Are you looking to add a virtual phone number to your niche website to help with Google's EEAT? If you're in the UK, then Number People is a cost-effective and reputable option. I use it myself!
One recommendation I've seen a few times recently from SEO and niche site folk on Twitter is adding a phone number to the footer of your website. For example:
Daily Dose of SEO 🧰 #17 - EEAT - Have you got?
✔️ Comprehensive about me page
✔️ Business address, email and phone number
✔️ Author bios / pages
✔️ Links to social media
If the answer is no, start creating them now!
— Sammie Ellard-King (@EllardKing) January 5, 2023
The reasoning here is that adding a phone number helps with EEAT, a Google acronym standing for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. By putting real contact details, you present as a trustworthy business rather than a fly-by-night or spammy site.
I'm not totally convinced by this argument. Google itself says that EEAT doesn't directly influence web ranking - it is part of its search rater guidelines to help evaluate the performance of its own search ranking systems.
That said, adding a phone number to your website footer certainly can't hurt. It may even help you get more sales leads. But what if, like me, you don't have a dedicated business number and are reluctant to put your personal number on your site for the world to see (and spam call)?
One solution here is to get a virtual number. Despite the name, it's a real phone number, just one that isn't connected to a landline or a mobile phone. As a result, it can be cheaper and easier to manage.
At this point you may be wondering... if your virtual number isn't connected to a landline or a mobile phone, how do you take inbound calls? Well, you can either forward (divert) them to another number such as your mobile, or answer them using VoIP (a technology that lets you make and receive calls over the Internet).
I recently set about trying to find a low-cost, reputable way of acquiring a virtual number. To begin with I looked at Google Voice, which gives a free number for personal use - but sadly, I discovered, just to individuals in the US. And of course, I'm in the UK.
Outside the US, Google Voice is only available for organisations with paid Google Workspace accounts who are then willing to shell out an additional monthly fee for each user. I looked into enabling Google Voice in my Google Workspace, and the cost of Google Voice Starter was $10 per licensed user (or device) per month. I wasn't quite willing to pay that, so I searched for a UK-friendly alternative.
In the end I settled on Number People. They are a UK-based provider who will give you your first virtual number absolutely free (with no monthly charge). You can also choose any area code you like - I went for a London (0208) number to match my physical location.
That isn't to say there's no cost at all though:
Something like this:
|First virtual number||Free||Free|
|Inbound calls||Free||7p/min (to UK mobile)|
When you sign up with Number People, they give you your first month of VoIP free - as well as a small amount of credit (around 30p) to test out the call forwarding. This lets you try both options and see which one works best for you.
I chose to go with call forwarding. That means I'll periodically need to to buy credit on my Number People user portal to cover the cost of any inbound calls. The credit expires after 90 days (unless you top up before then, in which case it rolls over), so I'm looking at four topups a year. With a minimum topup of £10, that comes to £40 per year - around half the price of using Google Voice.
(The VoIP option would be even cheaper, at just £1/month or £12 per year - but I didn't want to be running a VoIP app on my mobile all the time for what's likely to be a very small number of inbound calls.)
If you're going down the same route as me and forwarding on your calls, you have one other important choice to make. Do you want your device caller ID to display the phone number of the caller, or your virtual number? The Number People website wrongly suggests only the latter is possible:
"If you receive the call as a call forward (diverting the calls to a landline or mobile) then the caller ID that will be presented will be your virtual phone number that the caller dialled. This makes it really easy to identify the call as a call to your virtual number, instead of a personal call."
But you can change this setting in the Number People user portal. You'll find it under Account Settings:
I went a step further and added my virtual number to my mobile contacts as 'Technically Product'. This means I can see at a glance whether an incoming call is personal or related to my website. I can choose not to take website-related calls out of hours (and then look up the caller's number the following day in the user portal).
So there you have it - if you're in the UK, Number People is a very low-cost option for acquiring a virtual number to use on your niche website. I set mine up nearly a month ago and so far I've seen no change in my search rankings (or received any inbound call for that matter).
But at least I can be confident that a lack of phone number isn't holding my site back. Sometimes SEO is more about ruling things out than ruling them in!