the call to action

With the influx of call extensions in AdWords, Google no longer allows advertisers to put phone numbers within their ad text…which makes sense since a user dialing the phone number without clicking the ad deprives Google of ad revenue.

Google wants people to use the “click to call” feature in mobile search (which costs the advertiser money) or dial the number directly from the desktop environment (which is free to the advertiser but still allows Google to collect analytical data).

Unfortunately, this price of “free” calls in desktop is an unsatisfactory marketing experience for the advertiser where the phone number is just sort of “hanging out there” in the marketing equivalent of a limp-wristed handshake.

ad free to call

In actuality, a surprisingly high number of people call these numbers that are only shown in desktop ads…even if a much more prominent phone number is available on the landing page. My assumption is that there is a pretty significant percentage of people who call the phone number without even going to the landing page, and savvy advertisers can use this information to their advantage.

Now, I have a client whose method of conversion is almost exclusively phone calls, and without sharing the client’s business vertical, it’s perfectly logical to assume that many of the calls they get from people not looking at the site will be both qualified and relevant. So, what can we do to just the ad text to increase the likelihood of generating a call without a click?

Well, you can leverage the forced placement of the phone number and force your own call to action:

call to action in ad

Notice how you can phrase the headline in such a way that allows the Google phone number to blend seamlessly into the ad.

Now, if you have any notions on getting a high CTR on this ad, get rid of them. This ad only works as a vehicle for getting people to call the Google number, and whether this is the best “call” for you depends on the overall dynamics of your campaign effort.

To judge how this ad performs, you’ll have to be able to count the calls that get routed through the Google phone number and combine them with the calls you get from the landing page. I’ve worked with Mongoose Metrics for call tracking, and if you are smart with your Mongoose tagging strategy, you can test quite accurately whether the increase in Google phone calls from doing this will overcome any possible decrease in calls generated from your landing page.

Did I mention that the Google calls were free to the advertiser from Desktop?

car to action


  1. Bradley July 30th, 2013

    Todd, how did you come up with choosing an image of structured settlement to show call extensions?

  2. Roy Bielewicz August 1st, 2013

    Todd, valuable post and thanks for mentioning Mongoose Metrics. Very interesting approach, and one we can see being valuable from both a offline conversion and budgeting perspective. Knowing how and when leads convert is the first step to optimizing your campaigns.

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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.