Free Call Tracking Google Sheet Add-on

A Charity Alternative to Google Forwarding Numbers

Dan Burykin

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Idea

The idea did come accidentally. I was negotiating CRM integration with a business training center. As a result, I was stuck trying to create a solution based on Google Sheets. As an excuse, I’d like to mention that the reason for doing so is not just a relapse to a well-known program, or cult around the Google corporation. My loyalty is due to a happy and absolutely fair opportunity to be a Google contractor in delivering Google Ads training for its call center reps in Barcelona and Lisbon.

So, back to this article topic. First, I’ve found this useful solution for tracking offline conversions through the sales funnel in Google Analytics with the help of just Google Sheets, Google Script and Google Tag Manager.

I set this up — but it failed to work properly! My Google Sheet started to track every website hit.

However, I’ve noticed that during the average phone call, there are very few new rows appearing. Beside this, there are very few unique website visitors simultaneously. This means that it is possible to identify the one who is on a certain website page now, and is calling to get more details. Thus, all that is left to use the same method for tracking the offline conversions of a phone call in Google Analytics.

To begin with, I’ve created the prototype for the same client by myself. One of the critical pain points of such a DIY version is incorrect location info in Google Analytics, that does not match the website visitor’s location, but instead one or another Google server with our GTM tag.

I believe many of us have failed to reach at least the MVP stage with some idea. My childhood dream to become an inventor gave me some energy and persistence to move on.

Back to reality once again: no developer, no cost estimate. Thus, I just started to do what I could as a marketer — to visualize the project scope within its website. I’m pretty sure it convinced a proper developer to finally join me. The Google Spreadsheet Add-on solution was the obvious choice to proceed from the beginning. Overall, Google Sheets, Gmail, Google Calendar — are all popular and unified as much as possible for an IT solution. I believe many B2B experts would be interested in offering their services and expertise to a global market by creating their own Google Add-on. Furthermore, a certain innovative part of such an add-on makes it a sort of modern and practical patent or even dissertation. The fact is also that it’s a lean budget way to get a pro result. Besides this, it’s not just a web-SaaS solution. The Google Add-ons are more and more available via the Google Services mobile app for Android and even for iOS.

Here are the most obvious advantages of Google Add-ons over not as cost effective and/or just branded mobile apps, kiddish chat bots, or a specific solution in the No-Code development niche:

  • Partly cross-platform
  • Google level of security
  • Trust and professionalism via association with Google
  • Popular and well-known frameworks and technologies
  • A wide variety of verticals to develop an add-on for

What is Free Call Tracking

It is a dynamic call tracking. But not 100% automatic, as it requires a call qualification. Of course, this solution is not optimal for every single case. However, there are plenty of small, medium and offline businesses which would benefit more from Free Call Tracking, than from an automatic call tracking. There are two main reasons for this, besides zero cost:

  • Automatic dynamic call tracking needs ongoing website phone number swapping (a so-called dynamic phone number insertion). This is to implement their own algorithm of clarifying the traffic source of the call from a website e.g. what ad and keyword generated the website visit which led to the website visitor call. Business owners are often confused with these more or less virtual additional phone numbers, whereas the absence of a single static phone number isn’t really convenient sometimes, both for the caller and the manager who replies. There is also a free Google Forwarding Numbers solution available, which offers unique advantages for optimization of Google Ads traffic, yet still with phone number swapping. However, market leaders confirm that accuracy error of dynamic call tracking can be up to 30%.
  • Almost every business regularly receives irrelevant calls from customers who want a ‘free consultation’ or are even trying to sell, but not to buy. An automatic dynamic call tracking solution will be ‘happy’ to track these calls as relevant. Business owners understand this and often choose not to track at all. In order to correct this, the call answering processes need to be systemized along with CRM and call tracking solution integrations. In other words, you won’t escape at least a single click in order to track relevant calls traffic properly. Our solution lets you do this quickly, easily and for free.

Charity to force the Weaknesses

Free Call Tracking isn’t yet a magic pill and has a disadvantage in its current version. In some cases, a manager who answers a call won’t be able to be 100% sure if a particular Google Sheet row corresponds to the caller. Thus, he or she will have a choice: not to track, or to ask the caller to tell them the page they are currently on, or to follow a specific page. This might be connected to conversion though, but sometimes can be annoying for both. Here is a similar to my initial DIY solution for Yandex.Metrika. Its author recommends referring a similar question to a random quiz with a chance to win a prize. This might be a solution, but still can often be irrelevant for websites that are not e-stores or mass market products/services. Our idea is to explain the clarification as it is, if needed: traffic and/or website optimization. Apparently, it’s just a single additional or even alternative question to a fairly legalized one: ‘where did you learn about us?’ However, as a motivation trigger, we’d suggest to use not an extrinsic, but an intrinsic motivator. You could mention that part of this optimization cost will be donated to a certain charity. It can be any amount though, as long as Free Call Tracking is free.

Technologies

Add-on is based on Google Apps Script — which is JavaScript on V8 with built-in objects to simplify the Google API interactions. It’s the only language for creating Google Workspace add-ons currently. The source code is in TypeScript, compiled to JavaScript and uploaded to a cloud repository via CLASP.

The VS Code is used as one of the most convenient IDEs for TypeScript. Furthermore, this is an open source project with many customization opportunities.

There is no need for a database for this project, and no frameworks are used except Materialize CSS-framework to match material design standards of the user interface.

The version management system is the easy and well-known Git together with GitHub remote repository.

It’s an elegant and raw solution at once, to use only Google services as well as fit into their quotas. E.g. passing through Google Analytics crawlers and bots filter with additional parameters of a website visitors IP address to send the correct location data as well. We don’t use a third party API, but keep this inside Google services space together with a user’s browser data. The Google Cloud platform is responsible for connecting the project parts together by itself. You just need to upload source files via CLASP. The main concern is that the frontend can only be in HTML-templates, which doesn’t let you use external style sheets, except if you use your own CDN. We plan to add a phase with Gulp later on, as long as it’s useful and flexible.

Challenges

To me it’s important to make a public promise to yourself from time to time. I mean, it was a very first prototype, then presentation on a subject matter event, now — this publication in a local fancy IT news media. This not only let me push the project, but to discover new opportunities. Overall, the most difficult problem was to find a developer who doesn’t suddenly leave you in the middle of the project by yourself. Furthermore, delivering quality product code to meet the Google Cloud Trust & Safety requirements was essential.

Current stage

The very first project version was published at the Google Workspace Marketplace in 2020. After a really long pause we’ve finally managed to re-publish it with the initial bugs fixed and a lot of improvements. The new version has also been in development for some time already. It will offer several methods of call qualification to choose from according to the most convenient way on the add-on user side. Furthermore, Free Call Tracking will be compatible with one page websites, and even cases, when a call answering manager is not near a computer to interact with the Free Call Tracking Google Sheet. Also, technologically the way of sending hits to Google Sheets will be changed from via Google Form to via API, which will also improve the overall performance due to the asynchronous nature of Javascript.

Monetization

My first diploma was Engineer of Telecommunication Systems and Networks. However, all my 20 years of business experience are in the field of my second diploma in Industrial Marketing. Probably, this is also the reason why I perceive a product as a brand communication element first, and as engineering architecture second. This also creates a moment of truth, because the Free Call Tracking title happens to correspond exactly with the same mid-frequency keyword, which leads to the absolute top position of our add-on listing w/o any SEO activity. This is something you’d likely not get every time with any other marketplace.

The next Free Call tracking versions will also be free. However, some of the new features might become available under purchasable packages. This would make a charity trigger even simpler, as we make automatic donations from the payments. Meanwhile, you can support the development here.

It would’ve also been interesting to develop the project into the direction of distributed voluntary/incentivized sharing of marketing information. The Free Call Tracking method is easy to implement as an extension to an existing dynamic call tracking, VoIP provider, CRM system or essential apps in an integrator like Zapier.

I’m Dan Burykin, the Free Call Tracking creator and a top-rated marketer. Together we are Top-Rated Team — an international group of independent Google Ads and MarTech pro. Each of us has been setting up and optimizing paid traffic for eCommerce, B2B and B2C lead generation in the United States, Canada, UK, Germany and Ukraine for over 10 years.

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