There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the use of call tracking numbers and their risks to local marketing through the disruption of a business’s NAP (Name | Address | Phone) – the key elements for driving online visibility for small business.
The telephone number seems to be at the heart of the conversation – so perhaps a detailed overview of the components that make up a business’s telephone number and how those connect to the company’s physical location would be of benefit.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here – HowStuffWorks did an excellent job of identifying the segments of a telephone number and even goes as far as drawing parallels to it and the vital elements of a business for local marketing – their address(as an element of NAP).
Consider this phone number for reference 123-456-7890
Area Code (123) – the first element of a phone number – this designates a particular geographical region, such as a city, county, or part of a state.
Prefix (456) – The second part of a phone number is the prefix, “originally referred to the specific switch that a phone line connected to. Each switch at a phone carrier’s central office had a unique three-digit number. With the arrival of computerized switches, many systems now allow local number portability (LNP).” says HowStuffWorks [To clarify: LPNs enable you to move your phone number to a different switch – as long as it remains local]
As the area code relates to a broad geographical area – the prefix draws a closer connection to the real business.
Line Number (7890) – The last of the telephone number sequence is the number string assigned at the switch level to the phone line that you are using.
“Think of the three parts like a street address” HowStuffWorks says “where the area code is the city, the prefix is the street, and the line number is the house.”
Telephone numbers carry substantial and irreplaceable local identifiers that authenticate local businesses. Replacing them with a non-local number or a non-local tracking number will surely mitigate the intended market value of a properly optimized NAP as well as send mixed business citation signals to search engines.
Search marketing aside – I’m sure there are some place where call tracking numbers (CTNs) could be beneficial for businesses, like print marketing, PPC (the use of CTNs are actually on the rise here, as have prices to use the new PPC phone extensions), television, and radio. Enterprise and franchise businesses may also benefit but on a different scale.
CTN’s have marketing potential – just not on the internet.
Just calling it how I see it . . .
[UPDATE: a change to how call tracking numbers are used online has resulted in a tactic that has proven to work without many instances of the complications noted above. When applying a call tracking number to your Google or other citation, only add the call tracking number if you are also able to list an alternate number. This alternate number being that of your primary business phone number.]