I've talked before about how Google might have cracked the code on qualified sales leads through search. Somehow, sites are seeing drops in traffic but not all of them are seeing commensurate drops in revenue, because Google is figuring out which keywords drive revenue for each site. So, the question is whether you know which keywords are driving your own revenue. How are you tracking the connection between marketing effort and spending and your actual sales? If you're an e-Commerce company, it's easy--just track the sales through to your shopping cart. But for most companies--the ones that sell offline--tracking sales back to the online tactic that led to it is still an elusive goal.

In the old days, often you would see print ads that said "Call 800-555-6666 and ask for Alice." But there was no Alice. Alice meant that the caller has seen the ad on page 27 of So-and-So magazine dated March 12. Now understand--there might have been five interactions before that ad finally got that customer to pick up the phone. No matter. Let's at least start by tracking the last one, which most companies still don't even do.If you can set up a way to track where people are coming from, you'll be miles ahead of your competition, because you'll be able to calculate what works and what doesn't.

So, how do you do the exact same thing online? Different businesses use coupons and other methods to tie offline sales to online activities, but let's look at just one simple way to pull off an online version of the Alice trick: Use a special phone number on your Web site that is listed nowhere else. When they call it, you know where they came from--your Web site. You might not know much else, but at least you can track those particular customers as Web leads through the rest of your sales process--if they buy, then you know that the Web site had a hand in it.

Some companies go much further. They generate different phone numbers for every Web page, so they know what page the person was on before the call. This can be very helpful for some kinds of businesses--especially catalog-type commerce--because you can route the call in your call center to someone trained in that specific product, which increases your close rate.

I have even heard of companies that cookie customers so they can display different phone numbers for different visitors. Each person who lands on the Web site is assigned a unique phone number so that when they call, the call center knows the entire Web session of activity (and sometimes knows previous visits to the site, too). With this technique, you can know how the customer got to your Web site (search, social media, or something else), so that you know which marketing tactics resulted in more sales than others.

And, again, the more sophisticated you get, the more the call center knows when it picks up the phone. Which means the more it knows about the customer so it can be more persuasive to make that sale.

So, ask yourself: Does Google do a better job identifying your qualified leads than you do? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Originally published on Biznology

February 28, 2012

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Hi Mike,

Interesting stuff...

FYI - The post you linked to "Google might have cracked the code on qualified sales leads through search" seems to be redirecting to another site. Do you have the correct link for this?

I assume that this will only be possible if you have Google Analytics on your site or are using Adwords?


Wow, sorry for th broken link. It is fixed now.

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