For many years, some business have used multiple phone numbers in their as to help track the effectiveness of those ads. The standard term for this is call tracking, and the benefits are obvious: In the Internet age, it’s cheap to have numerous different phone numbers that all direct to one main line, and when you’re getting a lot of responses from one number and few from another, it’s easy to tell which ad is converting best for you.
However, because Google does what Google always does — change the paradigm — this approach is beginning to backfire, particularly for local businesses. Google has begin placing much more emphasis on a phone number as a unique identifier for a local business (along with a unique business name and specific street address).
In other words, Google is determining the legitimacy of your local business by these specific markers. Your business name (N), address (A), and phone number (P) is known by Google as your NAP. It uniquely defines your business online as being your business.
If Google is confused about your business’s identity, this causes a ranking drop in the search results for Google Maps and Google Local—and that’s a big problem. When a business displays multiple phone numbers, that appears as a data inconsistency issue for Google.
Is there a way around this? Not an easy one, unfortunately. When you attach a phone number to your business in virtually any online avenue, it tends to get back to Google. (That’s ultimately what Google was founded on, remember.) And when Google sees numerous phone numbers for you, that hurts your NAP, and thus your ranking.
One option is to consider using different phone numbers for offline advertising, such as direct mail or outdoor signage. These are far less likely to be indexed by Google, at least for now. You’ll still reap the benefits of tracking which ads are converting for you, just not the online ones. It’s far from a perfect solution, but it’s likely the safest course of action at this time.