18 Apr 2024

Telephone Tracking – 8 methods for tracking calls

Before you decide on a specific form of Call Tracking (telephone tracking) and integrate it into your online marketing campaign, it makes sense to analyse the various options and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

We are big fans of phone tracking, especially for campaigns where immediate ROI values are essential – as opposed to branding campaigns.

“Telephone tracking makes it possible to better understand and optimise the customer journey.”

Table of content

Definition: What is call tracking?

Call Tracking (CT), also known as call tracking, is a method of measuring and analysing the number of incoming calls to determine their origin and effectiveness – in other words, it’s about mapping the customer journey and understanding it better. This technique is particularly valuable in online and offline marketing as it allows companies to more accurately monitor and optimise the performance of their marketing campaigns – and ultimately how it can help solve customer problems.

Importance of call tracking for marketing strategies, ROI, customer satisfaction & more

Call tracking contributes to companies’ online marketing on many levels – including in the B2B sector. These include:

  • ROI analysis: CT can help companies establish metrics to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing campaigns as well as the value of potential leads. By accurately allocating calls received to specific campaigns, marketing budgets can be allocated more efficiently.
  • Optimisation of marketing strategies: With detailed data on the source of calls, companies can adapt and improve their marketing strategies. For example, a company can determine that a particular advert in a magazine is generating more calls than another and reallocate the budget accordingly.
  • Customer satisfaction and service: By tracking calls, companies can also monitor and improve their customer service performance – which has a lasting impact on the customer experience. They can find out which enquiries occur frequently and how they can process them more efficiently. A very simple way to measure customer satisfaction.
  • Multichannel tracking: Call tracking makes it possible to track a lead from different channels, be it via online advertising, email campaigns, social media or traditional print advertising. This comprehensive overview helps to identify the most effective channels, measure defined KPIs and make informed decisions based on them – for example for the Google Ads bidding strategy or to increase customer satisfaction.
Zusammengefasst ist Telefon-Tracking ein unverzichtbares Werkzeug für Unternehmen, die ihre Marketingkampagnen präzise quantifizieren und optimieren möchten. Es bietet tiefgreifende Einblicke in die Performance verschiedener Marketingkanäle und trägt wesentlich zur Steigerung des Erfolgs und der Effizienz von Werbemaßnahmen bei.

“Call tracking is an indispensable tool for companies that want to precisely quantify and optimise their marketing campaigns.”

How do I find a suitable call tracking solution to measure my key figures?

As with any tool you install and use (unless it’s designed specifically for your needs), it’s unlikely to meet your needs 100%. So when choosing software, you should select one that will help you achieve your goals.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your goals – such as how many calls are coming in and their average time?
  • What is the exact purpose of the tracking tool – such as making marketing more efficient, increasing overall customer satisfaction, etc.?
  • How does CT contribute to achieving your goals – e.g. with dashboards or integrating data into the CRM?
  • Do you want to use it to manage your PPC bids?
  • Do you just want to determine your ROI [return on investment]?
  • Do you only want to track calls via one medium – such as AdWords – or do you also want to track SEO, email campaign results and so on?
  • Should the conversion data be imported into software to enable further calculations, etc…?

Keep it simple when answering these questions. Just because you can analyse call data doesn’t mean you have to. Data needs to be usable.

“Just because you can analyse call data doesn’t mean you have to.”

Call tracking methods – all KPIs at a glance

There are various ways in which you can determine the source of your telephone conversions. With this list, I would like to give you an overview of the options that are currently available on the German market. (Note: The first three options are limited, but have been included nonetheless as they are a form of call tracking).

Although this data is designed for online marketing, most of the tools can also be used for offline marketing:


Media-Specific Phone NumbersEach advertising medium has its own number
  • Easy to implement
  • Overview of call volume
  • No breakdown by keywords or campaigns
Phone Number Supported by CookiesTracking at the keyword level using cookies
  • Simple and inexpensive
  • Detailed data
  • Issues with simultaneous visitors
Google Call Conversion TrackingCall forwarding via Google Ads
  • Free of charge
  • Accurate allocation down to keyword level
  • Only for AdWords
  • Many bugs
  • Limited support
Individual Phone NumbersUnique numbers for keywords and campaigns
  • Highest precision
  • Minimal data loss
  • High costs
  • Development effort
Phone Number PoolsPool of numbers for different visitors
  • Tracking down to the keyword level
  • Lower costs
  • Attribution errors due to number reuse
Conventional Conversion Tracking ScriptsConversions through website integration
  • Integration into Google Analytics
  • Free of charge
  • Difficulty to redirect after conversion
  • Potential data loss
Identification CodesUnique codes visible on the website
  • Low costs
  • Combination with Google Click ID
  • Data collection challenge for sales reps
Virtual Call AttendantsAutomated call handling through AI
  • Automation and efficiency
  • Detailed data analysis
  • Improvement of customer satisfaction
  • High implementation costs
  • Technical complexity
  • Potential customer frustration

Media-specific telephone numbers: More insights about call tracking key figures

The simplest type of CT is to set up a separate telephone number for each medium. This gives you a separate telephone number for your flyers, your website, your advertising mailings and any other source of calls you want to know about.

How it works
A telephone number reserved for Online Marketing is displayed on the website. All calls to this number are attributed to Online Marketing.

Easy to implement. You get an overview of the number of calls and can analyse the costs and benefits of the entire advertising campaign. This also allows you to determine at what time of day you receive the most calls. This time would also be the best time for your advertising.

No possibility to break down the calls by keywords, adverts or campaigns.

A phone number supported by cookies – efficient measurement of KPIs

This is a simple yet highly functional solution for many companies to track conversions down to the keyword level. It is also the type of call tracking used by companies like Reachlocal.

How it works
The first time a person visits your website, a signal is sent to your tech provider containing relevant data such as the visitor’s source, keyword, advert, campaign, etc. The system now knows that a visitor has come to your site. The system now knows that a visitor is on the site and how they came to the site. When a call is registered, the system counts a defined event and credits it to the last known visitor as the source of the conversion.

Simple and inexpensive. This solution answers the same questions as the previous method, supplemented by additional data such as keywords, adverts, campaigns, etc.

This type of tracking becomes problematic if more than one visitor visits the site at the same time or within 15-30 minutes, as the system no longer knows with certainty to whom incoming calls should be attributed.

“Simple and cost-effective, this method provides detailed insights down to the keyword level.”

Google Call Conversion Tracking (für Google Adwords)

Since 2016, Google has been offering call forwarding in addition to its AdWords Call Extension, which allows calls to be tracked via the website. In the past, it was only possible to track calls directly from Google. With this option, the number on the website is exchanged with a number from Google and as soon as it is called, Google counts a conversion. For this to work, you must have a call extension active in your account. Unfortunately, Google only records conversions from clicks on Google adverts. The tool does not work for the display network (clicks via adverts on partner sites).

How it works
Whenever your advert is shown on Google, Google’s tool displays a unique number instead of your phone number. If the person calls this number, Google can match the call to the exact keyword, ad group, campaign, etc. If the person clicks on the advert, they will also see a Google 0800 tracking number on the website. The tracking number can also be displayed on the website for AdWords visitors.

Google call forwarding costs nothing and is freely available to all AdWords customers. It works seamlessly with Google AdWords. It is quite accurate and tracks callers back to the keyword level.

This method is limited to AdWords. It only does not count calls generated by visitors who did not come to the website via an advert. Google’s tool is easy to install. However, we have identified many bugs. Google support is not familiar with the product and is usually unable to help.

The reporting is weak. For example, it is not possible to count the number of missed calls, which clearly diminishes the marketing results. In my experience, companies miss about 40 % of incoming calls. We have also found that if a campaign or ad group generates too few clicks, the number is not tracked. The phone numbers used are shared with many companies. If someone saves the tracking number and calls in two days, the person will end up with another company. Good idea from Google. Implementation unfortunately weak with many disadvantages. I can only recommend it if a professional tool is not used.

Individual telephone numbers (or extensions)

You can have an individual phone number for each keyword, ad group, campaign or account.

How it works
Each keyword, advert, advert group or campaign is assigned its own telephone number. As soon as a person lands on the website, the corresponding telephone number is displayed on the page.

This is one of the most accurate call tracking solutions available. With this method you have very little data loss.

High costs. If you need thousands of numbers for all keywords, you can get a pretty high phone bill. It also requires some development and support to get it up and running and maintain it.

Telephone number pools for better tracking

An alternative to the Individual phone numbers option is the use of a phone number pool. In contrast to the option above, this option makes use of a limited number of phone numbers and does not statically assign a phone number to each keyword or ad group.

How it works
As soon as a person visits the website, a number from a pool of, say, 10 – 10,000 telephone numbers is displayed on the page. The provider’s system memorises which number has been assigned to which visitor and in the case of an incoming first call, a conversion is counted for that visitor. As soon as the last number in the pool has been assigned, the system starts again with the first number, which means that all numbers are used again and again. With this system, calls can be tracked down to keyword level, using fewer numbers than in the case of the individual phone number.

When using this type of tracking, it is important that the pool is large enough so that numbers are not reassigned before the potential customer calls. In some cases, the visitor may not call until two days later and this needs to be taken into account when choosing the size of the pool.

Tracking down to keyword level, costs are lower than with individual phone numbers.

“With this system, calls can be tracked down to the keyword level, with fewer numbers needed.”

The reuse of telephone numbers can lead to errors when assigning conversions. Some visitors could even save the number and use it again at a later date, whereupon the system would assign the action to the wrong visitor.

Measurement with conventional conversion tracking scripts

Tracking systems such as Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offer extensive options for verifying conversions. They usually work on the basis that once a visitor has been to a certain page or once a certain interaction has taken place, the software counts a conversion.

In the case of telephone calls, the “conversion” (interaction) takes place outside the website and therefore cannot be determined.

How it works
However, if you get the visitor back to the website after the desired action has been completed, such as to a specific page, the event could be tracked. An example would be to have the visitor visit the website again to download a recently purchased flight ticket. As soon as the download page is visited, the tracking code is activated.

The tracking data is transferred directly to Google Analytics and your Adwords account. It does not require much programming and the software like Google Analytics is free.

It is not easy to get someone back to the website after an activity has been completed. You will therefore have data loss. It could also happen that the person uses a different computer on their next visit, which would prevent the tracking code from working.

Identification codes – for greater customer satisfaction

You could also create a simple tracking solution by using unique identification codes on the website.

How it works
By placing a unique identification code on your site for each visitor that is visible to the caller, a telephone advisor or receptionist can simply ask for the number during the call. A statement could be made such as: “So that we can give you the best possible service, please give us the 5-digit code that you can see on our website.”

Using the new feature of Google AdWords that allows you to import conversion data, this can even be combined with the Google Click ID. However, you will probably also want to include SEO data.

This method takes time to programme, but the cost should be lower than buying a large number of numbers that you have to pay for monthly.

The biggest challenge is collecting data. It is very easy for sellers to forget to collect data.

“Identification codes enable efficient recording of call data directly during the call.”

Virtual call assistants – an alternative to call centres

Virtual call attendants are a modern technology that is supported by automated systems and artificial intelligence (AI). This method enables companies to manage calls effectively and collect detailed data about callers and their concerns.

By integrating virtual call assistants, companies can not only optimise their call handling, but also gain valuable insights into the needs and concerns of their customers. This method complements existing phone tracking technologies and provides a modern solution for consistent call management.

How it works
A virtual call assistant greets the potential customer and guides them through a menu to identify their enquiry. By integrating voice processing and AI, the system can analyse the requests and route the user to the right department or employee. During this process, important data such as call time, the contact’s request and the final destination of the call are recorded.


  • Automation and efficiency: Virtual call attendants automate call handling, resulting in faster and more successful call handling.
  • Detailed data analysis: This method provides detailed information about the calls, their concerns and the effectiveness of routing.
  • Customer satisfaction: The customer experience is improved through fast processing and routing to the right contact person.
  • Cost savings: Virtual call attendants provide a more economical use of employee resources.


  • Implementation costs: Setting up a virtual call attendant system can incur high initial costs.
  • Technical complexity: Integrating AI and voice processing requires technical expertise and regular maintenance.
  • Potential customer frustration: Some callers prefer direct contact with a human agent and may react with frustration to contact centre automation.

“Virtual call assistants automate call handling, improve efficiency and increase customer satisfaction.”

Further information on telephone tracking and conversion tracking

It is important to recognise that no system is flawless. Unlike Google Analytics or traditional website tracking, CT is a younger software and the tools are therefore not as mature as some marketers are used to. In general, however, it offers a very interesting insight that can lead to better optimisation of your campaigns. And: better campaigns often mean more customer satisfaction.

In my experience, the technology – even if it doesn’t work perfectly – helps to improve the success rate.

Number of Incoming CallsTotal number of calls generated through various marketing channels.
Average Call DurationThe average duration of calls, providing insight into caller engagement.
Call Answer RateRatio of answered calls to unanswered calls, important for service quality.
Call Conversion RatePercentage of calls that lead to a desired action (e.g., purchase, appointment).
Cost per Call (CPC)The average cost to generate a call through a marketing campaign.
Return on Investment (ROI)Measurement of the return generated from call-driven revenue compared to the costs.
Keyword PerformanceEffectiveness of keywords generating calls, to optimize PPC campaigns.
Geographic DistributionLocation of callers, to refine regional marketing strategies.

2 success stories with matelso call tracking technology

TurkNet’s success with call tracking: 20% reduction in new customer acquisition costs

Telco provider TurkNet has significantly improved its marketing strategies and ROI thanks to our call tracking solution. Seamless integration with Google Analytics 4 now provides accurate insights into the effectiveness of marketing channels and massively reduces the cost of acquiring new customers – all KPI based. Working with us enables TurkNet to identify high-performing campaigns and optimise poor performers. The result is higher conversion rates and a better understanding of the customer journey.

The result for TurkNet:
New customer acquisition costs (subscriber acquisition costs) have fallen by 20% and marketing efficiency has increased massively.

With call tracking to more leads – Küchenfachhandel: Küche & Co.

For Küche & Co, an Otto Group company, inbound calls and leads are one of the most important sources of new business. However, tracking and data-driven optimisation of campaigns designed to generate calls is a major challenge – even for comparable companies in other sectors. Until now, it has been difficult to assign call leads to a specific campaign – the gap between offline and online seems unbridgeable. With call tracking from matelso, this is no longer the case and all incoming telephone calls can not only be tracked cleanly, but also transferred efficiently to third-party systems such as Google Analytics 4 (GA4) or CRM.

The result for Kitchen & Co:
With the software, the customer is now able to generate almost a tenth (8%) more call leads on average than before.

Choosing a telephone tracking provider

Before you consider the various options, you should work out the purpose for which you need the data and how this will benefit you.

You can then look at the options and the associated costs. This will make choosing a provider a lot easier.

If you need help with the technology, contact us. We can help you find or design the right solution. In addition to the above information, there are also technical aspects to consider when implementing the software.

Apr 18, 2024

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