Do NOT Use Call Tracking for Google PlacesBy by Keith Simpkins, Search Engine Marketing Specialist
Do you currently use call tracking for your Google Places listing?If you do, you may want to reconsider your tracking strategy.
The primary issue with call tracking for local SEO is the potential damage to your local search rankings. Since the local search space is so fragmented, call tracking numbers seem like the logical solution for tracking conversions. It would be great to know exactly which of your customers came from each site, but the negative effects on your Google Places listing, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local rankings could be significant.
Some businesses actually use a different tracking phone number for each listing out there. But providing multiple phone numbers across the Internet is like using different URLs for the same Web page without having them redirect properly. Consistency is key when it comes to the NAP (name, address, phone number) of your business across the Internet. The more consistency a business has, the more likely their Google local listing will show up for relevant searches.
At the recent SMX West conference, Google's Director of Product Management, Carter Maslan, was asked whether it was ideal to use call tracking numbers during the session "Up Close with Google Place Pages." Maslan was very clear in stating that Google Places uses various pieces of listing data for ranking signals and using different phone numbers across the Internet could cause a Place page with a tracking number to seem "spammy." He then went on to say that a consistent phone number is very helpful to Google and would increase the likelihood of a local ranking.
In addition to the comments made by Maslan recently, Google Places Policies has always clearly stated that you should "not provide phone numbers or URLs that redirect or refer users to landing pages or phone numbers other than those of the actual business." Obviously, a call tracking number is not the number of the actual business and should avoid being used.
As many people in the industry know, Google Maps and the other local search engines need indicators of relevance and authority for a business. In addition to the information businesses submit directly to Local Business Centers, user reviews on major portals like Yelp or CitySearch are key indicators for search engines.
While user reviews are critical to your Google Places page ranking, Local Search Ranking Factors placed citations as the second most important factor for ranking this year. Citations are simply a mention of your business information on the Internet, with or without a link. Citations occur when two of the three criteria of NAP appear together. The search engine's ability to tie a particular phone number to a business gives them confidence in that business's information and is more likely to rank it.
If you'd prefer to have performance analytics while sacrificing the actual performance of the business itself, that's your choice. Keep this in mind when creating and managing your Google Places pages.
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