How Click-to-Call Boosts Google’s Mobile Revenues

In October, Google (s goog) crowed about its mobile business hitting a $1 billion run rate, though much of that is assumed to be mobile search advertising, an offshoot of Google’s biggest business online. But Google’s mobile revenues are also finding a significant boost from a new ad tool — click-to-call — that’s providing an important lesson on the power of online interaction to prompt offline actions, especially for mobile users.

The new ad tool — which allows users to click on a phone number to connect directly to a business — has been on a tear since debuting in January. Google said over the last three months, the number of Google advertisers using phone extensions on mobile has grown by an average of 28 percent month-over-month globally. Hundreds of thousands of advertisers are using phone extensions now, which have resulted in millions of calls a month via search and display ads. The feature is helping prove the power of mobile search advertising and how mobile users are more intent driven.

Surojit Chatterjee, senior product manager of mobile ads for Google, said campaigns with the click-to-call feature report 6-8 percent higher click-through rates than ads that don’t have it. He said for a feature that rolled out less than a year ago, click-to-call is having a meaningful impact with both advertisers and users. He said it also proves how much more focused mobile users are on fulfilling immediate actions. “On mobile phones, people are looking for things they can act on immediately,” Chatterjee said. “It shows that mobile users, if they find the right ad, they will act on it.”

Advertisers are seeing results. Roy’s, a chain of Hawaiian restaurants, recently reported it has seen an 800 percent in return on investment after pursuing a mobile-only hyper-local campaign that relied on click-to-call as a major element. The mobile-only campaign helped increase calls to restaurants by 40 percent and click-through rates by 539 percent compared to desktop. The cost per click was also two-thirds less than desktop ads.

For advertisers, the cost per click is the same for a phone call or a click on a mobile advertisement, despite the fact that phone calls show more intent and are better leads for advertisers. Chatterjee said Google is trying to keep the pricing simple for mobile ads and couldn’t say if Google has plans to raise rates on click to call in the future.

It’s still early in mobile search advertising, and results like those seen by Roy’s probably reflect the advantages experienced by early movers. But the emergence of click-to-call shows how integrated marketing that leverage the attributes of mobile can be optimized for real results, and it suggests mobile search advertising is poised to see a lot more growth in the coming years, similar to the success Google has seen online. Search advertising may still be Google’s one trick, but it could turn into a powerful one on mobile as well if tools like click-to-call continue to take off.

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