Search Engine Journal alerted us to an apparently renewed test of click-to-call at Google. Google had been testing click to call in 2005 and 2006 with an eye toward implementing pay-per-phone call. Rather than show local or 800 tracking numbers, Google was using a field that remembered users’ telephone numbers (once entered) and connected calls. It also had been using the functionality on Google Maps. However, in roughly June or July of last year Google stopped accepting click-to-call advertisers and the ads stopped showing up.
Simultaneously, click-to-call or call completion was terminated on Google Maps. Here’s what Google officially said at the time:
“Google is always working to improve the local search experience. We are constantly testing new features and iterating based on feedback from our users. Click-to-call was a valuable experiment that enabled us to learn more about the preferences of our users. While we are no longer providing this service, we expect to incorporate our findings into future developments for Google Maps.”
Microsoft Live Local had a similar program, “Call for Free,” which it appears to have discontinued.
The central issue with click-to-call is consumer adoption and usage. While there’s some dispute over this, the majority of anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers don’t use these services. However, providing visible tracking phone numbers is more expensive than the VoIP-supported click-to-call boxes Google was using. Yet calls are more compelling to many advertisers (local and national) than clicks. Think: hotels or any local business that deals in appointments. That persistent recognition may be partly motivating the renewed test.
Given the history and lack of consumer adoption, it’s very interesting that Google has apparently resumed this program, although I was unable to find any such ads in several attempts to find one. It should be noted that click-to-call is not the same as PPCall, but they’re often confused. The former is a method of delivering or connecting phone calls, while the latter is a billing or advertising system that may be supported by click-to-call but also conventional tracking phone numbers.
Here’s a video showing the apparently renewed test on Google:
Postscript: Superpages says it is still using click to call.