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How to Use Google AdWords’s Call-Only Campaigns to Your Advantage


On Feb 20th, Google AdWords came out with call-only campaigns, a new mechanism for businesses to target smartphone–searching users. This new campaign type encourages users to call businesses directly, bypassing the process of having to visit brand websites to find contact info — yet another small step in streamlining the online path to purchase.

Although Google has done something like this before, via call extensions, this new campaign type shows up on mobile devices only, making it easier to manage bids and budget for mobile. Also, with this new campaign type, users do not even get the option of clicking to your website. It’s click to call only!

AdWords users have reported some bugs with this campaign type thus far, such as in the example below, in which Google is saying that this account’s ads are not showing, when they really are, but only on mobile devices.


Regardless, we see a lot of potential for using these ads to target mobile users.

Are these Campaigns Right for My Brand?

If you value call generation more than online form-based lead generation, running these call-only campaigns are a great option — service-based industries such as financial services or plumbers might, for example, really benefit here.

Boost Bang for Your Marketing Buck

We hear this question from our clients time and time again: How can I generate more quality leads with my marketing spend? Boost visibility! Running a call-only campaign, especially in conjunction with a call-tracking provider such as Dialog Tech or a similar provider, is a great strategy for generating more quality leads because it gives you new eyes on variables such as,

  • Length of call-only campaign-generated phone calls
  • Whether the phone call was received or missed
  • Visibility into which keywords/ad copy options generated the most phone calls
Call-Only campaign example data set

Example data set from a typical call-only campaign.

This visibility alone can quickly inform brands about how their copy is doing, how their keywords are doing, and clarify where to optimize further. Suddenly you can make the changes you need to make quickly, really scale your phone call volume, and understand where the quality calls are coming from — boosting quality and quantity all with one strategy.

PRO TIP: It’s important to double check the data that Google provides with your own internal data. Sometimes the data you see internally and the data that Google provides is not apples to apples.

To further illustrate how running a call-only campaign could be used to a marketer’s benefit, let’s walk through a fictional case study. Let’s say that after examining their data, ABC Insurance saw that phone calls coming from their competitor keywords on average lasted over 10 minutes. Knowing that a phone call over 10 minutes typically results in a sale, this brand could increase bids and budget on the keywords that drove those quality phone calls. In addition, they could expand upon those keyword sets and find new options that drive additional volume. Lastly, they could test different offers in their ad copy to see if certain copy options compel users to call more than others.

Best Practices

Here are a few best practices we feel are important to remember when setting up these call-only campaigns.

Encourage Calls: Change the call to action in your adcopy to encourage phone calls. Use a call to action such as Call Now or Call for a Quote.

Invest in a Dedicated Line: Get a dedicated phone number solely for your call-only campaigns. This will help you track exactly which phone calls came from the call-only campaign rather than just generally from your other marketing initiatives.

Integrate Your Data: Integrate data from your call tracking providers with AdWords or DoubleClick to get keyword conversion data.

Start Small: Start out small and scale your campaigns once you see success. It’s important to remember that with call-only campaigns, you’re being charged for the click, not the call. So if someone clicks on the ad and changes their mind about calling, the advertiser is still being charged. Therefore, it’s really important to stay on top of your number and make hitting your target a real goal.

Other Potential Hiccups and How to Avoid Them

Additionally, here are a couple potential cons to running call-only campaigns, and strategies for combating them.

Dueling Campaign Cannibalization: Since you will likely be running the same keywords on both call-only and legacy mobile campaigns, you may run into a duplicate keyword issue – causing your dueling mobile marketing campaigns to cannibalize one another.

Solution: Reduce risk of cannibalization by lowering your mobile bid adjustments on the legacy campaigns and increasing mobile bids on your call-only campaigns. This tactic will help ensure your call-only campaigns show over legacy campaign ads. However, organizing bids thus will also make running both regular ads and click to call ad at the same time impossible. Keep in mind though, under most circumstances, advertisers running click-to-call campaigns would much rather those click-to-call ads show up in the SERPs over their text ads, as they value phone calls over form fill leads.

Jumping the Funnel: Running a call-only campaign without developing a strong strategy supporting its launch may result in lots of searchers being served ads asking for calls when they just aren’t yet ready to pick up that phone and become a lead. They may still be in that early Consideration phase of their Consumer Decision Journey, still searching on their own for more information. Being hounded for a phone call in this early phase may come across as too aggressive and result in the call-only campaign ads deterring potential customers. How do you protect against this potential hurdle?

Solution: Develop appropriate targeting and adcopy strategies, ensuring this con becomes a non-issue.

Overall, Call-Only campaigns are a great way to generate phone calls without investing a lot upfront into marketing efforts. Once you see the return, these campaigns are easy to scale and grow in volume.


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