Skip to content
Heavyweight Digital
set up call tracking for Google Ads

How To Setup Call Tracking in Google Ads

Published on
by Megan Horrocks

Call tracking plays a pivotal role in optimising the performance of PPC campaigns. When running campaigns in Google Ads, accuracy and effectiveness are paramount for running a successful campaign. Accurate call tracking can provide reassurance when making data driven optimisations to improve overall performance.

When it comes to setting up phone call conversion tracking for your Google Ads campaigns, there are various options, some providing more accurate insights than others. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the different setup methods of Google Ads call tracking, exploring its significance, implementation techniques and the benefits of these.

Method 1: Google Forwarding Numbers

A Google Forwarding Number serves as a dynamic phone number assigned to your ads within Google Ads, enabling accurate tracking and attribution of phone call conversions. The functionality of a Google Forwarding Number is designed to bridge the gap between online advertising efforts and offline interactions, providing advertisers with valuable insights into the effectiveness of their campaigns.

One of the primary benefits of Google Forwarding Numbers is the ability to attribute phone call conversions to specific ads, ad groups, or keywords. This level of granularity allows us to understand which aspects of any given campaigns are driving meaningful interactions and significant phone calls with potential customers. With accurate attribution, informed decision-making becomes second nature, leading to more effective campaign optimisation and budget allocation.

Another key benefit of using a Google Forwarding number, as opposed to tracking phone number clicks, is that Google is able to record important data and relay this into the call report directly in Google Ads. This data includes whether the call was missed or received, the duration of the call and the phone numbers which made the call. These call details are shown alongside the data pulled from calls that have been received directly from the ads.

Overall the use of a Google Forwarding number is a more accurate way of ensuring you are receiving the calls and helps to avoid inflated conversion data.

Before we explain how to setup a Google Forwarding Number, how exactly does it work?

When a user clicks on your Google ad and reaches your website, if your number is present on the site, they may decide to make a call. Google dynamically assigns a unique forwarding number to that specific ad click. This forwarding number, also known as a virtual phone number, is displayed to the user in place of the original business number and allows you to track conversions from these calls. The use of a dynamic number ensures that each ad interaction is associated with a distinct phone number, facilitating accurate attribution of phone call conversions to the corresponding ads, ad groups, or keywords.

As the user places the call using the Google Forwarding Number, Google's system seamlessly redirects the call to your business's actual phone number. This redirection occurs in real-time, ensuring that users are connected to your business without any delays or disruptions. In the background, Google tracks and records relevant call data, such as the duration of the call and the caller's area code, providing advertisers with valuable insights into caller behaviour and campaign performance.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Google Forwarding Number

Step 1: Access Google Ads Account

  1. Log into your Google Ads account.

  2. Navigate to the "Tools & Settings" menu and select "Conversions" from the dropdown.

Step 2: Create a New Conversion Action

  1. Click on the blue plus button to create a new conversion action.

  2. Choose 'Phone calls' as the conversion action type and specify that these are coming from the website.

  3. Enter relevant details such as the conversion name and conversion value (if required.) You can also set a minimum duration you would like the phone call to last before it is counted as a conversion. Typically, we would suggest setting the minimum call length to around 5 seconds, as this will factor in if the caller gets cut off. This is beneficial as if you call them back, this data is not attributed back to the call report. However, if you would like to ensure only the most valuable calls are being counted towards your conversion data, you can set this slightly longer. This will help with gauging the higher quality leads.

  4. We would also suggest only counting one call as a conversion, as if a prospective customer called more than once and made their enquiry over multiple calls, you will count all of these as individual conversions.

  5. Provide the phone number which you would like to be dynamically changed on the website. This needs to be provided in exactly the same format as it is shown on the website, for the tracking to work. You also want to be sure that the number is displayed in the same format throughout the entirety of the site, as otherwise not every instance of the phone number will be dynamically changed.

  6. Select your attribution model and conversion window.

  7. Click 'Create and Continue'

From here, you will be provided with different methods of how you can install the tag onto your website.

Step 3: Implement Google Forwarding Number Through Google Tag Manager

  1. Access your Google Tag Manager account and create a new tag.

  2. Choose "Google Ads Call Conversion" as the tag type.

  3. Enter your conversion ID and conversion label. This will be shown on in your Google Ads accounts after you have configured the settings.

  4. Set the trigger to where you would like the tag to fire. Generally, you would want this to fire on all pages, but if you have different numbers on different pages of you site, you can differentiate this with specific page URLs.

  5. You then want to publish the tag and check that it is firing correctly in Google Tag Manager's preview mode.

As well as the above, you also want to ensure that the conversion linker tag is also firing across all linking URLs.

Method 2: Tracking Phone Number Clicks

Setting up phone number click tracking using Google Analytics GA4 is an alternative way which can be used to track phone call conversions. It is important to consider that this method of tracking calls, may not be as accurate as other options outlined within this article. Firstly, this type of tracking is likely to only be effective for people on a mobile device, as you would expect someone to click the telephone numbers on the site, and be given the option to make a call directly on from this action. This is not a functionality which is available for users on desktop devices, yet if the numbers were still clickable elements this would still be counted as a conversion in Google Ads.

You will also not be provided with any call details with this method of call tracking, as no data is collected from inbound calls.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Phone Number Click Tracking Using Google Analytics GA4

Before you begin creating the click event, there are a few things to ensure are in place:

  1. Firstly you want to check that Google Analytics is installed and firing correctly on your site.

  2. As the event will track users clicking directly on the phone number, you will need to be sure that the phone numbers are a clickable element on the website, with a 'tel:' link.

Step 1: Create The Event Tag In Google Tag Manager

  1. Log into your Google Tag Manager account and create a new tag.

  2. Set the tag configuration to a new Google Analytics GA4 event. At this stage you will need to provide the measurement ID which can be found in the admin section of your Google Analytics account under 'Data Steams.' You should then name the event something which is clear and relevant to the event.

  3. For the trigger configuration you want to set this to 'Click- All Elements' and specify that you only want to trigger the event on 'some clicks.' You will then be provided with different variables to choose from.

    Choose 'Click Text' > 'Equals' > and provide the phone number as it is displayed as a clickable element. This includes any spaces.

  4. Save and publish the tag.

Step 2: Test and Verify Tracking

  1. Once you have published the tag, you want to check that it is correctly tracking the click. You can do this by launching the website in preview mode in Google Tag Manager and clicking on the number.

  2. If this is successful, you will see this in the 'Tags Fired' section of Google Tag Assistant.

  3. You will also be able to verify this by looking in the real-time reports of your Google Analytics account.

Step 3: Marking The Event As a Conversion and Import This Into Google Ads

To be able to complete the following, you will need to ensure that you have successfully fired the event previously created, and have seen this in the real-time reports of your Google Analytics account. It can also take up to 24 hours to be able to complete this stage of the setup.

You also need to make sure that your Google Analytics account is connected to your Google Ads account. This can be done within the admin section of your Google Analytics account under 'Product Link'

  1. Login to the Google Analytics account and navigate to the admin section.

  2. In the Data Display section, select events.

  3. Find the event name you created and click the slider to mark this as a conversion.

  4. Log into your Google Ads account.

  5. Navigate to the "Tools & Settings" menu and select "Conversions" from the dropdown.

  6. Click on the blue plus button to create a new conversion action.

  7. Select 'Import' and specify that this is being imported from a Google Analytics 4 Property. You will also need to select either web or app. In this case, you want to go for the web option.

  8. From here you will be shown a list of all the conversions setup in your Google Analytics account. You want to select the phone call click we have created and import this.

Once this has been imported, you will want to fine tune the settings in the conversion section to ensure that you are only tracking one click per user. Otherwise you risk having inflated conversion data.

Method 3: Call Extensions

When users come across an ad with call extensions enabled, they are presented with the option to initiate a call to the advertiser directly from the ad. This streamlined process eliminates the need for users to navigate through multiple pages or websites to find contact information. This increases the likelihood of engagement and conversions.

Setting up a call extension within Google Ads is a straightforward process. Advertisers can specify which phone number they want to display in their ads, whether it's their business's main number, or a dedicated tracking number. Call extensions can also be configured to display during certain hours or days of the week, ensuring that users are only presented with the option to call when the business is available to answer.

Just like with a Google Forwarding Number, one of the key benefits of call extensions is their ability to track and measure the effectiveness of phone call conversions directly within Google Ads. Advertisers can gain insights into metrics such as the number of calls generated, call lenth, and call start time, providing valuable data for optimising campaign performance. This granular level of data enables advertisers to make informed decisions in regards to ad spend, adjusting bidding strategies, and optimising the ads themselves drive more phone call conversions.

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Call Extensions in Google Ads

Step 1: Access Your Google Ads Account

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account using your credentials.

  2. Navigate to the campaign you would like to add the call extension to.

Step 2: Select the Assets Tab

  1. Click on the 'Ads & Assets' tab

  2. Choose the 'Assets' option from the dropdown menu.

  3. You will then be provided with various different extensions which you can add to your campaign. For this, you want to select the 'call' option

Step 3: Add a New Call Extension

  1. Click on the blue plus button to add in a new number.

  2. This is where you can provide your business contact number, or a tracking number to be displayed with your ads.

  3. You will also be provided with options to add set days and times to run the call ad extensions and to run a bid adjustment on the call extension. This is a great optimisation technique if you want to drive phone calls, but we would suggest ensuring you have data to back this up.

Method 4: Call Only Ads

Unlike traditional text ads that direct users to a website or landing page, call only ads prioritise phone call conversions as the primary action. These ads are ideal for businesses that rely heavily on phone calls for customer inquiries.

The key identifying feature of a call only ad is the absence of a clickable headline or description. Instead, the ad prominently displays the business's phone number, along with a call button, making it easy for users to initiate a phone call with a simple click. This streamlined approach eliminates the need for users to navigate through to a website.

Setting up a call only ad is similar to creating a traditional text ad within Google Ads. With this ad type you will need provide ad copy, including a compelling headline and description, to entice users to make a phone call. However, instead of linking to a landing page URL, you simply input the business's phone number directly into the ad.

Just like with standard text ads, you can also customise call only ads with additional features such as call and other extensions, which provide users with additional information such as business hours or location.

Method 5: Third Party Tracking Software

While basic call tracking solutions like Google forwarding numbers track that a call happened, they lack the ability to distinguish between valuable leads and irrelevant interactions. This can lead to inflated conversion rates that include spam calls, customer service inquiries, and even internal calls. These metrics provide a false sense of success, masking the true performance of your marketing efforts.

Third party softwares, such as Ruler Analytics, offer a more comprehensive approach. By assigning dynamic phone numbers to individual website visitors, Ruler Analytics can go beyond simply registering a call. It has the ability to provide rich data on the caller, including their click-path journey and marketing source. This allows you to identify the quality of the lead, differentiating between sales-ready prospects and those who may not be a good fit for your offering. With Ruler Analytics, conversion rates become a reliable indicator of true marketing effectiveness.

Additionally, Google Analytics offers a limited view of your marketing journey. Restricted to only two attribution models (last-click and data-driven attribution), it can be difficult to pinpoint which marketing touchpoints are truly driving conversions and closed revenue. Ruler Analytics, on the other hand, empowers you with a wider range of multi-touch attribution models, the same models previously available in Google Analytics. This allows you to tailor revenue attribution to your specific business needs, providing a more accurate picture of marketing return on investment (ROI).

By understanding the complete customer journey, you can optimise your marketing spend and focus on the channels that deliver the most valuable leads.


In conclusion, implementing call tracking in Google Ads is crucial for optimising the performance of any PPC campaign. Accurately attributing phone call conversions to specific aspects of any given campaign, allows for informed, data driven decisions to be made that can help improve the overall effectiveness of the campaign.

The various methods of call tracking, including Google Forwarding Numbers, phone number click tracking, call extensions, call only ads, and third-party tracking software, offer valuable insights into customer behaviour allowing you ensure you are getting the most out of your ad spend. This is why, as a PPC management agency we will always ensure that we have accurate phone call conversion tracking implemented across any campaign we are working on.

Want More Leads, Enquiries & Sales?

Get in touch today to discuss how Heavyweight Digital can help you get more from your digital marketing

Get in Touch
© 2016 - 2024 Heavyweight Digital