Call tracking methods in Google Adwords

Jul 22, 2016 - Marcel Odena

Measuring calls from Google Adwords ads, and other advertising platforms, is very important to calculate the return on investment that is made in advertising . The method of using a Google forwarding phone number is a very good option to achieve this goal, in this article we explain how it works. <! – more -> Before, let’s focus a bit on the context: if we invest 1,000 euros per month in ads in the Google search engine it is logical to think that at the end of the month we would like to know how many profits have generated those 1,000 euros invested. Isn’t that what you wanted to know? With ads on Google you can appear in first positions when someone searches for your products and services. Once they click on the ad, they arrive at your web page or a dedicated landing page where you usually wait for them to call or fill in the contact form. The user can see the phone number of your company directly in the ad and could call already, by clicking on that phone. Or you can click anywhere in the ad and reach the landing page or website; there you will find the company’s phone again. Well, from all the calls received in a month. How many are from the ads? There are several methods to track calls in Google Adwords, the most used are:

  • Ask the user directly how he has known us.
  • Dedicate a specific phone line for advertising
  • Use a Google forwarding phone number

Thereupon, I explain, conceptually, what each of these call tracking methods consists of.

1) Ask the user directly how he has known us

Asking the user directly how he has known us is what has always been done, nothing new. It is the easiest option technically because you don’t have to do anything, but is the most annoying option at the level of campaign management and optimization and usually leads to an inaccuracy in the accounting of the results achieved thanks to the online advertising.


  • You don’t have to implement anything.


  • You have to ask this to the caller , our potential buyer, and It can hinder the pre-sale process.
  • Subject to eerrors:the user may not remember exactly how he met us, the commercial can also make a mistake when writing down the data. (this data for him is probably irrelevant), he may even forget to ask.
  • Difficulty to optimize the ccampaign:in the best case we could know that a call comes from an ad seen in Google, but you couldn’t know exactly which ad the call comes from, which keyword or other important parameters of the campaign, and that would hinder the optimization process of the campaign. Think that the more context data we have on conversions (calls made), the easier it is for the system to apply patterns and get more conversions.
  • Complicating results consolidation process : the call record (conversions) is taken out of Google Adwords while the contact record through the form itself would be in Adwords, you can see the problem. It can be consolidated but for this it would be necessary to import the call record (conversions) within Adwords (from a file), it is a somewhat cumbersome process. Or export all the information in another system.

2) Dedicate a specific phone line for advertising

This method is a variant of the previous method and consists of dedicating a phone number only to online advertising . In this case the company has its official telephone number and another similar number that is used to put it in the ads, in the landing pages, etc. This method avoids having to ask the user how he knew us, but it has the same disadvantages exposed above. On the other hand, think that it may not be 100% accurate , imagine that the user once they visit the landing page (where there is the phone dedicated to advertising) decides to navigate and reaches the contact page of the company; on this page you will see the official phone number of the company, and therefore if you call that number the call would not be counted as a result of the publicity, and that wouldn’t be true. Complex to do it precise, don’t you think so?

3) Use a Google forwarding phone number

Of the three methods, we think that this is the best method to measure calls . This method consists of making some technical settings for Google to assign a phone number to our campaigns (the number is owned by Google and it is lent to you temporarily while the campaigns last) and then have this phone shown on the web and on the landing page, but only when the user arrives at the page having clicked on an ad. If the user arrives at the web or landing page by another method (typing the address directly in the browser, by an organic search, etc.) then the number shown is the company’s official (and not the Google forwarding phone number).

The operation is as follows:

  1. The user does a search.
  2. Our ad is displayed. Our phone (the company’s official) appears through a call extension that must be previously configured in Google Adwords.
  3. If the user clicks on the phone Google can already count the call.
  4. If the user clicks on the ad (for example, in the title), arrives at the destination page (or website) and there, through some technical actions (javascript code), we make the telephone exchange: we hide the official telephone number of the company and we show him the phone that Google has assigned to our campaigns. When the user calls that number, what Google does is redirect the call to the official phone of the company, so that the company receives the call from the potential client, which is what they want, and Google (and us, as Adwords managers, we counted the call coming from an ad in Google Adwords.)

This method is much more powerful than the previous ones, because you can practically count all the calls if it is implemented technically well. Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of doing call tracking with a Google forwarding number.


  • Reliable : much more reliable method to count calls. Everything is done technically and automatically, so that the margin of error is greatly reduced.
  • Registration call context : each call is linked to campaign parameters: which specific ad was shown when the call occurred, which keyword was activated, which search term made the user, at what time the call occurred, etc. All this information is in the system, in Google Adwords.
  • Campaign optimization : Since we have a lot of data about the context of the calls, we can search for patterns and optimize the performance of the campaigns, that is, with the same money, get more calls.
  • Consolidated data : with this method both calls and contacts through forms are registered within Adwords.


  • This method is only valid for advertisement using Google Adwords. If we use other advertising platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, etc. this does not apply and therefore it may be necessary to apply several methods to count calls.
  • The phone that Google assigns to our campaigns is temporary. It’s a local number or a 900 number and we’ll keep it while the campaigns work.
  • The phone that Google assigns you can even vary. Possible problem: if someone writes down the number, they keep it and call after a few days, there is a risk of losing the call, although from my point of view it is a very low risk. Most people search, find your company and decide whether or not to call. If they do not call, even if the number is saved, it is more likely that they will search your company again, find you and with the phone they see call you.


I hope that with this article you have a clearer idea of what methods are usually used to track calls and more specifically, the tracking of calls that come from paid ads in Google.

We use the Google forwarding phone number in the Google Adwords accounts that we manage. If you need us to look at your Adwords account to see how you are doing or need help implementing it, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Marcel Odena

Marcel Odena

CEO at Magnetica Advertising | LinkedIn Ads Expert

Since 2013 I've been working in the Pay Per Click Advertising Industry. I manage Google and LinkedIn Ads accounts for several B2B companies. I work to deliver results to my clients as well to contribute to do better B2B marketing. I like to learn and share my knowledge at the same time.