The Right Way To Set Up Google Ads Call Tracking

The Right Way To Setup Google Ads Call Tracking

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To create a successful Google Ads campaign, you must have complete and proper conversion tracking. This is true for ecommerce activities like add-to-carts and purchases as well as for other conversion types like form submissions and calls. For many businesses, especially service businesses, incoming calls can make up a large part of their lead volume. Even many e-commerce shops often provide a phone number for prospective customers to call in to ask questions before purchasing or for current customers to get support for a product they already purchased. That’s why call tracking is essential for most businesses.

In fact, we’d argue that tracking call conversions is one of the most important types of conversions to track in Google Ads (along with form submissions and purchases). Unfortunately, call tracking in Google is often misunderstood and poorly set up so we wanted to help you ensure you don’t miss out on tracking this highly valuable conversion data.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to set up Google Ads call tracking and discuss the best ways to track calls in Google Ads.

When Do You Need Call Tracking?

Nearly all businesses should set up call tracking, especially if you’re using Google Ads. To better understand when you need call tracking, let’s go over all the ways that someone can call your business’ phone number. This will help us understand what we need to set up to get the most robust and complete call tracking solution.

Here are the ways people can call you when using Google Ads.

  1. Clicks on Call Ads
  2. Clicks on phone numbers in Call assets or location assets (formerly call extensions and location extensions)
  3. Click-to-call links on the website after clicking on an ad
  4. Manually dialing (without clicking) a phone number on the website after clicking on an ad
  5. Manually dialing a phone number placed in ad copy

While we can track the first #1-4, unfortunately, Google Ads can’t track #5 so we don’t recommend placing phone numbers for your business directly in the ad copy of your ads (i.e. headlines or description lines).

It is also important to note that a click on a phone number, whether that’s in an ad (#1), a Google Ads extension (#2), or a clickable link on the website (#3), is just a click. It doesn’t necessarily mean a phone call was actually placed. After the click, the user has to open the dialer on their mobile device then click the green call button or open a calling app on their desktop.

Luckily, Google Ads call tracking goes beyond basic click tracking and lets you track the number of real phone calls made regardless of which of the first 4 above scenarios took place.

If you’re not tracking calls or you are only tracking phone number clicks, such as clicks on tel: links, then importing that data from Google Analytics into Google Ads, you’re missing out on much more valuable data.

Call Tracking Options in Google Ads

Without the use of additional paid software, there are essentially 3 ways to track phone calls in Google Ads for free. For the optimal free call tracking setup in Google Ads, we will need to use all three of these, but each tells you something different and has its own considerations.

  1. Call Conversions from ads: Real, connected calls made directly from ads created in Google Ads
    • Count actual phone calls from clicks on Call Ads, call extensions, or numbers in location extensions
    • “Calls from ads” conversion action is automatically created after creating a call extension and receiving your first call over 60 seconds – can also create it manually ahead of time
    • Only tracks calls directly from ads (not from the website) – requires Calls from website
    • Only tracks calls from Google Ads (not any other source)
  2. Call Conversions from website: Real, connected calls that happen once a user lands on your website after clicking one of your Google Ads
    • Count actual phone calls to phone numbers on the website after someone clicks on your ad using a Google Ads call forwarding number
    • Number formatting doesn’t matter so 555-555-5555 is the same as (555) 555-5555 is the same as 555.555.5555
      • If there are any extra digits like country codes, then the number won’t work
    • Only tracks calls made on the website, not directly from ads
    • Requires additional tracking code on website (see below for setup)
    • Only tracks calls from Google Ads, not any other source
  3. Contact clicks (optional): Clicks on tel: links on the website
    • Doesn’t track actual calls – clicks don’t indicate that number of real calls made
    • Only tracks clickable links. Some phone numbers may not be clickable
    • Can’t count direct/manual dials
    • Requires additional tracking code on website
    • Can track clicks from all sources in Google Analytics an can be imported into Google Ads

By tracking these three actions, you’ll be able to measure:

  1. Total Phone Calls in Google Ads – this tracks calls made that didn’t meet your conversion settings
  2. Phone Call Conversions in Google Ads
  3. Phone number click events in Google Analytics (optional)

Track Calls As Conversions in Google Ads

Next, let’s walk through how to actually set up each of the call tracking options we discussed above. Having call data is one thing, but we also want to make sure that data is usable. In order to feed that call tracking data into Google Ads’ smart bidding and automated bid strategies, we need to create call conversion actions within Google Ads. 

To set up call conversion actions, log into your Google Ads account, then:

  1. Click “Goals” (trophy icon on the left side)
  2. Click “Summary” under Conversions
  3. On the next screen, click the blue “+ New conversion action” button
  4. Choose “Phone calls”. Then, a new box will appear with 3 more options.
phone call conversion setup options
Choosing “Phone calls” displays 3 more phone call conversion options.

Phone Call Conversions

  1. Calls from ads using call extensions or call ads (a.k.a. Calls from ads)
  2. Calls to a phone number on your website (a.k.a. Calls from website)
  3. Clicks on your number on your mobile website (aka Phone Call Clicks – don’t need to use this one)

Here, we’ll set up conversion actions for the first two options. In the end, you’ll be able to track how many times your phone number was clicked on, how many times a real phone call was made, and how many times a phone call lasted over a specified threshold. 

Calls from ads

The first option (“Calls from ads using call extensions or call ads”) will create a conversion action that tracks actual phone calls made from:

Search ad with Call asset
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Location assets show address & click-to-call links
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Call Ad with “Visit website” link
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While the “Calls from ads” conversion action will likely be automatically created for you, there are some instances when you may want to preemptively create one, such as when you’d like to change the default settings. For example, by default, the Calls from ads conversion action tracks calls over 60 seconds as a conversion. If you’d like to count only the first time a user calls or raise/lower the length before a call is counted as a conversion, then we’d recommend the following steps:

  1. From the New Conversion Action screen (see screenshot above), choose “Phone calls”
  2. Select the first option “Calls from ads using call extensions or call ads” then click Continue
  3. Enter a conversion name, we’d recommend “Calls from Ads” (capital “Ads” – this will help you differentiate between any automatically created conversion action which will have a lowercase “ads”).
  4. Choose the rest of your conversion settings if desired, then click the blue “Create and continue” button.
Calls from Ads conversion settings
Example Calls from Ads conversion setting
  1. After creating your “Calls from Ads” conversions action, navigate back to Goals > Conversions > Settings
  2. Expand the “Call conversion action” section, then select your newly created “Calls from Ads” (capital “Ads”). This will ensure that Google Ads uses the conversion action you created and doesn’t automatically create a new “Calls from ads” conversion action.
Call conversion action setting in Google Ads
Naming your conversion action “Calls from Ads” helps to avoid confusion so you can select the call conversion with the right settings in your call conversion settings. Above is an example of what you DON’T want it to look like because the automatic and manually created conversion actions are named the same.

Calls from website

Next, the second phone call conversion option (“Calls to a phone number on your website”) lets you create a conversion action that tracks actual phone calls made to phone numbers on your website after a user clicks on one of your Google ads. (i.e. Google SERP → Click on ad → Visit your website → clicks or dials your phone number).  

This is done by adding javascript to your website that dynamically replaces your actual phone number with a Google Forwarding Number so it can attributed back to a specific ad group. This is the same technique that more sophisticated 3rd party call tracking uses. While this is available for free to anyone using Google Ads, it has some drawbacks. Specifically, it can only flip one phone number per page (though you use a different phone number on a different page if your settings are correct) and it only tracks calls in Google Ads (not Google Analytics or any other tool).

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Unlike “Calls from Ads,” this conversion action won’t be automatically set up for you so we need to manually create the “Calls from website” conversion action, then use Google Tag Manager to add the necessary tracking code to the website.

  1. From the New Conversion Action screen, select Phone Calls, then choose the second radio option,
google ads phone call conversion setup process
  1. You’ll be taken to the conversion setup screen, like the one below, where you can adjust any conversion action settings. Make sure you enter the correct destination number (the number you’d like your calls to be forwarded to) and that the display number is EXACTLY as it appears on your webpage.
calls from website conversion action settings
Calls from website conversion action settings
  1. Click the blue “Create and continue button”, then in the next section, choose the “Use Google Tag Manager” tab.

  1. From here, make not of your Conversion ID and Conversion label, then open Google Tag Manager in a new tab. 
  2. In GTM, create a new tag and search for or select “Google Ads Calls from Website Conversion” as the tag type.
Google Ads Calls from Website conversion tag in GTM
Make sure to select the dedicated Calls from Website conversion tag in GTM instead of the regular Google Ads Conversion Tracking tag.
  1. On the next screen:
    1. Give your tag a name. We recommend “Google Ads – Calls from website”
    2. Enter the phone number you’d like to track (this is the one that will be replaced by a Google Forwarding Number. Remember what you enter here must be EXACTLY the same as what’s in the display number of your conversion settings and on your website.)
    3. Enter your Conversion ID from Google Ads – We recommend creating a Constant Variable to save your Google Ads conversion ID since it will be the same for every conversion action in the same account.
    4. Enter your Conversion Label from Google Ads conversion
  2. Choose All Pages as your trigger.
  3. Click the blue Save button. You should end up with a tag that looks like this.
Example Google Ads calls from website conversion tag in GTM

After you’ve set up Calls from ads and Calls from website conversions, you’ll now have call tracking set up in Google Ads. You’ll be able to see the total calls connected as well as the number of calls that matched your call conversion settings. 

Phone Call Clicks

When setting up Google Ads Phone Calls Conversions, the third radio button you’ll see after clicking New Conversion Action > Phone calls is “Clicks on your number on your mobile website.” We DO NOT recommend using this third option because it only lets you track clicks on phone number links, not actual calls and it’s only in Google Ads.

GA4 tag in GTM to track phone number clicks
Use GA4 tags to track phone clicks from all sources instead of just clicks from Google Ads.

Evaluating Call Volume in Google Ads

Once you’ve set up your call tracking conversions in Google Ads, you’ll soon start seeing call data coming into to Google Ads. To evaluate how many calls were made and where they are coming from, you can add the “Phone calls” column to your campaign performance table in Google Ads. 

The “Phone calls” column is in the “Call details” section which is different than the Conversion section

A phone call counts how many times a call was connected to a Google Forwarding Number. It then has to meet your conversion settings (such as minimum call length) to count as a phone call conversion. Once a phone call meets all your conversion criteria, it will then show up in your Conversions column. If say, it’s not long enough, it’ll count in the phone call column, but not in the Conversions column of Google Ads.

Another handy place to evaluate your phone call data in Google Ads is the Call Details report which lets you see a call log of more detailed information about each call such as when it was placed, how long it lasted, and what number called your Google Forwarding Number.


As you can see, there is a lot that goes into tracking calls in Google Ads. Even though Google Ads call tracking isn’t perfect, it is still extremely helpful by allowing you to measure real phone calls made and it’s completely free. If you are looking for a more robust call tracking solution, we recommend using a 3rd party call tracking, such as CallRail, so that you can track calls from all sources (not just Google Ads), and see that data in Google Analytics.

If you need help setting up call conversions in Google Ads, don’t hesitate to reach out to the call tracking experts at Intigress.

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