Kidding aside (sort of), in our data-driven, Moneyball world, we marketers want credit for every transaction we directly impact. Google is no different, and its latest changes are designed to give credit where credit is due.
Forrester Research recently found that for every $1 we spend online (e.g,. Amazon.com), we spend more than $5 researching something online and then purchasing it offline (e.g., making a phone call and/or buying in-store). These “online-to-offline” purchases represent more than $1.5 trillion in consumer spending annually. Unfortunately, these pesky offline purchases are outside the scope of tracking pixels installed on conversion pages.
This is why Google announced Website Call Conversions earlier this month, allowing marketers to use free Google call tracking numbers on its Web site. This enables marketers to directly associate phone calls (from consumers to businesses) with Google searches. Given that Google has found that phone calls are the most popular response to a mobile search, this should help marketers start to piece together the puzzle of online-to-offline effects, validating the importance of phone calls to a CMO trying to make sense of mobile consumers.
To be clear, the “conversion” in Website Call Conversions is simply a phone call and not a purchase. As this data becomes more widely available in search, marketers will naturally want to understand which phone calls result in purchases and have proper attribution across all media channels. This requires adoption of enterprise-level call tracking and analytics solutions, similar in scope and importance to enterprise-level solutions for understanding “online-only” transactions.
I expect Website Call Conversions will accelerate the conversation in the C-suite about where marketers should be allocating media investments as the magnitude of mobile’s impact on offline purchases becomes increasingly evident. In addition, as marketers become more comfortable using metrics outside of clicks, we should expect advertising models to continue to move past cost-per-click as they become more transparent and measurable.
Also this month, Google announced that it will finally give poor spellers a break, showing them the advertisements they were hoping to see had they correctly spelled their query. (If you missed the news, as many as 7% of all queries are misspelled, although it is unclear how many of these misspells were actually caused by smartphone autocorrecting.) Whereas advertisers had previously been given the option to opt-out of “close variant” queries, they will no longer be able to do so using exact or phrase matching. Once again, this is designed to fairly value each query to the end advertiser.
Search marketers will only face more organizational demands for accountability, so Google’s latest moves are positive. It will be worth watching to see how this all plays out, especially in the realm of tracking calls and other specific actions that can be directly attributed to consumer searches.