Guess: Phone #s in AdWords = PPCall

Google, to my knowledge, has always allowed phone numbers to appear in AdWords ad copy. But this has not been a widely employed practice. Or maybe at one point it was allowed and then later disallowed; I’m not sure.

However last week over at Search Engine Land we were sent a screen shot that showed phone numbers in AdWords:

Google’s mobile new Click-to-Call (which translates into PPCall when you turn off the PC targeting) is widely known. But this phone-numbers-in-AdWords development seemed to be new. Indeed, Google confirmed it:

“We’re currently testing a feature with a small number of advertisers in which a phone number can be included within the ad to help them more effectively engage with customers who prefer to connect over the phone.”

However Google wouldn’t say anything more about:

  • Whether these were tracking numbers (provided by Google)
  • Whether Google was getting paid on a per-call basis

I’m going to speculate that these are tracking numbers (from Google) and that it is a PPCall billing model. The logic behind my speculation is simple.

If people see the ads and just call the phone number there’s no click and so no billable event. Google doesn’t get paid. And the presence of the phone number in the ad in fact explicitly contemplates that some number of people will just pick up the phone and not click.

To determine the efficacy of this program calls would necessarily need to be tracked with unique phone numbers. And Google probably wouldn’t say: just go ahead advertiser and use your own phone numbers and let us know later how many calls you receive. So Google is probably supplying the tracking numbers; and the model is probably PPCall.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think is going on?


8 Responses to “Guess: Phone #s in AdWords = PPCall”

  1. Chris Says:

    I think phone numbers have always been allowed in Adwords – but if people call rather than click, your clickthru can go down and quality score will follow… so you end up paying for the calls indirectly.

    It’d make sense if this is pay-per-call, because then Google can get a better handle on how people are reacting to the ads, and price the clicks/calls more accurately. Either way, it’s a nice way to get a little something special in your ad.

  2. Ben Barney Says:

    Hi Greg – I think you are correct that this must be a pay per call offering but I would imagine Google are very sensitive to its performance considering how much click revenue is at jeopardy here. I would also like to see the pay per call rates to see how they compare to a click cost on the same ad. I also wonder what mechanisms they have in place to ascertain what is a genuine lead. Will they charge only after a call lasts longer than 30 seconds say? You would imagine therefore the cost per call to be pretty high in comparison to a cost per click to ensure Google receives what they would see as satisfactory compensation. However the expectations of the customer will need to be managed. They expect each call to be a sales lead however they are likely to get a lot of cold calls, spam calls, customer complaints through this number so it will be interesting to see how customers view the program. We wrote a post on the difficulties of offering lead programs if you are interested

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks Ben

  4. Using Phone Number Tracing To Get To The Bottom Of Things Says:

    […] Guess: Phone #s in AdWords = PPCall « Screenwerk […]

  5. Adrian Key Says:

    I see where you’re coming from with the pay-per-call model, but can’t really imagine why Google would want to get into all the hassle of buying and managing millions of phone lines all around the world to service it’s advertisers.

    It’s my guess that what Google are trying to discover here is if including a phone number in an ad gives the advertiser more credibility and makes it more likely for someone to click on that ad.

    Trust is a big thing on the Internet. If people see a phone number in the ad and an address in a product box, then this must go a long way to reasure them that if things go wrong with a purchase, there are lines that can be followed to raise a dispute.

    Yes, they could just pick up the phone and call the retailer direct, but my guess is that they will click on the ad and see if the web site provides what they are looking for first.

  6. Greg Sterling Says:


    You could be right that this is to see whether the phone number does generate more clicks and/to serve users.

  7. MrOpinionated Says:

    100% agree with Adrian… I have clients occasionally that believe that by placing the number in the text that the searcher will not click the site. This is carrying over from the YP mentality….look for number…see a number…call a number. Your Internet Searches is far more savvy and research minded to have this mindset in large numbers. I would love to see the data that shows how many people are just calling the number they see without viewing the site. As for this number (in the ad) …the site shows a different number so it is surely a tracking number (Google Voice?). My question is….if this is a CTR experiment on Google’s behalf…then why don’t they harvest the data in the thousands of campaigns they have access to see through split testing which ads perform stronger in the CTR aspect?

  8. Jason Spievak Says:

    To the comments above, Google itself told Greg earlier this year that CTRs actually go up when phone numbers are included in an ad – between 5 and 30 percent. That’s due in part to the credibility factor Adrian mentions. This is a smart move, because many people looking at an AdWords ad are going to want to call and not click anyway, as Google pointed out, and this advancement keeps advertisers from losing that segment completely. As for this being PPCall, I believe it is. It makes great sense to be able to track the effectiveness of the phone calls for the advertiser or affiliate who’s running the ad, and it explains how Google benefits. And this isn’t your father’s pay-per-call – today’s technologies do allow for careful call filtering, to weed out the misdials, complaints and otherwise low-quality calls, as well as very specific call tracking, so advertisers can easily see what works and what doesn’t.

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