Google just made it a lot easier for small businesses to track phone calls generated by their AdWords Express ads. For two years now, the full version of AdWords has allowed businesses to track phone calls by using the technology behind Google Voice to create unique phone numbers for every campaign. Starting today, AdWords Express, the somewhat simplified version of AdWords that’s geared specifically toward small businesses, will also offer this feature.
With call reporting turned on, Google will replace a business’ phone number with a toll-free Google number. Calls to this number will be automatically forwarded to the business’ local number and Google will start collecting basic analytics data for these calls.
For small businesses, this means that they can now easily track the performance of an important aspect of their ads that wasn’t previously accessible to them. In addition, this will also help businesses better evaluate the ROI of their AdWord campaigns.
For Google, of course, these calls also generate some revenue. Manually dialed calls completed to the Google forwarding number will cost $1 each. For users who use Google’s click-to-call feature on their mobile devices, Google will charge the same price as for a regular mobile search ad click. In the future, Google noted last year, it may also allow businesses to place bids for more expensive calls to influence their ad position, but the company hasn’t followed up on this yet.
As Google notes in today’s announcement, “when people search for local businesses on Google, they may want to check out a website, but there’s a good chance they’ll want to just give you a call.” This may be a quaint notion for those of us who expect every business to have up-to-date websites with all the information we could ever ask for over the phone. For small businesses – and especially the ones most likely to use AdWords Express to drum up extra business – this is definitely a reality.