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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Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results

Adwords call extensions are an invaluable feature for PPC advertisers who want to drive phone calls to their business. Up until a few weeks ago, you could choose how call extensions appeared on mobile devices. The ad could be clickable, driving visitors to your website; or it could be set up as call-only, where the only thing the user could do is place a call to your business from their device.

A few weeks ago, Google rolled out call-only ads and took away the option to have call-only call extensions. Those of us who were successfully using that option were forced to create brand new campaigns, called call-only campaigns, for these extensions.

We have a client whose primary goal is to drive phone calls. They do have responsive landing pages with a lead form, but they’d really prefer that prospects call them. So we were using call-only extensions for mobile, and getting great results from them. When the mandate for Google call-only ads & campaigns came, we created new call-only campaigns for this client. I figured call-only campaigns would be a boon for us, as in many ways we’d now have control over mobile budgets again.

So, we launched our new call-only ads and campaigns – and watched them get virtually no impressions.

mobile impressions 1
It’s clear from the data that most of the mobile impressions were still going to the main campaign, not the call-only campaign. So, on June 30, we excluded mobile from the main campaign with a -100% bid modifier, in an effort to force traffic over to the call-only campaign. You can see in the table that impressions for the week of 6/29 decreased by about 2/3 – and the call-only campaign decreased too, which was the opposite of what I expected.

Well, the week of 6/29 included July 4 and a nice 3-day weekend. We didn’t take action right away, knowing the holiday likely affected search volume. Indeed, impressions were down across the board for the week of 6/29.

But what happened last week, the week of 7/6?

mobile impressions 2
Yikes. Impressions rebounded for the call-only campaign, to their highest point yet. But they’re still nowhere near the levels they were before, when mobile was turned on in the main campaign.

Even worse, conversions are way down:

mobile conversions
This really tells the story. While conversions have steadily increased on the call-only campaign, they’re not coming close to replacing the conversions we were getting from mobile in the main campaign prior to call-only campaigns launching. And impressions are down 70%.


Now, I realize that call-only ads only show on devices that are capable of making calls, and this wasn’t the case before. But you can’t tell me that less than 2/3 of mobile devices aren’t call-capable.

I’m at a loss to explain what’s happening here. It seems like we can’t win: either we turn mobile back on for the main campaign, and then have people clicking through to the website from mobile, which the client doesn’t want; or we lose 70% of our impressions and a bunch of conversions.

Some people are raving about call-only campaigns, but I’m left feeling super frustrated. And I know there’s confusion in the marketplace about exactly how these ads work.

What’s your experience been with call-only campaigns? What am I doing wrong here? I’m open to suggestions – bring it!

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5 Resources For Mobile PPC

Recently, I had the pleasure of appearing on my good friend David Szetela’s recently revived podcast, PPC Rockstars. We chatted about many things: my band geekiness, speculation on Google’s upcoming April 22 annoucement, and much more. You can check out the episode in the Webmaster Radio archives here (it should be live later today).

We talked a lot about mobile PPC and what advertisers should be doing with mobile. Listen to the episode for many of our expert tips. Here are a few additional resources that you can use to help you on your journey to mobile PPC success.

Generating Local Business Beyond the Click on Web Marketing Today. I wrote this piece geared toward small local businesses who think PPC is too expensive or too expansive for their business. Yes, local businesses can succeed with PPC! This article will show you how.

5 Critical Factors for Optimized Mobile PPC Targeting by Joe Kerschbaum over at Search Engine Watch. Joe offers a rundown of best practices for any mobile PPC advertiser.

B2B Search: It’s Time To Go Mobile by me, again at Search Engine Watch. I’ve found that many B2B advertiser have been slow to embrace mobile. This article talks about why B2B needs to get on board with mobile PPC.

Do Mobile PPC Ads Even Work? by Dan Shewan at WordStream. This info-packed post, complete with awesome screenshots and illustrations, shows exactly how to get your mobile ads to perform well.

If you haven’t gotten on the mobile PPC train yet, these articles are your ticket!

What about you? What are your favorite tips and success stories for mobile PPC? Share in the comments!

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