Call-Only Ads For Contractors: A 14 Day Experiment

by Corey Philip
July 20, 2018

Show up in mobile search results. Give searchers the ability to call you, directly, with 1 simple click. No stop on your website. Search. Find. Click to call. The official term is ‘Call-Only Ads’. It is important to note that, Adwords call extensions are click to call, but with those ads the user can click through to your website. With a Call-Only ad, the users only choice is to call you.

The concept seems great… particularly for service businesses that fix solve immediate pains.

HVA Contractor: Air out in the house — immediate pain. Call and get it fixed.
Plumbing Contractor: No hot water — immediate pain. Call and get it fixed.
Screen Enclosure Company: Torn pool screens — kind of immediate. Call and get it fixed.

You get the drift.

Related: Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords: What Works Better For Home Service Providers?

Call-Only ads were first launched over 3 years ago now, in 2015. Now if you’ve followed search marketing over the years, there’s one pronounced trend particularly with Google… Google is trying to provide users information directly from the searches, avoiding your website entirely, and keeping them in their realm longer. Love it or hate it, it’s a major trend we business owners and search marketers must adapt to.

That consideration, along with the fact that a few competitors were running those ads religiously sparked a trial interest. I’ve ran Adwords for years, since I started my home service business in 2012 with wild success, but I had been reluctant to give these Call-Only ads a shot — after all why fix what isn’t broken?

There were also 2 things I really didn’t like about them (the Call-Only ads).

#1 — Not all clicks become a call. But you still have to pay.

If a user clicks the Call-Only ad, a pop up shows on the mobile device which the user also has to click to connect the call. As a search user, I know many times I’ve clicked to make the call, but then stopped once I get that pop up. I think many other search users, would click, but then back out as well (testing would prove this right). So while you might get 5 clicks on you ads. You could only have 1 call.

#2 — You can’t remarket! Not everyone who clicks a traditional ad, and hits a landing page will call (or convert).

That’s Ok. For them, there’s remarketing (particularly with Facebook ads). Once they hit the landing page, they are pixeled and will now get served ads on platforms. The stalker kind. This increases the value of every click we get. HOWEVER if they click the Call-Only ad, but don’t connect, we’ve got no way of remarketing to them.

Testing Them For My Company

Not wanting to get behind I decided to do a little test. for one of my ad groups.

I made 2 Call-Only ads, for one particular ad group, and set set them off for 14 days (it was actually a little bit longer but we’ll just be looking a data from a 14 day period).

Here What I Found!

  • The CPC Was incredibly high. My average cost per click was $13.61. That was over 3 times higher than my cost per click to landing page!
  • Only 43% of clicks would connect calls. Here’s where that confirmation pop up by the cell phone throws a block in the funnel. We paid for 14 clicks but only 6 connected. Of those 6, 3 did not last longer than 11 seconds. The callers let the phone ring for a couple seconds and then hung up before anyone could answer.
  • The cost per actual lead was ridiculously high. As you can see we spent $190 to generate 3 calls lasting longer than 11 seconds. This is a cost per inquiry of over 300% higher than what I pay using traditional ppc ads. It gets even worse when you consider that none of the calls were marked as sales opportunities by the CSR’s!

Now some might say IMPROVE! Don’t give up on Call-Only ads. But In this case I don’t see improvement as feasible. My ad concepts are far from from amateur, the campaign / ad group / keywords are time tested and very lucrative using traditional Adwords functionality, and my cost per call using traditional ppc ads is about the same as a mere click on a Call-Only ad. On top of if it all, when you actually think about it, Call-Only ads, don’t provide the search user with what they actually need.

Why Call-Only Ads Are Not for Contractors!

Think about this? Do you blindly want to call someone, that you know nothing about, to work in your home to solve your problem?

No. I don’t. I want some info before I make the call. Who am I calling? How long have they been in business? Who are the people behind this business? How much is this going to cost? Are they an actual operations business (not just some lead gen service)? Can I verify their license? Where’s the service area?

Search users want that information too, before they make the call, but Call-Only ads don’t provide it! This leads to fewer people actually clicking the Ad, some people clicking the ad only because they’re curious, and the ones that do connect effectively commoditizing your service.

Related: Crash Testing A New Contractor Leads Funnel

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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