Phone Number Removal & Call Tracking

Picture 55Another (perhaps less “conspiratorial”) thought that occurred to me about why Google removed phone numbers from the 7 Pack is to address the SEO + call tracking data quality issues that have been discussed in a number of recent posts on this blog:

Perhaps Google is trying to prevent call-tracking numbers from being exposed in the 7-Pack. Though in a way that doesn’t entirely make sense either. Google said to me that it’s using call tracking numbers (via Google Voice) for its Local Listing Ads. 

I’m eager to see what the company says about all this.


12 Responses to “Phone Number Removal & Call Tracking”

  1. Neil Street Says:

    My 10 cents, for what it’s worth, is that Google is trying to squeeze max profit out of the new local listing ads that they just rolled out in this market. I think this move by Google, with the new local listing ad configuration, has the potential to be huge for them across the nation. I am sure that many more of the small SMBs would be more comfortable with a flat fee paid to Google than with the typical adwords format. A flat fee in exchange for eyeballs is what they are more used to: think newspaper ads, yellow page ads. That is what this new Google format offers, and top of the page, to sweeten the deal. Huge potential, and removing phone #s from the 7 pack will result in more clicks/calls to the paid ads above, making them more desirable to advertisers. The way things are going with Google Local, I think we need to begin asking if local, organic SEO is going to be squeezed right out of the playing field. What if Google started charging a “nominal” fee for small businesses to claim their businesses in the LBC? Say $10 a month? Huge profit for Google, and I’d bet that a lot of SMBs would sign up. Starting to look a bit like a monopoly here, in the local space, and I think Google is seeing it and acting accordingly.

  2. David Mihm Says:


    I would just submit that LLA’s are too new (still in Beta in only TWO markets) for that to be the sole reason for doing this. Unless of course they announce today that LLA’s are now available in all markets.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:


    Why do you think they’ve done this?

  4. David Mihm Says:

    There IS the issue, however, that the phone numbers that appear in LLA’s (and use Google Voice) are now the only ones at the top of the page and may begin to stand out considerably more…

  5. David Mihm Says:

    Greg, I honestly don’t have an informed opinion about why they’re doing this. It seems to run counter to their idea of returning as much relevant information in inline search results as possible, so long as it is not overwhelming for the user. For instance watching YouTube videos inline, news summaries, etc.

    More interesting to me even than this is the dramatic drop in the NUMBER of 7-packs I am seeing for all kinds of searches.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:

    Haven’t noticed the drop. Wonder why? Someone told me that Google was seeing fewer CTRs on ads above the Map/7-Pack. Wonder if that has to do with it?

  7. Neil Street Says:

    Greg and Dave:

    Do you think (as I do) that these LLA’s have the potential to be a huge money maker for Google? I think they do, and I think that is why they are testing how much more CTR they get if the phone #s are removed from the 7 Packs.

  8. Perry Says:

    Another angle to think about is the parallel of reliance on underlying third party content sources in mapping. Perhaps Google has it’s eyes set on the approach they took to Navteq/TeleAtlas (partner until you’re done building your own critical mass, then flatten the earth!). If so it would be plausible that the mission is to own the world’s best local comprehensive directory. To that end, everything they can do to ensure SMB self-publishing of critical reference content contributes to that model.

    The insertion of Google voice for a combination of call tracking and whisper-based “brand building” is just plain smart business for Google. Advertisers want the tracking and Google gets to reinforce it’s brand with every clicked call.

  9. Greg Sterling Says:

    I do Neil if Google promotes and supports the product

  10. Rodrigo Landerdahl Says:

    Well put, Perry.

    It scares me to think of G’s long-term local strategy and to think that they can wipe an entire business model with a few simple changes. Google is the daddy of all businesses.

    BTW, I can still see phone numbers for a local search in Brazil.

  11. Greg Sterling Says:

    Perry re:

    The mission is to own the world’s best local comprehensive directory. To that end, everything they can do to ensure SMB self-publishing of critical reference content contributes to that model.

    Yes and yes.

  12. Matt McGee Says:

    Greg, Google gave me a statement this morning that I added to my blog post (and to your SEL post): “For a few hours this morning phone numbers were not displayed as part of local universal search results on Google. This was a small bug, and we quickly fixed it.”

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