You may have missed Google’s quiet and brief announcement that starting in April, AdWords ads with phone numbers in the text will be disapproved. Advertisers who want to display phone numbers will have to use the call extensions feature instead.
Google states in the announcement, “We are making this change to foster a safer, more consistent user experience across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.” As others have stated, what this change really does is allow Google to charge for mobile ad engagements as part of its transition to enhanced campaigns.
With call extensions, advertisers are charged regular click fees when users click on the “Call” button in their ads. The “Call” button is only displayed on smartphones and can be seen on Google.com search, Voice search, Google Mobile App or Google Maps for Mobile. On desktops, laptops and tablets, ads appear with a phone number that is not clickable.
Here’s a look at how call extensions are handled differently on desktop and smartphone:
There are obvious consequences here. Advertisers, particularly small businesses, will need to consider call extensions when setting their PPC budgets. In addition, in order for call extensions to show “your ad group will have to receive a minimum number of clicks … and a minimum number of calls to show a Google forwarding number”.
One subtly to note is if you have location extensions and call extensions enabled for the same ad, customers near your business will see the address of your business as listed in the location extension, and the clickable phone number as listed in the call extension. The implication seems to be that just one extension will show.
Curiously, as a tip, Google says, “Call extensions are best for you if you have a national service center, or if your business isn’t tied to a specific physical location.” We’re awaiting clarification on what these statements mean for local businesses. In the meantime, prepare to remove phone numbers from your text ads by April Fools Day.
Update: I heard back from Google about my questions regarding the Help Center wording on using call extensions and location extensions.
1. Apparently there is only a minimum click requirement to show call extensions if you are using the Google forwarding number. This sentence in the Help Center refers to Google forwarding numbers only: “Keep in mind that your ad group will have to receive a minimum number of clicks to be able to show call extensions, and a minimum number of calls to show a Google forwarding number.” Also note there is detailed reporting available for calls made to Google forwarding numbers, and you can now use a Google forwarding number for free.
2. You can use a call extension in a location extension. An example of this is in the right-hand screen shot above. So if you’re using both extensions, they can both display. (Again the Help Center is confusing on this.)
3. The tip mentioned above should be reworded to say something like, “If you don’t have bricks and mortar locations, you likely won’t want to use location extensions.”
4. One last clarification. Google always charged for click-to-call, so that has not changed. The difference here is that the company is not allowing the work-around of putting an un-clicakble phone number in ad copy.