Mobile PPC – Google’s new (click to) call extension


Paul G


Here’s our number – so call us maybe?


A look into the development of the Mobile PPC Market and the potential influence of Google’s new ‘Call Extension’ features.

Whether it’s the Friday night takeaway delivery decision or a question over which hotel to book for that well-needed getaway, we all use mobiles to search. Advertisers increasingly want to take advantage of mobile ads to speak to you on the move and make your purchasing decisions easier. Therefore, the inclusion of a click-to-call ad feature has been a well adopted method for companies who want to make use of our phones for advertising purposes – after all, our phones are getting smarter and smarter every day.

So the recent announcement of new developments with call extensions raises some interesting questions. As they will introduce new detailed reporting capabilities, will further analysis of data from these campaigns support the view held by some, that mobile campaigns themselves are not as important? Will the e-commerce market place a greater emphasis on this feature?

Let’s start to answer such questions by looking at what call extensions allow an advertiser to do. In basic terms call extensions enable a potential customer to be instantly connected to your business via a phone call with the inclusion of a click-to-call phone number in a mobile ad (as below). So your potential customer searches ‘five star hotels in Paris’ and call you via click to call. Your sales team can instantly tell this person the finer points of the hotel they are interested in as well as that ‘3 nights for the price of 2’ offer the customer hadn’t considered…

Historically advertisers could see the number of calls they received, but further metrics, such as call time or missed calls were not reportable. So it was difficult for companies to know how successful these campaigns were. Google’s new changes would alleviate these issues and also introduce area code data and detailed reports on individual calls.

There is an opt-out feature on the new call extensions, but it’s hard to see many not wanting to gain a real impression of the value of these campaigns. However, there is one potential issue of conflict for existing ‘click-to-call’ users, as these new features will only be available through a Google ‘Call Forwarding Number’. So, local businesses that had previously used their own phone number in their ‘click to-call’ mobile campaigns will have to change to a call forwarding number to gain access to the new metrics. Advertisers can continue to pay when a user clicks on the headline or a phone number in the ad – but the call will no longer at their standard rate.

In what should be a highly analytical approach to analysing and optimising any PPC Campaign whether it is display, remarketing, text ads or click-to-call ads, further call metrics for detailed reporting can only be a good thing in getting the best return possible for advertising investment. In general, I feel there are plenty of opportunities to further explore within the mobile ad market. The high end phone market is making consumer decision-making both easier and more precise so click-to-call ads being available through search, Voice search, Google Mobile App, or Google Maps for Mobile should be taken advantage of. For example, using call extensions on map searches (as below) and analysing the metrics to discover how successful the campaign is, could allow local business to separate themselves from the competition.


Case studies have taken place throughout the industry. One of the UK’s leading travel companies trialed click-to-call ads over a two month period and saw a further 1000 calls come through to it’s call centre. Of course, as with any form of advertising mobile ads with call extensions won’t be as effective for every type of company, but where a phone call is a prominent way to turn the lead into a sale it should help- as demonstrated within the travel industry. In some areas of retail with impulsive one click-to-buys and possibly impatient customers not wanting to spend the time talking to a call centre, it may not be of benefit.

The challenge for those who have not yet adopted such a campaign is to understand how the ad rank system will work. Google has now made the call extension function a biddable variable in ads, where before the system was based on a standard price for a click through call. Therefore advertisers will have to adapt to balancing the usual bid system with a higher bid on call extensions to improve position. I expect some interesting approaches to this issue in the short term as advertisers weigh the importance of the call extensions in mobile ads over traditional approaches.

Advertisers will have to begin by calculating a ‘cost per phone call’. There are interesting factors influencing this CPP. These factors include the quality score and bids for other clicks and calls in the auction. Whereas in ‘cost per clicks’ where impressions could be used as a measure, ‘cost per phone call’ will use the previous auctions ‘call costs’.

Once a suitable level of data has been collected to set a max CPP, the Google forwarding number will show and optimisation can begin! However the ad rank itself will be influenced by the Max CPP and the Quality Score of the phone call (which will be affected primarily by ‘Phone through Rates’). So in summary the four measurable variants in the ad rank will be:

  • Max CPC bid
  • Max CPP bid
  • Click Quality Score
  • Phone Call Quality Score

The Max CPC still looks to be the primary factor but best practice approaches to this form of bidding will be diverse in the coming months.

As the mobile ad market is said to be worth close to £2.5 billion (having grown by 2.5 times in 2010) it’s not surprising that those new features such as call extensions have become a real industry talking point on best practice and potential future innovations. I believe that the combination of these technological advances with traditional contact centre sales and customer service centres will allow companies, by speaking directly with the consumer, to alleviate doubts in purchasing decisions and increase sales further with traditional product cross-selling. So Google’s new call extension metrics can only be deemed as a positive way to pinpoint an advertiser’s path to success on the mobile market.