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Google Click-To-Call: Keeping It Simple

Google’s click-to-call offering has received a lot of attention over the past few months, and for good reason. There is great value in offering advertisers an option to track and monetize mobile Internet-driven phone leads. The model allows mobile consumers searching Google to click on the phone number in an ad to auto-dial the advertiser. In turn, the advertiser is charged the price of an AdWords click.

Adding to the interest, in March, Google announced an option for national advertisers to take advantage of click-to-call through phone extensions regardless of the mobile user’s location—a physical address within the AdWords listing is no longer required. This is a huge opportunity for marketers, especially national advertisers that are experimenting with mobile advertising and remain focused on transparent, performance-based solutions.

Borrell Associates says location-based mobile spending will top $4 billion in 2015, and Google reports that already more than one-third of mobile searches have local intent. Our internal data tells a similar story with more than one-third of all calls to local search ads being made from mobile phones. With Google click-to-call, national advertisers can tap into those mobile-browsing consumers and direct mobile calls to call centers and field offices.

Validating the offline-online and mobile connection

While search monetization for Google has always been about clicks and measuring online activity, the click-to-call move validates the complementary relationship between online search and offline consumer purchasing behavior. Research from comScore and TMP Directional Marketing shows that more than 83 percent of consumers search online and then contact a business offline, often in the form of a phone call, proving that online drives offline, and clicks and calls go hand in hand. Add mobile to this equation and Google recognizes a revenue opportunity in tracking the connection between mobile searching and the resulting calls. With click-to-call, Google can more effectively prove mobile advertising value.

The nuances of click-to-call and pay-per-call

While Google’s click-to-call offering could be confused with pay per call, Google’s offering is still click-based. Click-to-call doesn’t automatically translate to pay-per-call. With Google’s model, calls are tracked and charged as clicks. It is a complementary model on the mobile device but advertisers will still pay per click. In fact, Google is leaving money on the table with this approach as publishers, agencies and online providers usually price calls separately and higher than clicks. However, the move reinforces the need to track consumer online-offline searching and buying patterns.

So why has Google adopted click-based pricing for calls, when industry experience demonstrates calls can be monetized at higher levels than clicks? It is most likely a way to keep the mobile model simple for advertisers that are familiar with paying for clicks while still developing a revenue stream that accounts for the mobile/offline connection. Advertisers already comfortable with Google’s pay-per-click program will find that mobile click-to-call is a natural extension.

Calls: What’s the big deal?

What is so fascinating about calls, especially for search marketers? For over a decade now, advertisers have been accustomed to purchasing online advertising in the form of clicks. Clicks demonstrate visibility and interest, but calls have a direct correlation to offline sales activity. Advertisers and businesses rely on calls to keep the doors open and the lights on; they are a highly valued consumer reaction for advertisers of any size.

A phone call means an opportunity to sell. The mobile search connection—with a phone in hand—actually levels the playing field for the online directory based publishers that compete with pure-play search engines like Google as they already have call-based performance models in place.

What is missing from the click-to-call offering is true call response data, from caller demographics to call duration to dropped calls and more. This type of marketing intelligence is key for advertisers already using call-based metrics. Another challenge that remains to be seen is what this model will do to click prices. Will national advertisers flock to the Google click-to-call model in droves and effectively out price many local advertisers? Will Google use the click pricing temporarily while it builds critical mass? Time will tell. The bottom line is Google’s move reinforces advertisers desire to track online-offline searching and consumer buying patterns across mobile, online and traditional advertising mediums.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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