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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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