Call-Only Ads: 3 Months In

Back in July, I wrote a post called Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results. In that post, I shared data from a client who’d launched call-only ads, only to see mobile impressions, clicks, and conversions tank.

Based on my readers’ excellent feedback, we optimized and refined those campaigns. We turned mobile back on in the regular, non-call-only campaigns. We continued to work on bids. We were desperate.

Results did improve, but not to their former levels. Here’s an update on what’s happening with call-only campaigns and mobile in general.

Call-only campaigns have been live for about 10 weeks. So I looked at the last 10 weeks, and then 10 weeks before that, before call-only campaigns came into existence. Data here is for mobile traffic only.

Call-Only Campaign Impressions Are Low


Impressions ended up nearly equal post-call-only, but only because we added mobile back to the regular campaigns. Call-only campaign impression volume is less than half of what it was before. There’s no way we’d be able to even show up in the auction to generate clicks if we stuck with call-only campaigns, much less generate conversions from call-only.

Call-Only CPCs Are High


Yikes, check that out. CPCs for call-only are 58% higher than mobile CPCs were before. And this is with our bid management software attempting to keep call-only CPC down. It’s crazy to me that CPCs have gone up this much. Then again, this is Google we’re talking about….

CPAs More Than Doubled


This is where it gets really scary and, frankly, sad. Call-only CPAs are similar to what we saw before. And that makes sense, because we were using call-only extensions before. Users didn’t have the option to click through on a mobile device – we wanted the phone call instead. That’s how call-only campaigns work, too – at least in theory.

But look at mobile not-call-only. Yikes. Since we don’t have the option of forcing a phone call in the regular campaigns now, we’re stuck with letting users click through on mobile – which is pushing up our CPA dramatically. And no surprise – while the landing pages are responsive, the call to action is to fill out a form, which we know people don’t like to do on mobile. Sure, you can call from the landing page too, but it’s not obvious like it is in a call-only ad.

And before you suggest that we create call-only ads in the regular campaigns, we tried that too. I was thinking we could force mobile traffic to the call-only ads and desktop to the regular ads. But it didn’t work that way. The call-only ads got virtually no impressions while the regular ads got tons, even from mobile. There seems to be no way to get this thing to work the way it did before.

So, by all appearances we’re stuck. Mobile is hugely important to this client, so we can’t just shut it off. Using call-only campaigns killed our impressions, clicks, and conversions. And adding mobile back to regular campaigns killed our CPA. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. It’s a no-win situation.

Have any of you been able to find success with call-only campaigns at a good CPA? Is this yet another conspiracy by Google to improve mobile CPC? Have you found any hacks that work? Share in the comments!

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