Google AdWords Click To Call Only Feature

What Is Click To Call Only?

Click to call only can be a great tool, and couldn’t be easier to set-up. Click to call only insures that every click on your ad from a mobile device capable of making a phone call, results in a phone call being initiated by the user. This feature allows the website to be bypassed entirely, and calls to your business to be initiated directly from Google’s search results pages.

With “standard” call  extensions (Show my business phone number only on high end mobile phones) a click to call icon is always displayed (when eligible to show a call extension) whether you have selected click to call only or not. Click to call only prevents a user from clicking through to the website, when using a device capable of making a phone call. Only the call icon is click-able. You are charged for a “call” when someone clicks the click-to-call icon, and you are charged the same as you would be for a click through to the website.

Why Use Click-To-Call Only?

There is one over-riding requirement to use the click-to-call feature – Having a phone number, that you want customers to call. 🙂

If calls generate the majority of your conversions, it may be beneficial to make sure the campaigns are segmented by device, and the structure/strategy of those campaigns – including keywords and especially ad copy – is focused on optimizing for click to call calls.

When Should I Use Click-To-Call Only?

There is a distinction between click to call, and click to call only. When I decide whether to use one option or the other, I try to take the website format into account. If the site is formatted for mobile users (smart phones), and your conversion events can occur on or off the site, giving users the choice of clicking or calling seems like the right way to go. They may not yet be in the purchase stage of the buying cycle, and may only be looking for information on the site. Or, they could be looking to call the business directly, and make an immediate purchase. If your website is mobile friendly, why not give them a choice?

If your website is not mobile friendly, you may want to consider using the click-to-call only option. Users still may not intend to make a call, but if the website is not formatted for smart phones, they could immediately bounce from the site as well. At least if they call, and let the phone ring long enough for you to answer, you have some chance of engaging the customer.

Tips On Using Click-To-Call Only:

Setting up click to call, or click to call only, can be done when you set-up your call extensions, or edited at any time.

1. Enable your ad extensions tab (Gray down arrow on the right of the gray campaigns, adgroups, keywords, etc. tabs).

2. Click on the ad extensions tab, and select call extensions from the “View:” drop down menu (directly below the gray campaigns tab).

3. Click the “+ New Extension” box.

4. (If viewing the entire account) Select the campaign that you want to add a call extension to.

5. Click “+ New Extension”, select the country you are located in, and enter the phone number that you want calls to ring through to.

Now you’ve got some decisions to make. Your first options are to either select “Show my business phone number only on high end mobile phones (CPC)” or “Show a Google forwarding phone number on all eligible ads and devices”.  Either option will allow you to use click to call, but there are some differences. If you select the Google forwarding option, the number shown with your ads will not be your number, it will be a number assigned by Google. If your goal is only to enable click to call, and you only want customers to see your number, select “Show my business phone number only on high end mobile phones (CPC)”.

Now you can either select “Allow click-to-call and clicks to your website” or “Allow only clicks-to-call”.



It’s been a year now since I wrote this post on click-to-call only. Now with AdWords Enhanced Campaigns, the set up for click to call only is a little different. You can find some more tips on trying to create a call only campaign, and some potential problems you may encounter with click-to-call only here.

Learn More About Click-To-Call Only:

AdWords Help: What Are Call Extensions?

AdWords Help: How Do I Enable Click-To-Call?

  1. Hi,
    A good article but there is one mistake that unfortunately cost me a lot of time….
    Tips on using click-to-call only …
    you state “If you select the Google forwarding option, the number shown with your ads will not be your number, it will be a number assigned by Google.”
    This is not correct. For click-to-call-only …. for ads on smartphones … the google forwarding number is not used …. your business number is.
    Google just don’t tell you this.
    Do you have experience otherwise?
    Regards Mark

  2. I think the issue you are having is the minimum click threshold for showing a google forwarding number. If the adgroup the keyword term is in has not yet become eligible to show a call forwarding number, then the default (actual business number) will be shown, for mobile devices. You have to have at least 25 clicks in 30 days for a call forwarding number to be eligible. If the adgroup is not eligible, you should see ineligible in the max CPP column, and you will have no phone impressions in the phone impressions column.

    Sometimes, with a call forwarding number – call focused campaign – less may actually be more as far as the number of adgroups is concerned. Which, kind of goes against “best practices”, in that you should create more “tightly themed” adgroups. If calls are your goal, and you want the google call tracking data, you may consider consolidating some adgroups in the campaign, so that all the adgroups are eligible to show a call forwarding call extension.

  3. The issue you state is exactly correct … the minimum click threshold has not been reached to activate the Google Forwarding Number. It’s quite an important thing to know … there is little or no information offered by Google in their help … I think I found one sentence in a place most people won’t find it. The time I would have saved …!!
    So, Tom, I’m kicking off a click-to-call-only campaign, smartphone only, driving leads to a call-centre, with day parting for call centre open times. Big company … pay £10 lead … solar panels.
    What you state about adgroups aligns with my thinking exactly… but with me this has come from a lot of thinking 😉
    You see I want the same call-to-action adhered to every time. Call Now .. I don’t want people to accidentally think they are going through to the website – duff clicks will cost me. So, I’m thinking every ad creative should state something like … “Tap To Call a Solar Specialist Now” … also now the benefit element seems to have the same creative for all ads.
    My point? … I think I may be better off just having one ad group and split test ads.
    There may be different terms like solar PV, solar panels, solar photovoltaic panels … but they all seem to point toward the same ad creative.
    Am I just lacking a creative imagination here or is it that I’m trying too hard to create the tightly themed adgroup thing?
    Thanks for your wisdom Tom. That last post really helped. I came across the answer by accident but will bookmark the page? Would you like to know my findings from this project … you seem to be the most switched on “Click-To-Call-Only” guy in town 😉
    Thanks Regards Mark

  4. Hello Mark,

    Unfortunately, a lot of this call stuff is difficult to find any information on. As terrible as my blog posts are :), there there was a genuine intent to help offer something that, at the time, did not exist at all in the Google help docs. Since then the help center has changed, and these posts could all use an update.

    I would be happy to offer my thoughts, hopefully I can stay on topic enough to remain coherent.

    click-to-call-only campaign – So far it seems like a true, 100% click to call only campaign is not possible. The device targeting is better now than when call metrics rolled out, but the system is still not precise enough to filter out all the potential headline (to website) clicks. One of the big reasons could be the carrier and wi-fi device settings.

    smartphone only – If a smartphone for example is connecting to the internet through a wi-fi signal, even though the device is capable of making a click to call, a click to call extension may not be shown, because you can’t complete a phone call over a wi-fi network. If you opt out of wi-fi, in theory, impressions would only occur on the carrier network capable of making a call. the amount of headline clicks should decrease, but overall impressions and clicks could also decline, possibly to the point where you would fall below the minimum click threshold for a call forwarding extension.

    driving leads to a call-centre – The best way to get a handle on the cost per lead, and the true volume of adwords leads from AdWords generated phone calls, would be to have a dedicated AdWords number. Even with the call metrics data, that alone cannot be relied on to calculate the true cost per lead, or number of calls.

    with day parting for call centre open times – Add a limited daily time frame to the equation, and you are definitely in for a tough time trying to get this campaign off the ground. At least, trying to get it all “perfect” from the start. It’s a process, and yo are definitely on the right track.

    “I don’t want people to accidentally think they are going through to the website – duff clicks will cost me.”

    Opting out of wi-fi for smartphones would be my first suggestion to try and mitigate unwanted headline clicks.

    “I’m thinking every ad creative should state something like … “Tap To Call a Solar Specialist Now”

    Using the ad text to sort out those looking to click through to a website is also a great filter.

    “I think I may be better off just having one ad group and split test ads.”

    For many reasons, I think you are on the right track. Less may very well be more, in this case. Not only because of the minimum click threshold, but the simpler structure you have, the easier it is to analyze the details. Instead of taking the time to build a “best practices” structure, put the time into trying to crack the clcik-to-call nut. Focus on trying to achieve your specific goals in the way that works best for you, and forget about the “conventional wisdom” that seems to suggest you’re doing something wrong. 🙂

    You are on the right track, keep it up!

  5. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for that great response.
    I shall post my findings here.
    A couple of points …

    1) There is another unspoken problem with Google Forwarding Numbers. Its where people may ring the number again and again. The number will be stored in the mobile recent calls and any repeat calls to that number will cost $1 … this throws in an extra risk … and has moved me back to using the dedicated number the call center have given me.

    2) I think it may be wise to try and hit position two as opposed to one – i feel they both have the same visual real estate – and perhaps the cpc will be lower. How you do that .. I’ve yet to look at.

    3) Last point. The ad creative I have used has moved the call to action up to desc line one. Google has this annoying habit of merging lines that, when you think about it … takes you a long way from the perfect ad you had created.

    Thanks Regards Mark

  6. Hello again Mark,

    1. You raise a point here, that I honestly hadn’t thought through. Thanks for continuing the discussion, I wouldn’t have thought about this otherwise! 🙂

    With click to call, regardless of whether you are using standard or google forwarding call extensions, you are only charged the cost of a click when a user clicks to call. Whether the CPC is %.50 or %5.00. The $1.00 minimum charge only applies to manually dialed calls. So, would it make sense then that if a user recorded the call forwarding number as your companies number, then continued to call that number in follow up conversations, then in theory, you could be charged $1.00 for each manually dialed returning user phone call. If the returning calls do not generate a direct return, then the returning customer retention, customer service, lifetime customer value model analysis would have to be done to determine the true value of those calls. BUT, before you worry too much about all that complex analysis – From my experience over the last year I have noticed that there are actually fewer $1.00 charges for recieved manually dialed call metric calls, than the total number of recieved manually dialed calls. Again there is no documentation on this, but in practice, it seems as though google does have some “smart pricing” safeguards in place for manually dialed call charges, similar to the system they have in place for invalid clicks.
    The concern is certainly valid and perhaps Google is working on it right now, but of course we don’t know for sure. 🙂

    2. These are both good points about page real estate (I like that term as well), and 3. ad format.

    Call extensions aside, Google has drastically changed the ad format, and position of ads in search results for many of our clients, especially for some very specific, top of the pyramid terms. You may not be seeing the same results on your side of the pond, or for the top terms for your clients, but always remember that google is constantly testing and changing the page layout, and the ad formats. For one client in particular, for the highest revenue generating exact match term, google changed the page format from the traditional top and side of page format, to ONLY one ad per page – ONLY at the bottom of the page. This of course immediately incresed competition for the one and only first page ad, and the CPC costs tripled (after over a year of consistent performance, and have remained consistant at the new avg. CPC cost).
    In that case, if you want to show an ad on the first page, you HAVE to show an ad in the #1 position. So, keep an eye on it for your top converting / lead generating term.

    I have seen some version of this format for mobile as well. More often I will see a format where there is one ad at the top of the screen, and if you scroll down to the bottom you may see one or two additional ads. In that case, the only way to get your ad at the top of the mobile page is to still be in the #1 position. The #2 position ad may actually be the first ad on the bottom of the page. You have to really parse the avg. pos. data, and compare it in context to what you see when you preview or live search your ads. You can control your bids to attempt to show ads in a particular position (now that position preference is gone), but be very careful if you do. You never know what the unintended consequences may be.
    I believe the same applies to the ad format. It’s all up to google as to how they format the ads for each impression. No matter how hard you try to get everything perfect, there’s no guarantee.

    I still don’t know as much as I should about adwords, but a couple of things I do know are always absolutely true: Don’t assume anything, and don’t think, know. You have a lot of tools at your disposal here, primarily being the call center. It will take a lot of work and analysis to know all the answers to your concerns, but it’s certainly possible. Thinking too much about what may or may not happen, can lead to making assumptions which may not prove effective, once you have the data over time to know for sure which approach works best for you. You can always opt into or out of a call forwarding extension later on.

    Choose a strategy that you are comfortable experimenting with, activate the campaign with a controlled experimental budget, start accruing some data, and keep up on the data tracking between adwords and the call center. It’s rare that theory ever holds up in practice. Once the data starts coming in, then you will know what you should or shouldn’t do to meet your advertising goals.

    Thanks again for the conversation captain… You’re definitely on the right track!

  7. Tom,

    That’s a great point you make about the 2nd position on a mobile may be at the bottom of the screen. I have noticed the ‘only one ad at the top on a smartphone’ phenomena. Not for a bit of time … but it does happen … leaving you quizically looking at the screen thinking what’s that all about? “Maybe there’s only one advertiser” you shout … but scrolling down the screen you see more ads at the bottom … mmm??

    Just a note on your phrase “you have a lot of tools at your disposal” Its true … but do you agree with the following statements with regard to mobile-only adwords campaigns …

    1) The traffic estimator is useless for mobile campaigns as it has no mobile option.

    2) The Ad Preview tool is nigh on useless in displaying how a mobile ad is going to look – well especially a click-to-call-only ad. Ads tend to look nothing like the previews.

    3) Bing, Yahoo etc are all irrelevent to the mobile-only search landscape

    4) Google Search network is irrelevent to mobile search … bar the obvious Google Search entity

    So, in a way things are simpler … but tools in adwords could be improved for mobile

  8. 1. Honestly, I don’t rely on “estimate” tools much at all, and never for keywords that are not currently active within the account, and have some amount of historical data. A first page bid estimate for an active keyword is one thing, but the keyword traffic estimating tools are not specific to your account. I don’t worry about or trust these tools at all, for what it’s worth. 🙂

    2. Call extensions will not be shown in the ad preview tool, for mobile or desktop devices. The only way to see your call extension is to conduct a live search, unfortunately. It’s not completely useless, but you can’t use it at all to verify call extensions.

    3. NO, not at all. It’s true that the bing/yahoo traffic just does not compare to the amount of google traffic, but there are certainly mobile users who use microsoft search properties. There are similar device settings to adwords in adcenter, but adcenter has no call extensions per se. Generally speaking adcenter takes a lot more effort, for a lot less return in comparison to adwords. However, the user behavior is very different. Although there are fewer bing/yahoo users, they are often more engaged than google users. Definitely focus your budget on adwords, but spending even a few bucks a day on adcenter, and exploring the bing/yahoo side of things isn’t a bad idea. Maybe keep it in mind for some point in the future?

    4. This is a very similar situation. There is not nearly as much search partners traffic, but that doesn’t mean that it’s completely irrelavent. AdWords targeting Google search network is the top of the pyramid, focus your adbuy there first. Then if you have budget available to expand or experiment, then consider search partners, display network, and even adcenter or other marketing platforms.

    Aside from that general point, your specific situation may mean that YES, in fact any network other than a google property, will not show a click to call call extension. At least, it seems that way:

    “On high-end mobile devices (such as iPhones and Android devices with full Internet browsers): Your business phone number will be clickable for customers who access Google.com search, Voice search, Google Mobile App, or Google Maps for Mobile.”

    All google properties, no mention is made of the search partner networks. Knowing how google is sometimes, it may be possible that some search partner results could show a click to call extension perhaps, but because google doesn’t have complete control over those propeties, google can’t maintain the same level of consistancy as it can on it’s own SERP’s. That was too much of a rant, sorry. 🙂 In short, Yes search partners are irrelavent to you and your specific situation.

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