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7 Best Practices for Using Google's Bid-Per-Call in AdWords

  |  October 28, 2011   |  Comments

Are mobile search-initiated calls important to your business? Consider this new offering.

Bid per call or cost per phone call? Google can't seem to decide what to call its pay-per-call extension, which has just come out of beta. In a post on its Inside AdWords Blog, Google generally refers to the extension as bid-per-call. Yet in the AdWords Help section Google uses the abbreviation CPP (cost-per-phone call) where "P" stands for "phone call" as well as "bid per call." Huh?

Regardless of the product's name, you should take a close look at it. Plus, if mobile search-initiated calls are important to you, then you may already be using a sister product, click to call, where a phone number shows up in your ad when a search originates in a mobile device and the user can click to call.

The ability to empower searchers with a quick and easy way to reach out to advertisers and "connect instantly" will be a powerful addition to the AdWords toolset for both national and local advertisers in B2B and B2C categories.


Let's explore some best practices that come to mind right out of the gate. (Additional best practices will evolve as the platform and the users have an opportunity to experiment.)

  1. Do the math. Humans are expensive. Do you really want phone calls or is your website doing a great job at educating, influencing, and converting customers at a good ROI? On the flipside, if you have the right margin and transaction value on an order and/or the conversion rate of tele-sales reps is higher (or they convert at a higher average value), then you may have a strong preference for phone calls.
  2. Consider day-parting. Unless you have a 24-hour phone team or want people to leave messages (which often they are not willing to do), your best bet is to use day-parting along with geo-targeting. National advertisers may choose to geo-segment for a variety of reasons already. This adds one more layer of analysis. National marketers may need to run two shifts (staggered shifts or one shift with overtime) to capture the demand at peak periods.
  3. Train your telephone reps. Ensure your reps can engage in conversations based on the specific high volume search queries that may be driving calls. Sales conversations from a real-time, search-initiated call may need to differ from the sales conversations resulting from calls from website visitors or other forms of marketing.
  4. Be prepared. Have enough inbound phone lines and seats to provide a good user experience even during peak call volumes. Lunchtime is often a high load period of the day and that may obviously conflict with your own employee lunch plans. Plan accordingly.
  5. Set up separate phone lines. Are search callers so different that you would want designated staff or perhaps just want to know when a caller is coming in from a search query? If so, add a separate line or use caller ID in an appropriate way. (It's not clear if the Google number assigned to your account will have a setting where that number can be chosen as the caller ID, overriding the actual caller and eliminating the need for a separate phone line if inbound calls must be identified as search-initiated.)
  6. Consider call-focused specials and promotions. Should your ad highlight the call action (within editorial guidelines of course).
  7. Consider human behavior. It's highly likely that some percentage of searchers prefer to talk to a company representative immediately. By providing immediate access to the advertiser via phone, Google not only makes more money, it provides a better user experience for that portion of searchers with a phone call preference. As usual, Google manages to make a change to its platform that simultaneously increases its yield on all the searches and keeps the searcher happy.

As an advertiser, you'll have to evaluate the impact of running call-based ad extensions. However, one thing is clear. If a lot of searchers prefer the combination of calling and clicking, the quality score of the ad on a whole will go up. That means advertisers with an ad that resonates with both clickers and callers will be able to afford top positions for a lower combined cost per action than their competitors. Perhaps you'll be the lucky advertiser with the high overall quality score.

The launch of bid-per-call will start in the U.S. and U.K. and could show up as soon as the next couple of weeks. Keep your eyes open for further announcements from Google. If you are a larger spending advertiser, feel free to reach out to Google directly or through your agency.



Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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