Advertisers that depend on calls going to a central phone number for conversion tracking and other reasons will face a challenge as of January 19, 2017.
On Thursday, some AdWords advertisers received an unexpected email from Google explaining upcoming changes to the phone numbers that appear in ads. The change affects campaigns that use both call extensions and location extensions.
Google has expanded exposure for ads that include location extensions over the past year, including showing ads in Maps and in Local Finder results. As of January 19, 2017, Google says it “may” show the local retail phone number when that store’s location extension shows in an ad even if a call extension in the campaign uses a different phone number in order to increase the relevance of ads that feature specific business locations.
The two-week notice was the first communication of the change. Asked why the email says a location-specific phone number “may be used” instead of “will be used,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that they are continuously testing. That means it’s possible the ads could still potentially show (correction) with either number no number in the location extension.
Advertisers that have location extensions are advised to ensure their Google My Business listings have the accurate phone numbers for each location.
And that brings us to the problems that many advertisers will face with this change.
There are numerous scenarios in which advertisers with physical location prefer to have calls directed to a central number or call center. With AdWords, chief among those reasons is the lack of call conversion tracking at the individual location level. Google is clearly aware of that concern. There is a form that advertisers can submit before the change to opt out of having local numbers show in location extensions, but Google warns it could negatively impact ad impressions (and, in turn, calls). One of the reasons listed for opting out on the form is: “I want detailed call reporting and the ability to track conversions from these phone calls.”
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that AdWords is actively exploring conversion tracking on location-specific phone numbers. Until that happens, advertisers that are not equipped to have calls come to individual locations, don’t want to lose conversion tracking or have other reasons they don’t want to pay to have calls coming to individual locations, are in a tight place come January 19.
Below is the email Google sent Thursday (with identifying information removed).