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In previous articles about search engine marketing and website analytics, I have written about the importance of tracking leads—from a website all the way through the buying cycle—to determine which of your online campaigns are performing at optimal levels and which could use some tweaking.

A new technology, Dynamic Telephone Number Insertion (DTNI), has arrived and has the ability to track website leads based on incoming sales calls. With a modern website-analytics platform (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.), it is fairly simple to track your closed sales back to their point of origin, whether from organic search, banner ads, social networking, pay-per-click (PPC), or other online marketing initiative.

Unfortunately, traditional analytics platforms are limited to reporting on leads that take a physical point of action on your website, and cannot track telephone leads like DTNI can. As we all know, prospects sometimes prefer to pick up the phone and talk to someone at your company—and that propensity to call generally increases in proportion to the price point of your product or service. When you run traditional analytics programs without using DTNI, the source of high- or low-quality leads fall off the grid as soon as prospects on your website decide to pick up the phone and call your company.

That is why it is an important part of your search engine marketing campaign to implement a website analytics technology like DTNI to your site.

The Basics of DTNI

DTNI may sound fancy, but it is actually a fairly simple concept. The DTNI website analytics system creates a placeholder where your phone number would normally appear across your website (in or near the masthead of each page, generally). When visitors come to your site, the source of that traffic is noted, and a different phone number appears for each entry channel you are tracking, making it ideal to gauge the amount (and end result) of phone calls generated from your different online marketing campaigns.

For example, say you focus your online marketing efforts on organic search (SEO), banner ads, and PPC. Visitors who came to your site from organic search would see one phone number when they arrive, visitors who came from pay-per-click would see another, and visitors from banner ads would see yet another. Your DTNI website analytics program would track the source of each of these leads.

DTNI has a very simple configuration, and you can track an unlimited number of channels with it. Theoretically, you could show a different telephone number on your website for every keyphrase that you are targeting organically; one for each PPC phrase, one for each link pointing to your site, etc. Obviously, granularity is not an issue with DTNI (although the price for thousands of tracking numbers might be).

Since the DTNI systems offered today are primarily cookie-based, there is latency built into this type of website analytics technology. In other words, if prospects find your website through a PPC ad one day and bookmark your site to return days later, they would still see the designated PPC number. In this regard, DTNI allows a latent lead to be (accurately) attributed to your PPC—not to an unknown channel.

Once you have decided which traffic sources you want to track, you will have to collect all of the DTNI information on a regular basis to analyze the phone-call volume and subsequent performance of each of your sources. That involves looking at the phone calls for each channel and matching up the data with the status of the prospects (closed, dead, still active, etc.). Using DTNI as part of your ongoing website analytics can take a little work, but the benefits are obvious.

The Limitations of DTNI

Of course, as with all website analytics systems, DTNI has limitations. Unless you decide to use thousands of phone numbers, your designated numbers with DTNI will track the traffic origins that you specify and will not allow you to track all the way down to the individual key phrase level. In other words, you will be able to track a phone call from, for example, organic search, but you will not know exactly what keyphrase was typed by the caller.

Also, much like any source in a search engine marketing campaign, it is often impossible to anticipate where the traffic to your website will come from with DTNI. Let's say your site was noted in a popular online publication, but you found out only after the fact. With your website analytics program, you would be able to attribute leads directly to this channel as the referrals are noted in real time. But with DTNI, you would have to set the tracking capability in place beforehand, which is not always possible.

Also, there is no guarantee that the data from the DTNI program you use to measure campaign efficacy will always be 100% accurate. For example, a person may write down a number from your website when they found it via one particular source and give that number to someone else, who then calls; the second person would then be attributed by DTNI as coming in directly from one of your designated traffic sources.

However, considering that a website analytics tool was probably in place to track phone-call leads from your website prior to DTNI, most people find these instances to be trivial.

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With any lead-based online marketing campaign, it is important to take baselines, track progress, and, most important, evaluate the performance of your online marketing initiatives. Before DTNI, a huge piece of that process was missing. Now, companies that are serious about tracking the sources of their online leads can consider using DTNI to round out their website analytics toolbox.

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Scott Buresh is founder and CEO of Medium Blue, an award-winning search engine optimization company.

LinkedIn: Scott Buresh