When it comes to considering the use of call tracking numbers and their impact on local search and business listings information, local search optimization practitioners should take a page from the Hippocratic Oath, and "first, do no harm."
Search marketing specialist Christopher Sheehy of SEO provider Sidewalk Branding recently wrote,
"Businesses tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to know what marketing tactics work and which ones don't - what tools or services would be good for them, and what's going to hurt them.
So when a client was asking me about [call tracking] services recently - I went directly to the source and sent them the following excerpt from Google to answer their question.
"'You should only provide the phone number for the location of the actual local business. Types of phone numbers that should not be included are: call tracking numbers and phone numbers that are not specific to a business location [source].'"
As Sheehy observed, Google clearly discourages the use of call tracking numbers.
The reason is, phone numbers, along with business name and address, are the most important pieces of local search optimization data used by search engines to authenticate a local business.
Sheehy explains, "When the phone number is replaced with a generic number that is not consistent with the local standards - they lose that vital component of authentication.
Other SEO experts agree about the importance of a business' name, address and phone number.
As respected local SEO expert David Mihm advises, "Think of them as your business' thumbprint."
Consistency in your business thumbprint leads to confidence in your business information, which increases the likelihood search engines will rank you, increasing your online "findability."
As Mihm affirms, "Maintaining absolute consistency with your business information is the key to a successful long-term local SEO strategy."
The bottom line is that you must protect the authenticity of your business thumbprint. Steer clear of service providers that recommend publishing call tracking numbers as part of your business listings. They are a good tool for some companies. But they are harmful to businesses that rely on the core business listing details that authenticate their local attributes.
Work with a trusted local search optimization service provider that can bring your online business information up to best practice standards and effectively monitor and manage your business listings going forward, giving you the assurance that you can easily be found online by existing and prospective customers.