: https://moz.com/help/guides/local/local-dashboard/google-my-business

            We took care to bold the part that is most relevant:

            “Note: We only push updates from Moz Local to GMB, so please check you’re happy with the listing name, address and phone number in Moz Local before you sync.”

            Hope that helps! Happy to answer more, and our help team is always a click away to walk you through it.

          • Yes Darren, that is what is happening, Moz is picking up the tracking number. I received an email notification that they picked up new information on my clients listing and that they will begin distributing it within a week unless I change it in the dashboard.

          • Interesting, Tyson. Have you already seen that happen? It conflicts with what David from Moz just posted.

          • Hey Tyson, could I get you to write in with the details about the NAP and what you saw happen? Off the cuff, I can imagine GMB publishing to Maps within our verification cycle and we pulled the change from there. There is a lot of ways to make changes outside of our system and the directional nature of the data flows are difficult to speculate about without knowing more about what happened.

            If the details of the ticket make their way to me, I can revisit to explain what happened if that’s useful to the general audience.

            The principles of the design remain that Maps is our source of truth, and GMB is a distribution partner.

          • David, thanks for the response (for some reason, the ‘reply’ isn’t available on your post).

            Perhaps I just don’t understand, but I got an email from Moz Local that said the following:

            The Moz Local listings below have had their name, address or phone number updated on Google Places or Facebook Locations (authoritative data sources). Moz Local has automatically updated your listing with the new information and will push updates to our network of partners to ensure that this data continues to be consistent.

            If these changes are incorrect, please correct your Google or Facebook listing and we’ll automatically update your listing again within 1 week.

            Data submitted to Moz Local by you Current authoritative data
            (data omitted to protect client privacy)

            The only change to the listing was the new tracking number that I added in Google My Business, so it did read the data, right?

            If Moz Local will likely overwrite the tracking phone number, and I’d prefer that not happen, then I’d imagine the solution is to sync with another source with Moz Local such as Facebook (not sure if it’s an option on existing listings).

            Not trying to cause problems. I’d love to use a call tracking solution in GMB, and I’m sure others would as well as long as we can get it to work properly.

            P.S. If Moz isn’t syncing like it should then let me know and I can file a ticket in Moz Local dashboard.

          • Tyson,

            Thanks for writing in! I sent you a more detailed response, but I wanted to
            leave a summary here for posterity.

            After looking into your account, I’m still convinced we pulled the change from
            Google Maps, not from Google My Business.

            Here’s why:

            – We interact with GMB on behalf of a user via OAuth. That hasn’t been set up in
            your account for these listings, so we couldn’t read things from GMB even if
            we tried 🙂
            – Our system polls your “verifying listings” (that is, a listing with a matching
            NAP on a network we trust like Google and Facebook) regularly to ingest
            changes
            – We detected phone changes for the two listings you sent in on 27 January at
            around 2:00 A.M. UTC on 27 January
            – You mentioned you made the phone changes in GMB the day before

            So here’s what I think happened:

            Data saved to GMB published to Google Maps, which Moz ingested and then prepared
            to send to the distribution network–all within about 24 hours!

            Data distribution networks can get messy since there are so connected sources
            and destinations, and the data flow can be either one-way or two-way. In this
            case, making a change in Google My Business affected the data flow in a way you
            may not have intended.

            So the takeaway for Moz Local users who use GMB–whether inside or outside of
            our system–is that those changes are part of a data-flow network that includes
            one of our verifying source, and knowing how they’re connected may affect how
            you make decisions about your data.

          • So, it appears, if you are using Moz Local, a tracking number isn’t an ideal solution for your GMB listing.

            What happened to some of my client was I updated the primary number as the tracking number I purchased from What Converts.

            A day or so later, Moz Local sent me an email saying the data on my listing in GMB changed.

            Evidently, GMB sent the tracking number to Google Maps, and Moz Local picked up this change in Google Maps.

            If I leave the tracking number as it is, then Moz will distribute that tracking phone number as the primary phone number for the business.

            I understood from David at Moz that it won’t always work like this, but it is certainly a possibility.

            Just something for everyone to consider.

  • Thanks for this Darren. I have an SAB client who now has a full time office person. GMB, citations, and website all list his cell phone. He would like, at the least for his GMB and website to list the office phone. By listing the office phone first on the website and then listing the cell as a secondary #, would that also maintain consistency with GMB and citations?

    Looking forward to future episodes.

    Thanks

  • Thanks for sharing, Darren. And how timely! I heard this mentioned by Joy Hawkins last week in a webinar, and I’ve been scrambling to find out how to do it ever since.

    This will be such a valuable conversion metric for my agency and clients. One thing we struggle with is convincing clients how important it is to keep their GMB listing up-to-date and looking good with fresh photos and posts.

    This, coupled with campaign URLs for their website and appointment links, will give our case the support it needs.

  • Thanks so much. This is valuable information as we deal in custom numbers with the call tracking feature, but often clients need more than one phone number. Good to see that the experts have performed this SEO experiment and come up smelling of roses, as they say! Thanks again for sharing. I look forward to more Whitespark Weekly and seeing how you evolve the series.

  • Hey Darren,
    Congratulations on launching Whitespark Weekly! I’ll definitely be a frequent viewer. Your use of the additional phone number fields as described is thought-provoking, but I have a question about the primary number field implementation. Are you saying you then had a listing for the practitioner and a listing for the business with a shared primary phone number? It appears to me that this would then mean you had duplicate business listings. And then, if I understood right, you changed the practitioner listing to also have the brand name instead of the practitioner name in the name field? So then you had two listings with the same name and number? I think I may have missed something. Can you clarify? Thanks!

    • Hi Miriam,

      You have it correct. We did essentially create a duplicate on Google by doing this. The result was that there was no negative impact to their rankings. The practitioner listing that was ranking well, continued to rank just as well with the new number and name, and the old firm listing continued to exist but not rank well for anything. I just did some digging and I can’t find the old listing anymore. It seems like Google might have automatically merged them, even though we didn’t take any specific action to get them to do a merge. I am looking into this further.

  • Thank you Darren. I will be able to use this to help clean up citations. Being able to measure leads with a call tracking number would really help with showing clients that digital marketing is working. I would be interested in learning how to get call tracking numbers to use for my campaigns.

  • Hi Darren!

    First, thank you for the video! I think the answer to my question may be obvious. I use Moz Local for syndication. Their primary source of data is Google listing. I would assume that Moz would pull in a call tracking number if I updated their Google listing, therefore syndicate out to all of the major data aggregators that Moz has in their network.

    Would you know if this is true?

    Thanks,
    Lance

    • Hi Lance,

      Moz Local is going to distribute the info that you put into the Moz Local dashboard. It won’t pull your info in from the Google listing. So, I think you could still do this directly through the GMB dashboard if you follow my instructions, and keep your real number in Moz Local. I am not sure if Moz Local will then overwrite your call tracking number with what’s in Moz Local though. You’ll have to test.

  • Good explanation on the call tracking.

    My concern though is why would you convert the practitioner listing into the firm listing? Practioner/Firm listings are not considered to be duplicates and both can rank. Additionally, I haven’t seen these type of listings trigger Possum filters either (possibly considering that Google auto-generates a lot of the practitioner listings from data gathered from other sources).

    • We did this because the practitioner was ranking #1 for everything, but the practice listing was buried way back on page 5+ for everything. The problem was that the phone calls coming in from the practitioner listing were going straight to the lawyer’s desk, and they wanted to send those calls to the main reception instead. So, we changed the primary phone number to be the main office line, while adding the practitioner number as an additional number. It worked, and there were no problems with ranking. Next, they wanted the name of the ranking listing to be the firm listing instead, so we changed it, and again, had no problems with rankings. Now they rank for everything they want with the listing info they want to have shown.

  • “Those numbers are basically only for mobile clicks-to-call, and so you’re going to miss a lot of the actual calls. ”

    I suspected that. Does that mean that all call data is mobile clicks and does not include manual phone calls? Did you test for this?

    How about clicks to the website from the GMB listing? I found those clicks to be off. Do you know what those reporting numbers are?

    • Hi Hank. Yes, all the calls Google reports are mobile click-to-calls. They have no way of knowing if someone just picked up the phone and called you.

      I have seen that the clicks to the website data is also off. If you set up a UTM tracking code, you’ll see different numbers in Analytics than you’ll see in GMB insights.

      • Hi Darren,

        Thanks for the info.

        Regarding UTM links. I have done that with links for over 30 days all of Dec and Jan and do see them off.

        I see more visits with the UTM links. How about you. Any thoughts on why?

    • Hey Vijay,

      You make a good point, and it’s worth keeping in mind that whatever number you use on your GMB listing will also show in your location extension ads.

      However, I don’t believe that there’s any mechanism for interactions with that phone number to be recorded by Adwords. Kind of a bummer from a tracking standpoint, but I don’t think you have to worry about the tracking number on your GMB interfering with your Adwords data.

    • Hey Vijay,

      Quick update on this!

      I was just poking around in GMB for a client and there’s something in there I hadn’t noticed before that actually addresses this exact concern.

      http://take.ms/MX2cJ

      There you can put the phone number that you want to show on your location extension ads. Cool, huh?

  • It begs the question of what the intent of the additional phone number fields really are for currently. Those of us who have been working in the arena since Google Places was around will remember there being fields for multiple phone numbers. What happens when the additional phone number fields once again become visible to users? It’s probably safe to say that people will use the first one listed, but that will be an interesting case study when the time comes 🙂

  • The last comment on this post was a few months ago. Did anyone figure out if you can still use a tracking number if you’re using MOZ Local without issue?

  • Great video.

    What happens if I have 20+ locations throughout the country and I’m looking to track conversions? I have local numbers for almost all locations, but I also have a 1800 number that acts as a general sales line. However, the local numbers forward to the 1800 number. These local numbers are only used in Adwords at the moment, but I would like to add the local numbers to the GMB listings. Is this possible or can someone offer an alternative?

    Thank you!

  • I’m a big believer in call tracking numbers but remember all too clearly when it was forbidden. Your article seems to be a proper case study, and, it has given me the courage to try this with a site that gets most of its traffic from GMB.
    Thanks!

  • Hey Darren, thanks for the article. You mentioned using these additional number fields as a quick fix for citation consistency.

    If a business has an old physical address and old phone number combo would it still work to add the old phone number as an additional number? My understanding from reading about this is that the old phone number can be different but the physical address should be the same as the current physical address. Your thoughts?

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