Google Formally Introduces “Clickable Phone Numbers” In Mobile Search Ads

Today Google is formally launching functionality that enables a “clickable local phone number” to appear in mobile ads.  In other words a phone number appears as part of the ad copy and consumer-users can simply tap the number to initiate a call (see image below). It’s a call for the price of a click on mobile handsets.

Not available on PC AdWords campaigns, it’s only available on “high-end” mobile handsets with full HTML browsers. We wrote about this initially when an email went out to AdWords advertisers notifying them that Google was introducing click to call in mobile ads.

Earlier today I was able to speak at some length with Paul Feng, Google’s Group Product Manager for Mobile Ads. He explained that the functionality is easily activated; it’s really part of AdWords local extensions. Here’s what you need to do to turn it on (per Google):

  1. Set up location extensions and add your business phone number. Customers will be able to click to call your business location nearest to them (as determined by the phone’s location awareness technologies, GPS, triangulation).
  2. Check that you’ve chosen to show your ads on iPhones and other mobile devices with full Internet browsers in your campaign settings.

Here’s how the numbers will appear in search ads:

Picture 311

Image courtesy of Google

Feng told me that just the presence of a local phone number improved the performance of ads in some of the early trials they observed. He said that some advertisers in Google’s tests had seen improved CTRs of up to 30% vs. comparable ads on the PC. My thesis, which I discussed with Feng, is that the local number provides additional “credibility” or “confidence” and the user is more inclined to click or call. The phone number also visually stands out in the way that the location line does on traditional PC ads:

Picture 312

Calls are tracked and will show up in Google reporting. Advertisers using local extensions but who don’t want to receive calls from mobile phone users can opt-out. A restaurant might rather drive people, for example, to a mobile landing page with OpenTable reservations than receive a phone call. Other types of advertisers would probably much rather have a call (a “warm lead”) than a CTR to a landing page that might or might not close.

I spoke to Feng about how this is effectively a “pay per call program at click prices,” in other words a bargain. He said that the auction and advertisers will set prices here.

Advertisers can create mobile-only campaigns with mobile-specific ad copy by opting out of Google’s PC distribution. Over time advertisers could start to more aggressively bid for calls using mobile only campaigns and raise the price of mobile keywords intended to generate phone calls. We’ll see if something like that happens.

I asked him if many advertisers were doing mobile only (or separate mobile-centric) ads. He told me that Google was seeing this increasingly. He spoke about a parallel, mobile-specific AdWords campaign for Vegas.com (a case study Google released) in which the site saw CTRs “as high as 20% for their iPhone Android [sic] search ad campaigns.”

I forgot to ask about toll-free numbers (guessing they won’t work here). But I did ask about call tracking numbers, which Feng said could be used. Google won’t be providing them however.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Google: Mobile | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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