It’s amusing to think something as unassuming and innocuous as a business phone number could be the center of attention in marketing conversations almost constantly. There are entire companies dedicated to vending phone numbers, others for tracking them, and others still for managing the volume and uptime of your phone systems. All of this despite the age of the internet blossoming and phone lines appearing like relics of the past whenever we occasionally notice them.

We’ve discussed analysis and tracking via phone numbers at length on our website and on podcasts, such as this standout with the Head of Demand Generation and Customer Marketing at CallRail.

The Benefits of Dynamic Number Insertion

Dynamic number insertion (which, if used, automatically swaps the business number on your website with a comparable one) has been a mainstay on our clients’ websites for years now, allowing us to track with certainty how callers are coming to the website. Some great developments in the past year with call tracking include:

Number Pool Tracking

Number pooling adds another layer of tracking dynamics so we can see where visitors were calling from on the page level of a website, not just a source level somewhere on the website. This gives us information about which pages are generating the most traffic as well as the source that referred them to that page.

Agent/Caller Ratio

The agent/caller ratio tracks how much someone on the agent side is talking versus the caller. This is critical for qualifying call leads as it allows us to shift over to a more reliable way of qualifying a call from an arbitrary one. In the past, we deemed a threshold of two minutes and a first-time caller as qualified. Of course, we don’t know what happens in those two minutes. The caller could have very well been put on hold for two minutes and then hung up. The agent/caller ratio confirms that the caller spent time speaking with someone at the business.

So, while all of these developments have been making use of a variety of numbers along with highly transparent tracking, what’s the issue we’re facing now? The following may be a larger oversight than we anticipated.

At What Point Does Our Physical Presence Matter Despite Our Digital Reach?

Over the past couple of years, there has been a heavier emphasis on geo-specific content strategies and expanding into other markets via webpages and additional GMB locations. While we can extend our reach however we please via well-executed and optimized content, there is a hurdle of client perception of your actual presence within these territories. We can use all the language we want on the landing page, but if the area code associated with the numbers we’re using misaligns past a certain threshold, we may have a dilemma of conversion failure on our hands.

Across two surveys and the answers of well over 500 participants, we received the following insight about your business number, your digital versus physical presence, and how much of an opportunity presents itself when considering something as seemingly non-critical as the business phone number we place on our website.

Before we go into the results, I’ll provide some of the Stats 101 groundwork as a refresher.

  • Median: The middle result in a set when sorted in ascending or descending order. For example, if there are 300 respondents, we would consider the median the result of respondent 150, when ordering numbers in ascending/descending order.
  • Mode: The most common response.
  • Average: The true average of all responses.
  • Weighted: 30% Median, 30% Mode, 40% Average (in order to avoid heavy influence from outliers i.e. skewed data from responses that are uncharacteristically low or high).

Most questions were posed as answering on a scale 1-10, 1 being “not important/strongly disagree” and 10 being “very important/strongly agree.” Below are the results of the questions asked when presented with the overarching theme of the importance of local perception of a phone number when searching for a professional service such as a legal service.

Survey Results on the Impact of Area Codes in Consumer Decision Making

How Important Is Area Code Proximity for the Respondent?



In most cases, 6.65 would mean “somewhat important,” but what is most important is considering this isn’t just a measure of general sentiment, such as overall sentiment about reviews or search results or a banner on your website. What is important about some of these survey questions is the fact that a portion of the respondents are saying the area code is make or break, and the others that aren’t would still be viable potential clients when you did make changes to accommodate the other group.

37% of respondents answered 8, 9, or 10. This kicks off the conversation about 37% of your potential visitors being impacted by a local number that isn’t proximate to them for their professional service. But what about a toll-free number?

How Much Does an 800 Number Establish a Company as Legitimate and Having a Widespread Presence?



Very similar to the last survey question, at first glance, a good 800 number may be able to offset any reservations someone had about a local number that was specifically not in their region.

How Important Is 866, 855, 844 etc. in Establishing a Company as Legitimate and Having a Widespread?



When presented with a lesser known toll-free (the 866, 855, 844), the trustworthiness is slightly diminished, showing us firsthand the perception of 800 versus other toll-free, which will come into play in another question.

What Is the Threshold of “Too Far” a Professional Service Should Be Distance? (In Miles)



One of the most important aspects of the survey, along with providing the marketing takeaway, is that the general consensus was very much inline with 50 miles being a threshold across the board. Once the area code associated with your business gave the impression you were physically located 50 miles or more from their search, the respondent claimed their likelihood of contacting you was diminished.

Only 8.3% of respondents said distance was a non-factor in their decision making.

Before moving ahead and saying every geographic landing page on your website has to have a vanity or tracking number specific to its geographic region, or simply an ongoing 800 number, we conducted another survey to keep pushing questions on these themes.

How Important Is a Professional Service Proximity Even if They Can Work With You Remotely? 



This survey was started by asking a very similar question to the first to ensure sentiment in general aligned and the body of respondents would carry over similar outlooks for different questions.

If a Professional Service Is Over 50 Miles Away Even if They Can Work With You Remotely, Would the Fact That Closer Professional Services Around You Had Lesser Reviews Impact Your Decision? 



The first new question was observing the impact of having the option of a remote professional service with better or more reviews versus a similar local service with fewer reviews. Surprisingly, the consensus was extremely neutral in this case, leading us to believe that when respondents wanted to work with someone more local, other factors such as social validation and reviews may not be a factor (we didn’t survey other variables such as cost, word of mouth, etc.).

When Looking for a Professional Service, How Much Would a Local Number Over an 800 Number Impact Your Decision to Contact Them?



Now, this is where the fun begins when introducing the viability of an 800 as a possible catch-all solution. The average respondent, interestingly enough, said a local number over an 800 number wouldn’t affect their decision whatsoever, in so many words. That would mean an 800 number carries enough recognizable authority to be used in any scenario, essentially eliminating the need to be perceived as local, at least in this particular question.

That doesn’t mean that everyone agreed—27% of respondents answered 8, 9, or 10. Does that lead us to offer a consistent toll-free 800 and still consider having a dynamic local number? Or is an 800 a step up already from the 37% that said a distant area code would potentially deter them from contacting the firm?

When Looking for a Professional Service, How Much Would a Local Number Over an 844 Number Impact Your Decision to Contact Them? 



Again, when comparing 800 vs. another toll-free such as 844, the respondent answered that it would substantially affect their perception. Percentage-wise, respondents answered 31.45% higher in this case to the weight of 800 versus 844 when compared to a local number.

When Looking for a Local Service (Think Roofer, Mover, Landscaper), How Much Would a Local Number Over an 800 Number Impact Your Decision to Contact Them? 



The last glimpse of perspective we wanted was comparing the importance of local numbers for say, a plumber or roofer, versus something that can be remote, such as a legal service. Respondents answered 75.18% higher on this question, solidifying some helpful information about the perception of more traditional local services as well as the perception of professional services and their relation to the phone numbers that establish their relative presence to the consumer.