Google’s Ad Rank to Consider Phone Calls, Not Just Clicks

Bid-per-call coming to AdWords

Google AdWords is going beyond the click. Soon, the company’s key advertising product won’t just let advertisers bid for phone calls; it will factor those calls into Ad Rank calculations.

“It’s a giant step forward for AdWords,” said Surojit Chatterjee, senior product manager for Google.

For the past year, Google has been refining click-to-call features that help advertisers quantify the offline response they get to online search ads. For example, AdWords call metrics, which launched in beta last November and opened up to all advertisers in the U.S. and Canada in July, assigns a unique phone number to businesses which is included in the ads, so that companies can track call volume and results. Google said it’s already connected more than 12 million calls (with an average length of six minutes) for thousands of businesses.

Over the next few weeks in the U.S. and the U.K., Google said it will introduce a bid-per-call option that lets businesses bid for phone calls (in addition to clicks) when they create Google search ads for computers and tablets. On mobile devices, users can call a business directly by clicking on an ad, so it’s priced as a cost-per-click.

The bid itself and the call volume will factor into an advertiser’s Ad Rank and, therefore, influence the position of the online ads, Chatterjee said.

“Many businesses tell us that they value phone calls very highly and treat calls as leads,” he said, adding that some advertisers rely on phone calls more than anything else for getting leads. “If an advertiser gets lots of calls and they bid for those calls, those calls will improve their rank and their quality score, which is very, very unique.”

While Chatterjee expects the new feature to be appealing to a wide range of advertisers, he said that advertisers with long and complex business cycles, such as insurance companies, cable TV providers, local businesses, and travel-related firms, might be particularly interested in maximizing phone call results.

“What we have done here, and that’s why it’s so significant, is tie [an] offline action to AdWords advertising, to online advertising on search,” Chatterjee said. “We have given advertisers an ability to express the value of an action and then take that value into account for their ad’s quality.”