May 13, 2004, 12:00 AM

Tracking search engine leads with dedicated toll-free phone numbers

Many retailers may underestimate the effectiveness of Internet search in channeling sales, experts say. But now some retailers are measuring search leads by tracking them through the use of toll-free phone numbers dedicated for individual search engines.

Many retailers may underestimate the effectiveness of Internet search in channeling sales, experts say. But now some retailers are measuring search leads by tracking them through the use of toll-free phone numbers dedicated for individual search engines. "A lot of people are underspending on paid search, because they don’t realize how many leads are coming from search engines," says George Michie, vice president of client services for search engine marketing consultants Rimm-Kaufman Group.

Tracking search engines with dedicated phone numbers is not cheap, but it’s worth the trouble, he adds. "You have to pay for multiple 800 numbers, but in terms of ROI, the intelligence gained by knowing how much search engines are driving up phone sales is absolutely worth the implementation costs," Michie says.

Michie says he’s aware of only a few marketers that have begun tracking search engine leads with dedicated phone numbers. He attributes that to the newness of the technique for search engines and the implementation work involved.

The ideal way to track search engines with multiple phone numbers is to code a web site so that leads from each search engine trigger a particular phone number to appear on the web page viewed by the person conducting the search. "It’s a coding issue that requires either a sophisticated in-house IT department or an outside technology firm," Michie says.

Another, less complicated option is to list toll-free numbers in the creative text that appears with a keyword listing. "But that’s less effective, because people usually want to go to a site first before making a call," Michie says.

Although he was unable to mention results of search engine tracking projects, Michie says Rimm-Kaufman also tested the impact of search engine campaigns on sales leads through a study that relied on a more traditional method of call center reps asking customers where they viewed the call-in number. "The number that came through search engines was significant," Michie says.

By using tracking methods to verify actual search engine leads, marketers can better plan the spending budgets on the most effective sales producers, he says.

The concept of using multiple 800 numbers in marketing programs is not new, Michie says, adding that many catalogers and others have used dedicated numbers for tracking ads placed in different print publications.

 

 

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