How to Set Up Conversion Tracking for Phone Calls

Call tracking is a method of conversion tracking that helps you measure the performance of your advertising and marketing campaigns by identifying the sources of your inbound phone call leads — whether they’re from a print advertisement or a simple link click on your website.

Essentially, instead of guessing which of your marketing campaigns is making your phone ring, call tracking attributes each phone call you receive to a specific marketing campaign. This, in turn, gives you a clear picture of the return you’re getting on your marketing investments.

One of the best ways to implement conversion tracking for phone calls is by using a call tracking service. There are many call tracking services out there, but at Southern Web, we generally prefer using CallRail, which is affordable while still offering a robust combination of features.

In the quick explainer video by CallRail, learn more about what call tracking is and why it’s useful:

Super simple call tracking with Google Tag Manager

If you’re at the beginning of your call tracking journey or don’t have the budget for a true call tracking service, tracking phone number link clicks using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics is a perfect way to dip your toes in.

How do you set it up? It’s surprisingly simple — all you need to do is create a tag in Google Tag Manager that fires whenever someone clicks a telephone link on your site. Any data gleaned from when the tag was triggered will appear in the “Events” section of Google Analytics. The best part? It costs nothing and is very easy to set up (skip down below to read our tutorial).

(BONUS: Once you set it up on your site, you’d be surprised how many conversion types you can track on your site — not just phone calls, but also digital downloads, form submissions, and so much more!)

Drawbacks of tracking phone calls with just Google Tag Manager

“Free” and “simple” are such great words, but it’s important to acknowledge that there are some limitations to using this approach to track phone calls:

  • The scope of call tracking is primarily limited to mobile users. When you set up this tag, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of call tracking data you receive will come from mobile users who physically clicked your phone number link on their device. On the other hand, desktop computer users are less likely to intentionally click a phone number link and initiate a call. More likely, they’d see the number, pull out their phone, and then dial it manually on their own. As a result, it’s much more challenging to attribute non-mobile phone call conversions to any particular page or campaign.
  • The level of call information you receive is very rudimentary. While a true call tracking service provides detailed caller data and call recordings that make it easy to verify a conversion, you have to do a little more legwork to verify a conversion with just a phone number link click tag from Google Tag Manager. And as mentioned earlier, what little information you do get is almost exclusively from mobile users.

Despite these limitations, we still think that setting up this tag in Google Tag Manager is a critical first step if you want to start evaluating the return-on-investment for your marketing efforts. Continue reading for our step-by-step tutorial to set up phone call conversion tracking through Google Tag Manager.

How to Set Up Call Tracking with Google Tag Manager

Note: If you haven’t yet set up a Google Tag Manager account, please refer to our article, “How to Get Started With Google Tag Manager.”

1. Create a new tag

First, open up your Google Tag Manager account and click into the dashboard view of the site you’re working on. Click on “Add a new tag.”

A window will pop up that looks like this:

Create a tag

First, rename the “Untitled Tag” to something like “Phone Call – Click” so you can easily identify it later.

2. Configure the tag type

Under “Tag Configuration,” click on “Choose a tag type to begin setup” and a sidebar menu will pop up. Select “Universal Analytics.”

Phone call tracking: Choose tag type

This is what the Tag Configuration area should look like now:

Phone call tracking: Choose tag type

Select “Event” as your Track Type.

Phone call tracking: Choose tag track type

A few additional options will show up. Here’s what you will be changing:

  • Type “Phone Call – Click” in the Category field.
  • Type “{{Click URL}}” in the Action field. The “Click URL” variable validates that a particular asset was downloaded.
  • Type “{{Page URL}}” in the Label field. The “Page URL” variable allows you to track where your phone number was clicked. This is useful if you have the same phone number listed on multiple pages.
  • Check “Enable overriding settings in this tag.”
  • Add your Google Analytics Tracking ID.

Phone call tracking: Configuring the tag

This is what the screen will look like after setting up the tag type:

Phone call tracking: After configuring the tag

3. Set up the tag trigger

Now that you’ve set up the tag type, it’s time to establish the tag’s trigger. Under “Triggering” click on “Choose a trigger to make this tag fire…” You will be directed to a page that shows all your current triggers, including your “All Pages” trigger. Click on the blue plus sign in the top right corner next to the magnifying glass:

On the next screen, rename “Untitled Trigger” to “Phone Call – Click Trigger.” Then click on “Choose a trigger type to begin setup…” and select “Just Links.”

Phone call tracking: Configuring the trigger

The next screen that pops up will ask you to configure the trigger. Click on “Some Links,” and three fields will pop up. Select the “Click URL” variable, select “contains,” and then input “tel:” in the last field. With these components together, the conditions for the trigger will be “Click URL contains tel:” as demonstrated below:

Phone call tracking: Trigger configuration settings

4. Save and publish tag

Once you’ve configured the tag and set up the tag trigger, your tag should now look like this:

Phone call tracking: The completed tag

Once you’ve satisfied with your tag, there’s a multistep process to push it live. First, click “Save” in the upper right-hand corner. You will be brought to the main Tags dashboard. Click on “Submit” to continue the process:

Phone call tracking: Submit the tag

You will be brought to a screen that looks like this:

Phone call tracking: Submission configuration

This page allows you to document the changes you’ve made to your tags. Simply explain what you’ve done in this version. In this case, just write “Added ‘Phone Call – Click’ tag” in the name and description, then click on “Publish.”

Phone call tracking: Submission configuration

The next page will give you a brief rundown of information about your new tag version:

Phone call tracking: Submission summary

Congrats! Your phone call click tracking tag is now set up in Google Tag Manager! With this tag, you can now track conversions through your Google Analytics account. To retrieve the phone call click data you are now tracking, open up your Google Analytics dashboard. In the left sidebar, follow the following path: Behavior > Events > Top Events. The resulting page will show you the new conversion data you’re collecting from the date you began collecting it.

Top Events in Google Analytics

… And that’s it! Don’t miss our how-to articles on setting up conversion tracking for form submissions and digital downloads.


Have more questions about Google Tag Manager?

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