Why Google’s New Call-Only Ads Are Great For Local Businesses

Just recently Google announced a new option in AdWords that allows advertisers to run mobile ad campaigns only. If you aren’t already familiar with these campaigns, they are simply ads which allow advertisers to reach their target customers by displaying their phone number, call button and a brief business description.

The ads are specifically meant for advertisers who value a phone call more than a click and they are optimized for display on mobile devices capable of making phone calls. When potential website visitors search for businesses on Google, the only CTA (Call-to-action) is a phone number which prompts searchers to confirm the call. With call-only ads, searchers can’t reach an advertiser’s website, the only option for them is to give your business a ring.

These new ads have caused a lot of excitement among advertisers who were previously using Pay-Per-Click ads because they reduce instances of unwanted/accidental clicks or website visits which don’t convert, but still add to the overall cost of your campaign. Google’s new call-only ads were inspired by the fact that approximately 70% of all mobile searchers call businesses directly from search results, and indicates the massive potential that these ads have in reaching potential customers directly from the search engine.

How Do Call-Only Ads Work?

To understand in-depth how local businesses stand to gain from this new campaign option, it’s important to understand how they work. Before call-only ads, Google ads were set up to target mobile users only. After AdWords released enhanced campaigns, ad campaign structures changed and users were bundled up together. Advertisers could only modify
bids percentage wise when targeting mobile users.

This structure was unfavorable to most advertisers for several reasons, most notably that advertisers could not control the time of the day their mobile ads ran and couldn’t show only mobile ads. This presented a major problem for advertisers who wanted to answer phone calls during certain hours (usually daytime). Phone numbers were still being shown via call extensions, but mobile specific performance levers were largely gone.

Fortunately, call-only ad campaigns have solved this problem. The ads work using regular ad formats (including Ad Group and keyword settings) but with one major advantage i.e. the ads are shown to mobile users only and they give searchers one option only which is calling directly from their mobile phone. The ads allow advertisers to bid on calls as opposed to clicks.

The ads are slightly different than vanity numbers, phone number verification methods, and voicemail ability. The setup however is the same i.e. you go to Google AdWords and select new campaign. Under the search network only campaign type, there is a call-only option. The ad setup options have an additional field that allows you to set the time when your business phone is open. Also, the ads have a business name field instead of a headline in the first field.

Other fields include the phone number, URL and a descriptive field that allows two lines of text. The descriptive field is a very important field in call-only ads since it focuses on pushing searchers to call your business. Put in some serious thought before filling in this field. It is also important to note that you don’t have to show your phone number if you don’t want to.

Google has a forwarding number option available. The main benefit is a call via the number counts as a conversion. You can even set the conversion tracking as say, a conversion is completed once a call has been made that lasted more than 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc. Like any other Google search campaign, call-only ads also have a field for keywords. Once all the ad fields are entered, you can add all of your keywords that you wish to target and then submit your ad for approval.

After approval (which can take a few hours to a few days), your ad will go live. To determine if this is right for you, below are 5 reasons why local businesses should consider using call-only campaigns.

1. Effective Low-Cost Advertising

Local businesses have tight budgets and high demands on their resources so advertising is not the highest priority. Call-only ads give businesses an opportunity to enjoy effective, highly targeted ads minus the high cost of ads usually associated with accidental clicks on the typical PPC Adwords platform.

Call-only ads are specifically designed to offer one call-to-action which is making a call to a business. Cost being a major issue for local businesses, call-only ads stand to lower the advertising costs while generating more qualified results since almost half of all searches today are via mobile devices.

2. Mobile Website Not Required

Call-only ads also remove the burden of having to create a mobile friendly site (even though we highly recommend that you have one) to reach mobile customers effectively. It takes a considerable amount of money and effort for businesses to get set up with a mobile friendly site. It’s important to note that mobile friendly sites don’t guarantee results i.e. the conversion rates don’t usually match the impressions and clicks.

3. People Want To Speak With People

Although mobile usage rates have increased across the board (even among seniors), most traditional customers (who are the backbone of local businesses) prefer doing business over the phone for many different reasons. Call-ads will cater for this need perfectly allowing local businesses to fulfill the needs of traditional customers better. Some people just prefer to call in and speak with someone about your products or services.

4. Better Metrics

When prospects make phone calls to local businesses, the level of engagement increases drastically compared to instances when prospects send emails or submit messages via contact forms. This kind of engagement allows businesses to study and enhance important metrics such as call length, # of calls, call location, time of call etc. which help in tracking performance as well as making the necessary optimizations. Just make sure you are using some sort of call tracking software to get the call analytics that you need!

5. Higher Conversion Rates

Typically, a call will have a significantly higher conversion rate over a website click. It’s a much higher intent conversion action than just clicking an ad and being taken to a website. These people are calling in and wanting to speak with someone about your products or services.


It should be clear now what call-only ads are, how they work, and what local businesses stand to gain from them. If phone calls are more important to your business than clicks, these ads will help your business reach new heights by increasing leads and your ROI (Return on Investment) by utilizing Google AdWords. Considering more people search on Google using mobile devices and one-on-one human interactions are still crucial in business, the potential of call-only ads can’t be overemphasized.

It is however important to take time to learn how to set up your call ads correctly and to continually keep them optimized to keep the hot prospects pouring in.

Robert Andolina is a PPC and digital marketing nerd, entrepreneur, avid paid search blogger and Co-Founder of Clicks Geek. Clicks Geek is a paid search agency that focuses on PPC management services and AdWords consulting with B2B, B2C and white label clients.