Understanding AdWords Call Extensions.

With “traditional” brick and mortar shops, having your phone number listed in the phone book is an absolute necessity. For those of us old enough to remember what a phone book is, you know that when trying to find a business the first listings in each category are always for AAA+ Acme Co. Adding as many A’s as possible to your business name gains a competitive advantage, even if you cannot afford a full page ad. AdWords call extensions make it obvious how outdated relying on a phone book listing as your only form of advertising is. If getting your business number in front of potential customers eyes is your goal, then AdWords, and AdWords call extensions is the most effective means to achieve your goal.

So there your number is, with no information at all about your business, and you hope that by being the first number listed people will call, and then learn something about your company. Maybe you, or the person who answers the phone is the best salesperson ever, and you have a 100% closing rate for every call. Even if that is the case, your customer base is still limited only to those in your local area who still use a clunky old paper phone book, and call the first number they find. So, you build a website, and begin an online advertising campaign. Now you want to show your phone number with your ad, and you think this AdWords call extension thing is the way to go. But…How do you make sense of all this call extension stuff? Where do you even start? Perhaps, the first thing to consider is whether or not AdWords call extensions are right for your business.

What kind of business are you? A local service business, or a national retailer? Do you sell products online through your website, or do you rely on direct contact with your customers to complete a sale?

Of course, if you only sell product through a website, and you have no public business number, AdWords call extensions in any form are not for you. If you do have a business number, and you are available to close sales over the phone, but primarily sell product through the website, the issue becomes more cloudy. You then have to ask yourself “where do I have the higher closing ratio”. If you have a higher conversion ratio for calls to your business, than clicks to your website, perhaps the focus of any marketing campaign should be phone calls.

For local service based business, a business line is still an absolute necessity. The website may be a place to give potential customers some idea of who you are, but at some point in the sales process you have to speak to the customer. Assume that the customer will “call around” before they decide who will earn their business. Making a personal connection over the phone early in the buying cycle sets a standard by which any other competitor will be judged.

So, AdWords call extensions for local service businesses seems like a no brain-er, but with AdWords call extensions there are still potential issues to consider. For many small businesses the equity placed in the local phone number is far greater than any investment in advertising. That number is your business. You want customers to see your established local number with your AdWords ads, so you enable call extensions using that number. However, when you search for your ad on your computer, you don’t see that number. The reason – call extensions only allow a phone number to be shown on mobile devices capable of making a phone call, ie mobile phones.

In order for your number to be shown on desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, you have to enable call metrics. So you do, and you search for your ad on your desktop and see a phone number…but it’s not your number, It’s not your business. Why is another businesses phone number appearing in your ad? Call metrics generates a random toll free Google forwarding number for your ad. It is your phone number underneath, but neither you nor the customer see that number.

You know customers calling you is a good thing, and that Google AdWords can deliver those calls, but you just can’t trust that random number. It’s not your number, it’s not your business. What if a customer records that random number as your business number? Google can change it at any time, and if a customer calls back at a later date, that number may no longer ring through to your business. What’s potentially worse still, is the fact that the call metrics number is not a local number. You may have spent decades establishing yourself in the local community, only to find that now your customers can’t tell the difference between your business and a national sub-contractor. So that means call metrics are not for local service businesses, right? Not so fast…

Like all things AdWords there is more to the equation. Remember, the call metrics number is shown as an addition to your ad text. Potentially in addition to sitelinks and location extensions. Now you have 70 characters of ad copy, four additional 35 character sitelinks, a location extension featuring your address, and a hyper-local map in the SERP’s which shows where your business is located. Does that change what your business is? Is your business still your local phone number, or has it now become something greater than?

These ad extension combinations only occur for ads in the top 1-3 positions, but with a combined ad extension strategy can take up a lot of the page real estate. Not only can you show up above your competitors, but you can crowd out the other top position ads as well. Want to be listed first, and have the biggest ad? What would it mean for your business if calls from converting customers doubled? Would that alleviate some of the concerns you have for not seeing your phone number for your business?

Yes, the issue of what number a customer associates with your business as a returning customer remains, but after you make contact with that customer and earn their business, how many opportunities do you have to reinforce what your actual contact number is? Business cards, email lists, newsletters, not to mention a good ol’ fashioned conversation. What if during that conversation you could get a customer to add your real business number to their contact list or phone book. How likely is it when you broadcast your real number through traditional advertising that a customer picks up the phone and calls right away, then adds that number to their contacts immediately?

AdWords call extensions, and call metrics may not work for every business. Smart phones are less phones, and more limited, hand-held, mobile computers. Call extensions allow you to show your local number to smart phone users who can immediately initiate a click-to-call, and within seconds be speaking to the business directly. If your site is not mobile friendly, running a click-to-call only mobile campaign may be the way to go. Real estate in the top position on the mobile SERP’s is even more limited than computers. Having a strong call to action message in the top position can take the website entirely out of the equation. Don’t have the time and resources to put into optimizing your website for mobile, and mobile SEO? Try running a click-to-call only AdWords mobile campaign. Smart phone’s and mobile devices are set to outpace desktop computer sales by 2015. Eventually if you want your business to survive, you will have to adapt. But, for a local service oriented small business, that investment in time and resources can mean the difference between profit and loss in the short term. In the long run, having a plan to maximize profits with your current resources now, to build the capital to re-invest later, will help to insure long term sustainable profitability.

by Tom Hale Jr.