Tools for the Discerning Marketer: CallRail & Desktop Call-Tracking

Matthew Taufa'asau, Senior Client Partner
Desktop call-tracking through services like CallRail allow marketers to close the insight gap on campaigns - Image of a subway mind the gap sign

Hello fine friend. I can tell from the cut of your jib that you are a digital marketer to be reckoned with. In fact, I’m sure you already know what I’m about to tell you but it bears repeating: Start tracking your phone calls.

No, not in the creepy, NSA, guy-hiding-in-the-bushes way. In the “I care about which parts of my marketing are actually paying off” way.

You’re driving amazing traffic to your site, right? Average time on site going up steadily? Good! Visitors are navigating to five additional pages? Killer. The bounce rate is super low? Nailed it.

And you’re tracking the heck out of everything on both your site and your digital advertising? Perfect.

Heck, you might even have click-to-call conversions tracked via AdWords’ free tools already. Maybe you shouldn’t even bother reading on… But I’ll warn you that I was in a similar position with a very large client recently, and there’s another important layer of call tracking that you need to consider.

If you’re not tracking phone calls from desktop searches, or any other situation where a user can’t or simply won’t click to call you directly, there’s a potentially massive gap in your online to offline visibility and attribution.

Sure, most websites have more mobile than desktop visitors these days but tracking only direct click-to-call (i.e. mobile sessions that end in a phone number click) could still leave you without clear attribution for a huge chunk of your visitors who go on to convert by phone.

CallRail and Desktop Call Tracking

Whether you’re a lean operation with a couple of cellphones and a mobile workforce, or a much bigger outfit, CallRail can help.

Disclaimer before we go on: I’m not a CallRail employee. Nor a guest-author. Nor a brainwashing victim. And CallRail’s contributed “nothing” to this post, other than giving us killer visibility for several great clients.

IVR and More

To start, CallRail is extremely robust in its ability to take over your old telephony system, and it features some pretty robust IVR functionality. I’ll spare you the full details and share a few highlights.

Depending on your situation and needs, it could literally replace your entire legacy phone system. You can also send SMS messages from within the platform, if that’s a way that your customers and prospects like to be contacted. Ring groups and round-robin distribution is here as well.

These are just the start though and the foundation for greater things. You might not even need these functions, but trust me, you will want the call tracking.

Call Tracking

Dynamic number insertion is where things really start to get interesting.

Depending on your setup and needs, you can simply keep track of the last channel by which a client hit your site. Direct vs Organic vs Paid vs Social, are table stakes, and they’re all there. But if you’re tracking longer paths through your online presence to figure out what’s really working hard for you and what’s not, channel contribution is just the start.

Are desktop users who come in via certain paid ads more likely to convert if they see certain content and then pick up the phone? Is a certain path through the site causing people to get confused and call for clarification?

Wouldn’t it be great to actually know that?

So how does call-tracking actually work?

To start, your standard phone number will be replaced with one generated by CallRail that’s is either tied to a unique user or to a campaign. As an example, when a visitor makes it to your site via a paid ad, they’ll see a totally custom phone number to call, instead of your main business number.

When a user calls this number, the call-tracking provider captures and saves the user’s caller ID along with basics like the acquisition channel. Within the CallRail system, you’ll see things like call duration, channel, etc. You can enter notes about the chat or ultimately just mark the call disposition, not unlike a more complete CRM system.

If a company did nothing but use CallRail to track calls, originating digital channel, and outcome they’d have a lot of information at their fingertips. However, for more sophisticated marketers, there are a number of complementary systems and integrations that make CallRail or call-tracking a must-have.


One of the beautiful things about CallRail and call-tracking is the slew of integrations for digital marketers.

At the risk of being preachy: AdWords and Analytics are the very first things you should integrate. Do not wait. It’s too easy and too valuable to spend a second without this done. These integrations allow us to get beyond simple channel contribution into things like which exact keywords drove successful sales calls from AdWords or actions on your site.

Here’s a quick overview on how you might set up tracking to identify high-value keywords that lead to the conversion. Page level insight is a little tougher to do withoout an analytics team, but it’s absolutely worth looking into depending on your resources and priority.

You also can integrate call-tracking with just about any major marketing platform or CRM out there. Salesforce, HubSpot, and Marketo are just a few of the bigger names that offer native integrations. Rather than making this post a novel, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the linked documentation on what each of these integrations offer for putting together a better view of your customer, within your “single source of truth” platform, and kicking off the right kind of follow-up activities.

I can tell you from direct and repeated experience that if you’re stopping your call tracking with just the free tools within AdWords (i.e. mobile click-to-call), you’re leaving insight and probably a decent amount of money in missed optimization on the table.

Very simply: complete call-tracking leads to a better, more intelligent view of your customer. It leads to measuring the efficacy of your campaigns more completely. It allows you to make better-informed decisions.

Matthew Taufa'asau, Senior Client Partner

Matthew Taufa'asau

Client Solutions Architect
Client Solutions Architect

Matthew is a Client Solutions Architect at Portent with more than nine years of account management and digital marketing experience. When he's not busy consulting with his clients, he loves traveling the world with his family. A native of Hawaii, he survives cold Seattle winters with karaoke, outrigger canoe paddling, spam musubi, and cheesy sci-fi shows.

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