In running a number of small and very large click-to-call campaigns with Google, there’s one this that we really don’t like. It’s also something that Google doesn’t make clear.

google-click-to-callWhat is click to call?

Google offers a click to call product as part of the AdWords interface. In short, when your ads appear in Google search results, you have the option of displaying a phone number on mobile devices where the user can bypass your website completely and can instead place a call to your business (available only on mobile devices). When this first arrived, it sounded like the greatest thing for businesses who need to drive calls. After all, if the end goal is to drive a call, why not bypass the website completely whenever possible.

However, we’ve come across one small caveat which makes this style of advertising a bit less appealing.

Google click to call ads charge by the click, not the call!

That’s right. As the mobile experience goes, users much first click your phone number and are then promoted to make a call. Google does not charge for the actual call, they instead charge for the click. No big deal right? In some vertical the ratio of clicks to calls is very low which makes this an expensive proposition.

AdWords Click to Call Example

Let’s assume you sell life insurance locally and want to drive calls. In your campaigns, you pay an average CPC (cost per click) of $5.00 for click-click-to-calls and probably about $2.50 for regular website clicks. Since you realize that only a small portion of website visitors actually place calls or fill out a form, you decide to bypass the website completely and drive calls through your ads.

Scenario 1 – $5 per call

If 100% of users who click on your click-to-call ads end up actually calling (this never happens) your cost per call is $5.00.

Scenario 2 – $10 per call

If 20% of users who click end up actually calling (more likely in that industry) your cost per call is $25.00.

In other words, your cost per lead increases 5x just because only a small number of ad clickers end up become ad callers. We think it’s important to understand this as it adds up quickly and can easily make a profitable campaign unprofitable.

What seems a little shocking is that such a high portion of click to call ‘clicks’ end up making calls (this varies greatly based on industry and a number of other factors). Since click-to-calls tend to be more expensive than website clicks, we caution advertisers to consider the end cost of a call vs. just driving website traffic which can be re-targeted to, captured as a lead in other ways, etc.

The Takeaway: Understand exactly what you’re paying for. At the end of the day, cost per lead is often the best metric to follow and utilizing click-to-call ad extensions may not work in many cases.