Want more calls from AdWords? You got it

Last week Google announced changes to Click to Call ads and AdWords call extensions that make it more likely advertisers’ phones will ring. And that’s like it or not — even if they’d rather have customers visit their website and submit a form.

First, the good news: a long overdue enhancement to Call Only ads. For those who need the reminder, Call Only ads are only shown on mobile devices and only on Google Search (not Search Partners or the Google Display Network). What’s more, as the name suggests, they do not include a link to the advertiser’s website. They’re ideal for businesses that don’t have a website, and those preferring (and set up to handle) phone call enquiries.

The problem, which Google has now fixed, is that ad headlines have always included the advertiser phone number, but not the business name. A display URL (display only, not a link to a website) was sometimes the only clue as to who the customer would be calling.

Now, business names (already required in setting up Call Only ads) are also displayed, as the following example from Google shows.

Imagine the above ad without the business name and you can see the issue with how these ads were previously displayed.

This news alone would normally make it a good week for us, but Google promises more improvements in call reporting and click-to-call availability. And that’s where things get sticky.

Account-level call extensions — yes, thanks for that. This will make it easier to roll out phone numbers across an advertiser account rather than always having to do so at the campaign or ad group level.

And Google earns more brownie points, but only from those (like us) actively managing AdWords campaigns: it’s adding reporting columns for “Phone impressions” and “Phone calls” in AdWords’ keyword and ad reports (and, yes, they should have been there before).

But automated call extensions? Oh my giddy aunt. Google takes another step along its path to automating AdWords, whether advertisers like it or not. “AdWords will identify landing pages that already feature a prominent phone number,” Google’s Inside AdWords blogpost proudly pronounces, “and automatically set up a call extension and call reporting for this phone number to help you drive more calls to your business.”

Cue panic stations as advertisers opt-out of automated call-extensions, not wanting phone numbers to be shown during out of office hours, or just not wanting phone calls.

Why should you care?

Advertisers who have shied away from using Call Only ads or used them but found clickthrough rates were low, might now feel emboldened to try them again. We expect that including the business name in the call to action (pardon the pun) headline, can only improve results.

If you’ve not opted out of automated call extensions yet, it’s not too late to do so. If you’re keen to use call extensions it’s best to set them up rather than rely on Google. Not only can you be sure that the right phone number is associated with each ad, but you can also schedule the extensions to be shown only during office hours.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.