The search company's ads break the sound barrier.
Google is testing a pay-per-call feature in ads appearing on its search engine results pages.
Some searchers have begun to see a phone icon next to the company's sponsored listings. By clicking on the icon, they can enter a phone number and click a "Connect for Free" button to be linked up to the other party.
Google's system first calls the search user, then dials the merchant and makes the connection.
The company details the offering in a FAQ item on its site. In its description, Google tries to head off privacy concerns, saying it will store a person's phone number and call information for less than four months.
"We won't share your telephone number with anyone, including the advertiser," according to the FAQ. "When you're connected with the advertiser, your number is blocked so the advertiser can't see it. In addition, we'll delete the number from our servers after a short period of time."
It's not clear whether advertisers in the test are paying for the service, whether it's in the U.S. only, or what the bidding/pricing structure for leads it generates will eventually be.
Reached for comment, Google confirmed it is conducting "limited tests" of a pay-per-call model, but declined to give more information.
Blogger and tech consultant Greg Yardley was among the first to spot the feature, and he's posted some screen captures on his blog. Tests appeared on search results for the query "refinance," a keyword likely to attract advertisers that would highly prize phone leads.
Presuming it receives a wide roll-out, the Google service will be a formidable competitor to existing providers of pay-per-call technology, including Ingenio, eStara, VoiceStar and Jambo.
Pay-per-call is widely thought to be a powerful local marketing channel in the making. A JupiterResearch study found almost half of small businesses are receptive to pay-per-call online advertising. Kelsey Group, meanwhile, predicted the pay-per-call market will grow to between $1.4 and $4 billion by 2009.
On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!
Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
Hong Kong, May 5-6, 2015
Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.
Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.
May 6, 2015
12:00pm ET/9:00am PT