Advertisers that see phone calls as a valuable source for leads will now have an option to bid for phone calls alongside clicks when targeting paid-search ads to searchers across computers and tablets. Google plans to roll out the feature in the United States and United Kingdom during the next few weeks.
The bid for phone calls will directly factor into the ranking of ads that return with search results. Higher-ranked ads are more likely to be seen and read by searchers, and can generate more phone calls and clicks. Today, only maximum cost-per-click bids are calculated in Ad Rank, which determines the ad's position.
Marketers that want to use bid-per-call need to select the option to use forwarding numbers from Google when setting up Call Extensions, so that Google's system can measure when a call to the business occurs. This also provides advertisers with summaries of completed calls, phone-through rates, duration of the call, and other metrics directly in AdWords reports.
Equipped with the option, marketers should decide when to consider a call to a click metric. Insurance agents, for example, might find it advantageous to speak with someone on the phone and walk them through the process, rather than ask consumers to fill out a form online.
Havas Digital EVP Rob Griffin said it's more useful to have a lead from a call, compared with a click, when the paid-search ad focuses on local and expects an immediate response, often found in mobile paid search ads.
George Michie, CEO at Rimm Kaufman Group, believes the preference on when to use click vs. call metrics depends on the expected conversion rate, and the conversion rate difference between a caller and a paid-search visitor to a company's Web site. "The call center can lose money unless the conversion rate of a call to the call center is above a threshold. That threshold depends on the industry and the value of a conversion."
Michie also suggests that marketers determine the keyword searches the call center reps can most likely close for that ratio of conversations. For example, marketers might determine the call center reps need to close 25% of their calls to become cost-effective. Marketers might measure or surmise that the call center reps can become twice as effective as the passive Web site at closing calls. For it to make sense to send visitors to the call center, rather than the Web site, the Web conversion rate for those keywords would need to be more than or equal to 12.5% to translate to a 25% conversion rate on the phones, he explains.
"It may be the case that only brand keywords convert at that rate, or it may be that a number of other non-brand keywords convert at that rate as well," Michie said. "Whatever the case, those are the keywords to test pushing toward the call center."
Locally focused businesses (both those national with large company owed or franchise locations) as well as SMBs should test the right mix of call-based call-to-action ads vs click-based. Proper day-parting must also accompany the feature deployment to assure there is someone ready to answer the phone when a call comes in.