The Time and Place for Tracking Numbers: Don't Hurt Your Local SEO Chris Lonergan August 10, 2018 Share: Tracking numbers are, but no means, a new technology. A tracking number is a "pass through" number – You can dial Phone Number X and it rings through to Phone Number Y. For some, they are a commonly used tactic to help identify and quantify the sources of new customers and leads. Other call tracking numbers are part of a large call recording platform – so that conversations can be monitored and weakness in phone customer service, engagement, or sales can be diagnosed. While tracking numbers most certainly can have a place in your marketing plan – there are some very specific instances where you absolutely should not use tracking phone numbers for the sake of your online marketing success. Why Are Tracking Numbers Bad for My Online Marketing? Your local optimization is built, amongst other things, on how well Google can figure out where you are physically located. Google can determine your location that by understanding how other reliable sources on the web talk about your location. Your Google Listing, the BBB, your local Chamber of Commerce – those are all examples of citations where your business name, address, and phone number are listed. It is the consistency of that information that makes it possible to confirm the physical location of your business, which ultimately is why Google will send local searchers toward your business on the search engine results page. Tracking numbers, when implemented correctly, do not always hurt your local optimization – but when not carefully managed they can undo years of effort in securing a consistent "NAP" (name – address – phone number). When Should You NOT Use a Tracking Number Almost all "web citations" As A Hard-Coded Phone Number On Your Website Does That Mean No Tracking Numbers on Web Citations & Directories? Yes, that means Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the other biggies. While it would be great to know that you have calls coming these specific sources – there isn't a good way to do so as least as far as phone calls go. Your Google Listing is one of the few citations that does allow for a tracking number. You can have multiple business phone numbers, and so long as your correct "NAP" phone number is included correctly within that information – you can track calls from your Google Business Listing. No Hard-coded Tracking Numbers on Your Website If you using tracking numbers on your website by hardcoding those alternative numbers into your web pages – there is a chance that Google will find those incorrect numbers, which is not good for your NAP consistency. The only way to get around this issue is to use a dynamic number replacement tool... When is It Okay to Use a Tracking Number When using a dynamic number replacement tool (in most cases) Pay Per Click and advertising campaigns with dynamic number replacement Physical marketing efforts Dynamic Number Replacement Tool Dynamically generated are the key to avoiding NAP consistency problems. This means using a call tracking service that uses a snippet of code instead of a phone number. This code essentially understands the context of the situation in which the website is being loaded – so if your phone number is being viewed on specific page or by a specific user. This feature means that your call tracking service will make sure to not provide that tracking phone number when Google comes around to scrape the website. Pay Per Click and Advertising Campaigns Whether it is Google, Facebook, or wherever else you may be spending your digital advertising dollar – go nuts and use tracking numbers all that you like on your landing pages and actual ad material. These ads aren't scraped by Google – so they are open game. Physical Marketing Efforts Your EDDM postcards, your van wraps, your flyers and brochures - all of those can have tracking numbers for the same reason. Google (at least for now!) isn't going to crawl your van wrap – so you can safely use a vanity or tracking number on physical media items. If you're considering the use of tracking numbers, just remember to be careful. Tracking numbers aren't foolproof – when not strategically used you run the risk of seriously hurting your local optimization and reducing your visibility online. About Chris Lonergan Chris Lonergan is the President of Footbridge Media. With a background in web design, print design, and online marketing, Chris is focused on providing quality marketing and business solutions in the construction and service industries - helping small business owners to more efficiently manage their company and grow their operations. 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