Going Off the Tracks with Tracking Phone Numbers

Most orthodontists have been contacted to begin an advertising campaign with a dedicated phone number to track results. Many orthodontic practices have been solicited by several such companies, promising to bring them new patients and in some cases selling the prospect of getting them on Page 1 of Google.Train-Derail_web

Be wary of these programs! There is a right way to set up tracking phone numbers, and then there are many, many wrong ways to set up tracking numbers. You may be unwittingly polluting your online brand, which can hurt your rankings in local search.

What happens when a hired advertiser sets up a pay-per-click program for you, along with a satellite website and an assigned tracking phone number? The Internet finds it and indexes it! You end up with a second website and a second phone number being distributed online. Eventually, you can end up with local business listings in places like Yahoo!, Express Update, Google, and others, displaying the tracking phone number and satellite website URL.
These extra listings contradict the business information that you have on your website and Google Business listing. The listings feature a different phone number, and often times they have a different website URL. For many business listing aggregator sites, a different phone number is all it takes to qualify a second listing. If the website URL is different too, the chances increase that your ad campaign is going to be indexed on the Internet as a separate business.

In today’s online marketplace, unified branding is imperative. The orthodontic practices that struggle the most online today are usually ones who have split partnerships, bought into another doctor’s practice, changed corporate names, or moved their office location.

When a business closes, or moves, or changes its name, there is no universal “Internet Post Office” where you can notify the higher-up of your changes. Each business listing site has its own setup and its own procedures. Many sites share information or siphon information from larger, more authoritative sites.

A big part of Google’s search algorithm now comes down to consistent branding and brand credibility. Your information needs to be uniformly substantiated across the web in as many places [on as many websites] as possible. The more diluted and erroneous your business information becomes, the more vulnerable you are to slipping in the rankings.

Tracking phone numbers and satellite websites are a great way to pollute your online brand. Be cautious when contracting these services. Ask if there is a way to set up call tracking without promoting a different phone number on the Internet. See if they have a solution. If they plan to set up a new site on its own domain name, with a dedicated tracking phone number, think twice.

Also pay attention to make sure they match your business name and address exactly how it is listed on your website and Google Business page. Require your third party agency to be mindful of how your street address is listed, noting the suite number if applicable. The details are important, since minor differences can create conflict.

We work with many clients who have pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns going, and they are completely unaware that their tracking phone number has been indexed as a separate business. It can confuse the search algorithms that are trying to determine the trustworthiness of your business when producing search results.

Companies that promise Page 1 visibility may only be planning to purchase that visibility through PPC advertising. Paid ads do not help the organic ranking of a website. Paid traffic is ignored by the search engines and does not contribute to your site’s “rank juice” in the long run.

Once you cancel the PPC campaign, there is no residual benefit. Your dollars are essentially wagered rather than invested when you do PPC advertising. If the impressions and clicks don’t lead to new patient start-ups, then you have zero return on investment.

Some orthodontic practices can benefit greatly from a paid advertising campaign. New practices just getting started with an online presence should consider PPC, and so should smaller practices in highly saturated and competitive markets where it is next-to-impossible to compete with the established heavy hitters on Page 1.

Just be sure to understand what you are getting into before signing a contract. There are a few companies that do not paint the full picture, and instead assure you a Page 1 presence and that’s that. Make the distinction between paid and organic traffic, and think twice before promoting a tracking phone number on the Internet.