How to capture urgent leads with call-only ad extensions

If you find yourself facing an overflowing toilet, you’re not going to deal with it from the confines of an ergonomic desk chair. There’s no time to sit in front of the computer and do your due diligence. Unless you happen to be deft with a plunger and a snake, you’re going to pull out your phone and look for a qualified problem solver as quickly as possible.

But what happens when that first search result is nothing more than a phone number and two disjointed phrases, an incoherent mess reminiscent of what’s clogging up your pipes?

You’re going to skip to the next item on the SERP in search of a solution.

If you’re the plumber, how do you fix this problem? How do you make sure the person with the overflowing toilet calls you and not your competitor?

Today, I’m going to dive into how the recent addition of ad extensions to call-only ads can help you earn business by presenting your prospects with a more coherent, engaging reason to click that little blue “call” button.

The problem: Call-only ad copy tends to be really bad

A prospect with a time-sensitive need doesn’t want to click an ad, read through a landing page, complete a form-fill and twiddle her thumbs waiting for a callback. Instead, she wants to hammer “plumber near me” into her browser and talk to a human being with a socket wrench and promises of quick salvation.

Why then, are call-only ads so poorly written?

Now, I know nothing about this business other than the fact that they plumb and use AdWords. This ad doesn’t really tell me anything, and as a result, I don’t trust them.

I mean, yeah, the copy’s loaded with DEALS. The $35 off is so good they said it twice!

But not once does the ad mention a benefit. There isn’t a second person pronoun (“you”) in sight. Does it get clicked on? Probably. But if a prospect’s only knowledge of your business is supreme availability and discount pricing, what separates you from everyone else looking for leads?

Frankly, nothing. And that’s enough to send prospects further down the SERP.

Fixing call-only ad copy

We’ve all got gremlins just like that one lurking deep within our AdWords accounts.

They exist because call-only ads rob us of precious, keyword- and CTA-stuffed description lines, leaving only the oft-unread wasteland more commonly referred to as the description. Load that sucker with buzzwords and dollar signs, and a few desperate souls are bound to be enticed, right?


Personally, I’d rather attract all the woebegone searchers. To do that, you’re going to need to do two things:

  • Treat call-only ads as occasions for actual copywriting.
  • Leverage ad group-specific ad extensions written exclusively for your call-only ads.

These action items are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re wholly dependent on one another. Symbiotic, you could say.

You see, call-only ads are only served at the top of the (mobile) SERP, which also happens to be the place where ad extensions are most likely to rear their heads. Barring some supremely uncouth Google intervention, this means that call-only ads are very likely to be served with at least one ad extension.

Armed with this knowledge, you can shift your description lines’ focus away from features and toward benefits, just as you do with your Expanded Text Ads.

Call-only ad description best practices

Think about the structure of a call-only ad. The “headlines,” so to speak, are nothing more than your business name and phone number; there’s no wiggle room for captivating copy. Instead, you need to cram everything — keyword, pronoun, CTA and unique selling proposition — into two 35-character lines.

Is this easy to do? Absolutely not. But if you take the time to be a bit creative, hitting prospects with a well-crafted solution to their problem is going to incite more, and more qualified, calls than simply settling for discount-themed window dressing would. (By the way, there are mounds of posts about writing better ad copy both here on SEL and over on the WordStream blog.)

Now let’s look at the supporting cast.

Ad group level call-only ad extensions

In Google’s announcement detailing ad extensions for call-only ads, they make the following statement:

“If you already have location, callout, or structured snippet extensions set up at the account-level, you don’t need to take any extra steps — the extensions will automatically be eligible to appear with your call-only ads.”

While this claim is ostensibly true for location extensions and structured snippets, when it comes to callout extensions, you’re better off going with a more granular approach. You need ad group-specific ad extensions that work in concert with your ad copy to deliver a more profound message to your prospects. This allows you to avoid wasting precious description line real estate on “Available 24/7” and “Call now for $35 service discount” and instead focus on conveying your unique benefits.

Don’t worry — all that tinsel can still be used to complement your well-manicured copy.

Callout extensions

When Google decides to bless your served ad with callout extensions, you’ll never see just one. Like velociraptors and Tusken Raiders, they travel in packs (of two to six, to be precise).

Return to the plumbing ad from earlier. In the description lines, we’ve got the following to work with:

  • “24/7 plumbers in Boston”
  • “Call now for $35 service discount”
  • “Available 24/7”
  • “24/7 emergency service”
  • “Get $35 off”

Most of these phrases can be conveyed through callout extensions, allowing you to use your description lines to write something like this:

Which, complemented by some supporting value propositions (“24/7 Availability,” “Emergency Service”), makes for a much more compelling ad.

By adding extensions for call-only ads at the ad group level, you have more control over how your messaging is presented to a prospect. If you know your description line mentions a $35 discount, there’s no need to say that again with a callout extension. Instead, use that space to share some other enticing offers, and don’t be afraid to test, test, test.

Final thoughts

Now that Google has rolled out ad extensions for call-only ads, you can recapture your description lines.

While you can (probably) use your existing account-level location extensions and structured snippets, callouts are so valuable that you need to create them at the most granular level. Doing so will allow you to present a more potent, actionable message to prospects in need.

The bottom line: If your AdWords account depends on call-only ads for quality leads, you can’t afford to waste valuable impressions on bad copy. USE. AD. EXTENSIONS.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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