Leveraging Call-Only Ads to Improve Mobile Conversion Rates

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Leveraging Call-Only Ads to Improve Mobile Conversion Rates

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Post by Michelle Merklin, Media Manager

Search marketers are constantly on the lookout for ways to drive stronger conversion rates for their SEM campaigns, and call-only ads can be an effective tactic to do that. Call-only ads are displayed exclusively on mobile devices and are meant to encourage searchers to call a business rather than visit its website. Unlike standard or expanded text ads that have headlines linking to a website’s landing page, when a user clicks a call-only ad, that user’s mobile device will place a call directly to that business.

Text Ads vs. Call-Only Ads

While text ads generally give users multiple options (i.e. click on headline, sitelink, location extension, call extension, etc.), call-only ads are just as they sound: users who interact with an ad can only call the business.

Most search marketers are used to CPC or CPM bidding models. However, with call-only ads, marketers tell engines how much they are willing to pay for each phone call rather than for each click or set of impressions. And unlike text ads that show a headline and two description lines, a call-only ad will display the business’ phone number and name at the top of the ad in place of the headline.

Another common misunderstanding is the difference between call extensions and call-only ads. Extensions provide supplemental information that appears within the text ad. When shown with text ads, call extensions display a clickable button that dials the business’ phone number, serving as an additional call to action. Separately, call-only ads are ad types, not ad extensions, and will always appear with the business’ clickable phone number.

Benefits and Limitations of Call-Only Ads

In most cases, users who choose to interact with call-only ads are further into the purchase funnel than users who prefer to first see a website for more details about products/services prior to converting. This can be both a benefit and a limitation; a benefit in the sense that call-only conversion rates are typically higher than text ad conversion rates, and a limitation in that this shrinks the pool of potential users who are likely to interact with your ad in the first place.

Call-only ads can be a great resource for businesses that do not have strong mobile websites. Rather than driving clicks to an un-optimized mobile site where the user is less likely to convert, these ads will completely bypass the website, connecting online leads directly with a sales team.

Some of the more significant drawbacks of call-only ads include:

  • Fewer characters and less copy: Since ad headlines are replaced by a business’ name and phone number, advertisers must get extra creative within the description line and display URL of call-only ads.
  • Less real estate on the SERP: Call-only ads generally take up less physical space in search results than text ads. Since the presence of extensions tends to boost overall ad performance, the fact that extensions do not typically display with call-only ads naturally results in lower CTRs and smaller ads on the SERP

Best Practices for Call-Only Ads

Since call-only ads are different in look and intention than text ads, marketers should approach them differently. A few things to consider when creating call-only ads:

  • Strong description lines: Without a headline to help sell products/services, the description lines in the ad become even more important. Make sure this copy gets across as much relevant information as possible in the limited space available.
  • Action/conversion-oriented keywords: Mobile users who are searching for phrases with action-related words (like “buy”, “purchase” or “call”) are more likely ready to make a phone call than those who are in an earlier research phase. Adding these conversion-oriented keywords to ad groups will help put call-only ads in front of a well-qualified audience.
  • Call tracking: Similar to call extensions, Google provides reporting metrics for call-only ads, such as call duration and zip code of the caller. These basic metrics can be useful in measuring conversions for business’ that have one main phone number. For businesses with multiple phone numbers, we recommend including advanced call tracking in ads, allowing marketers to see the performance for each of the different numbers associated with a business.

Call-only ads work best for businesses that convert many of their customers over the phone. For example, our team implemented a call-only ad campaign for an insurance provider, using unique tracking for each individual insurance agency’s phone number. Throughout the campaign, the client noticed that the call-only ads drove stronger conversion metrics than text ads.

To learn more about implementing call-only ads, contact Performics today.


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