Practical Ecommerce

Google AdWords Launches Call-only Campaigns

A major update to Google AdWords occurred in 2013 with the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns. It was designed to streamline campaign management across multiple devices. But, in the process, it eliminated the ability to run mobile-only campaigns.  And, it grouped tablets with desktops — I’m still not a fan. While I don’t anticipate tablets getting separated anytime soon, AdWords did backpedal recently with “call-only” campaigns.

What Are Call-only Campaigns?

You can now create a campaign that exclusively targets mobile devices — i.e., smartphones — where the call-to-action or conversion event is a phone call. Here is what it looks like in the interface if you’re creating a new campaign.

Google's new "call-only" campaigns targets mobile devices.

Google’s new “call-only” campaigns targets mobile devices. Image: Google.

Just select “Search network only” under the Type field and choose the “Call-only” radio button. The campaign behaves similarly to current search campaigns, except for the focus on mobile and the ads are a little different.

A screenshot of a sample call-only ad is below. The title is replaced with a phone number. It’s a step backwards in that advertisers don’t keep the keyword-rich title, but I’ll take it to get some mobile-focused power back. Notice that the “Call” button remains, just like ads with call extensions.

In the new call-only ads, the title is replaced with a phone number.

In the new call-only ads, the title is replaced with a phone number. Image: Google.

Who Is This For?

There are many advertisers that seek a phone call for the desired conversion action. These are mainly service-based businesses — a plumber, a pest control company, a lawyer, a hair stylist — where setting appointments is the primary goal.

Call-only campaigns is a boon to lead-generation companies that use call centers. Since Enhanced Campaigns launched, many lead-generation firms have been bidding low on desktop, using a +300% bid modifier for mobile, and then setting their call extension as mobile only and phone number only, so a click on a mobile device never went to the site, it just went to a call. The new call-only option makes life a lot easier.

And let’s not forget about ecommerce merchants that take orders over the phone. Whereas your Google Shopping campaigns push consumers to the site and then they have to call, now they can call directly from your ad and reduce the number of steps.

As an example, I’ll use my favorite pair of sunglasses, Kaenon Hard Kore. My major problem with sunglasses in the past has been that they pinch my head. If I search “kaenon hard kore sunglasses” on my phone, I see this set of results.

Kaenon, the sunglasses company, could benefit from using call-only campaigns, in the author's experience as a consumer.

Kaenon, the sunglasses company, could benefit from using call-only campaigns, in the author’s experience as a consumer.

Both Shopping and text ads are there. It is good coverage by Kaenon. I click the text ad and where I go? The home page — unfortunately. Kaenon knows I was looking for the Hard Kore model and it didn’t put me on the product page.

Navigating on mobile is a pain, so I call the phone number on the home page and ask the sales rep how the Hard Kore fits for large faces. The rep lets me know it fits “medium to full faces” and that saves me several minutes of trying to search through Kaenon’s mobile website.

If Kaenon recognized the difficulty of shopping its mobile site, it could use a call-only campaign to allow me to call the sales rep directly from the ad and even have that rep put my order into the system while I’m on the line.

Potential Pitfalls

Like many new AdWords features, this one comes with a cautionary note — three, actually. First, I know many advertisers that are now utilizing call-only campaigns and they’re seeing extremely long wait times for the campaigns to clear Google’s editorial approval. One advertiser told me that his call-only campaign was “Under review” for the last two days.

Second, Google will need to “verify” your number. During the ad creation process you provide a verification URL that has to display the phone number that you’re submitting with your ad. That’s easy if you have one phone number and it’s on every page of your site. But if you’re using a call tracking solution with multiple numbers — likely a JavaScript snippet to show the correct tracking number for the source of the visitor — this could get tricky. The Google bot will see one number, but you want a different number to be shown. I’m unaware of a solid workaround for this.

Third, call extensions will be eliminated by Google in June of this year. Google has sent emails to accounts that will be affected. If you have been using call extensions to serve mobile searchers, you’ll have to switch to call-only campaigns.

Even though Google is having some issues with call-only campaigns, it appears committed to pushing advertisers into using them.

Robert Brady

Robert Brady

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  1. Alexandra Shanahan March 5, 2015 Reply

    Hi Robert,

    You mention that call extensions will be eliminated in June. I haven’t received an email about this from Google in any of my accounts.

    Do you have any other information to support this? Or will it not be applicable to all advertisers?



  2. Robert Brady March 5, 2015 Reply


    Here is the full text of the email I received about this:

    Dear AdWords Advertiser,

    Last week we announced call-only campaigns, a new mobile-specific campaign type that focuses on driving calls to your business, rather than clicks to your website.

    Your AdWords account (customer ID: ​XXX​-​XXX​-XXXX​) contains at least one call-only ad using the “Just the phone number” call extensions setting. Starting in June 2015, this setting will no longer be available, so these ads will show links to both your website and your phone number.

    Next steps
    To ensure your ads continue to show only your phone number, you’ll need to create new call-only campaigns and disable your current call-only extensions ads. For more information please visit this upgrade guide in the AdWords Help Center.

    If you have any questions about this change, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.


    The Google AdWords Team

  3. Elod March 9, 2015 Reply

    ‘Ey Robert,

    Liked the article. I have a question for you.
    We had a massive call focused campaign. We were out of our skin when seen the CO campaign option. Instantly switched a ton of campaigns. ~daily spending on calls $200-$500 so the unwanted site clicks generating a lot of unwanted attention.

    Now the amount of calls are dropped in these campaigns. The CALL ONLY campaign generates 95% of the impresions on PCs and normal clicks.

    Do you have any idea how is this?


  4. Chris March 16, 2015 Reply

    Hi Robert, great article. I’m currently testing the ‘Call-only’ campaigns for a client I have. They are using a call tracking dynamic number onsite. So your second point was a problem for me, since the numbers technically don’t match. However the Verify URL is optional, so leaving it blank shouldn’t cause any issues. (As it’s not caused a problem for me or my clients ads)

  5. levani March 16, 2015 Reply


    have you tried setting your bid amount low and increasing the mobile bid amount by 300%?

    That should ensure you’re getting mostly mobile traffic.

  6. Robert Brugman April 14, 2015 Reply

    Hi all, is there anyone that has tested the call only and the call extension with the landing page?

    I am very interested in the resulst, because i have a customer that wants only phone calls as leads. I am going to test this now, but if there is already a lot of data saying the one will perform better than the other, then i would really love to know that.

  7. siddharth sharma July 11, 2015 Reply

    As per google mail i i have moved into call only campgin but its not giving result ,even now call volume is also reduce and cost also increased
    i am unable to understand wot to do now
    i am seeking some help if anyone can guide me
    plz share your view via email if possible