Adwords call extentions: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

29 September 2013

Topics: Digital News & Insights, SEM & SEO

Example of Adwords call extension on computer

Example of an Adwords call extension on a computer

Adwords call extension allows advertisers to include a phone number within their ads on Google as shown here. But, the use of Adwords call extensions can have an undesired effect on your account performance in countries without Google call forwarding.

Google call forwarding is a feature of Adwords that allows Google to track calls driven by Adwords call extensions. It works by assigning and displaying a unique Google call forwarding phone number in place of the call extension number entered by the advertiser. Calls to the Google call forwarding numbers are then recorded by Google and redirected to the call extension number. This approach allows Google to track and charge advertisers for calls driven by Adwords call extensions.

At present, Google call forwarding is only available in the US, UK, France and Germany.

The Good:

In countries with Google call forwarding or “call metrics” as Google sometimes refers to it, call extensions work fine and Adwords can take credit for calls driven by the call extensions even if the user does not click on the ad but calls the number from a land line.

But beware, if you are using a bid management platform these call metrics might not be pulled into your bid management platform depending on the bid management platform. Which means that your bid management platform will not take into account these phone calls when optimising your account.

The Bad:

In countries without Google call forwarding the call extension number is displayed within the ad copy as provided by the advertiser and Google has no way of tracking calls driven by the call extensions unless, the user is on a “smart phone” and clicks on the phone number to call. This might seem like Google thing since Google cannot charge you for the calls driven by the call extensions but there is a downside to this as we are about to explore.

The Ugly:

Because the click through rate (CTR) of your ads is the key metric used to calculate quality score, if many users call your call extension number rather than click on your ad then your CTR will drop and as a result your quality score. And off course a low quality score means higher cost per clicks which can be detrimental to your account’s performance. In many cases this impact on your account’s quality score might out weigh the benefits of using call extensions in countries without Google call forwarding.

In countries with Google call forwarding on the other hand, Google can take into account the number of phone calls driven by the call extension when calculating the quality score so the impact of using call extensions on quality score is not an issue.

The Solution?

The truth is, there is no simple solution. You simply need to be aware of the potential impact of call extensions on your quality score and set up tests to find out what works best for you. I highly recommend using a unique phone number for your call extensions so you can at least track the number of phone calls driven by the call extensions and the potential impact on your quality score.

In many cases the number of phone calls driven by the call extensions is probably negligible as Google doesn’t tend to show the call extension often but in some verticals such the plumbing or towing industry, which you will expect a lot more calls, I recommend setting up a test to measure the impact of the call extension on your quality score and the overall account performance.

If you plan to run a test like this, make sure you take quality score ratings every week as Google does not provide historical quality score data. And whatever you do, make sure you DO NOT TURN OFF CALL EXTENSIONS FOR MOBILE DEVICES.

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