Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, August 10, 2012

Using Call Extensions in PPC

When you think about PPC, you think about the online world:  online searches, online ads, and online websites where a conversion happens.  The offline world often doesn’t factor into the picture of PPC.

Of course, though, the offline world still exists, and business happens there on a daily basis.  Since the dawn of PPC, businesses have tried to find a way to cross the chasm between online and off.

One way to do that is by using call extensions in your PPC ads.  In a nutshell, call extensions are a Google Adwords feature that allows your phone number to appear automatically with your ad copy – without using precious space in the ad copy itself.


The cost for using call extensions depends on the device used to perform the search.  For mobile searches, call extensions appear at no extra charge, and the advertiser pays the normal CPC when the phone number is clicked to call.  On desktop and laptop computers, advertisers need to use a Google phone number, and there is a minimum charge of $1 per call.  You get a lot of cool analytics when you use the Google numbers, though – we’ll talk about that in a minute.

Wordstream has a great post covering all the basics of call extensions, so I won’t repeat all that here.  For a closer look at where call extensions might show up and what they look like, check out this post from PPC Hero.

Let’s talk about where the rubber meets the road with call extensions:  evaluating results.  As with a lot of new and shiny objects in the online world, a lot of advertisers get really excited about the fact that the feature exists, without thinking about whether the feature makes sense for their business and helps them get closer to their goals.

Obviously, if your business isn’t equipped to generate conversions over the phone, you shouldn’t use call extensions.  Even if you are equipped, it’s crucial to think about dayparting:  are you running call extensions at 2am when no one is there to answer the phone?  That’s probably not a good user experience, so daypart your campaigns accordingly.

OK, so you’ve ensured that you can convert over the phone and you’ve dayparted properly.  How do you tell if this is working or not?

Well, there are several considerations.  First off, unless you’ve purchased a system to tie phone orders into your web analytics platform, your phone conversions won’t show up there.  You’ll need another way to track them.  If you have a good phone tracking system already, and you’re using a unique phone number for PPC (which you absolutely should do), then this shouldn’t be an issue.

But not all businesses have such a fancy phone system.  While it’s a lot harder to get accurate conversion data without that, you can still tally sales manually.  This requires phone rep cooperation, but it can be done, especially if the reps are incentivized properly.

So you’ve decided to use a Google forwarding number.  What great data do you get in return?

Well, it’s pretty cool, actually.  Go to the Dimensions tab in Adwords and select “Call Details” for your view.


Then, export your report.  You’ll end up with the following fields by default:

•    Start time
•    End time
•    Status
•    Duration (seconds)
•    Caller area code
•    Phone cost
•    Call type
•    Campaign

Pretty cool, huh?  From there, you can analyze whether these calls were worthwhile, at least from a location (area code) and duration standpoint.

By converting seconds to minutes, you can chart the call length for easy analysis, like this:


So if you’re a B2B advertiser with a long sales cycle, and your goal is to generate consultative phone calls, a call duration of less than 1 minute (60 seconds in the report) is probably not good. 

There are many other analyses you can perform with this data – and it gets even more powerful when you marry it with your own call center reports.  The point is, if generating phone contacts is one of your goals, you definitely should be using call extensions.

How have you used call extensions in your campaigns?

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4 Comments:

  • Melissa,

    Great post! You share a lot of good insight and tips for using call extensions.

    I do however have a question regarding dayparting. You mention that you should make sure your campaigns are dayparted accordingly so calls aren't coming in at 2 in the morning. Are you suggesting there is a way to daypart the actual call extension or the campaign itself? As far as I know (and please correct me if I'm wrong) you can't daypart the extension, but rather just the campaign. How do you recommend dayparting call extensions most effectively?

    Thanks for the post!

    -Matt Umbro

    By Blogger Matthew Umbro, at 9:56 AM EDT  

  • Hey Matt, thanks for your question! It's a good one. I was referring to having 2 campaigns: one for business hours and one for off hours. In adCenter, you could have two ad groups instead of 2 campaigns.

    You're right, unfortunately there is no way to daypart the extension, although that would be an awesome feature request.

    So at this point, IMHO the best way to do it is with separate campaigns.

    By Blogger Melissa, at 10:11 AM EDT  

  • Great post!

    We use the call extensions for just mobile traffic and have seen some pretty strong results.

    For our clients, the best results tend to come from people who have an immediate need for a service, which makes a lot of sense. Call extensions are a nice feature that can be quite effective!

    By Blogger Neptune Moon, at 10:23 AM EDT  

  • Neptune, I totally agree. We've seen great results from mobile call extensions as well. Thanks for your comment!

    By Blogger Melissa, at 11:09 AM EDT  

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