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PPC tips and advice

Pay-per-call advertising

Pay-per-call advertising is gradually gaining awareness and becoming the new option for search engine marketing campaigns. First developed in the UK market by Miva (formerly Espotting), pay-per-call is also being tested by Google AdWords and Yahoo! in the US and therefore is expected to become a standard offering soon. So what is it and how could it help your business?

Pay-per call (or click-to-call) advertising is similar to pay-per-click, in that sponsored pay-per-call adverts will appear alongside natural search listings. However, instead of the advert providing a direct hyperlink to your website, a call is initiated, using one of several methods - either through a form within the advert for people to complete, requesting a call-back at a specified time; or the advert will include a freephone number, controlled by the provider, which will forward the call to your business line, and in the process collect analytics data.

At the moment pay-per-call is only receiving limited usage as some companies test the service, but as awareness grows, more companies will sign up to use this form of advertising. It certainly won't be ideal for everyone and is likely to benefit those companies that depend on telephone contact with potential customers, to provide a service or to initiate a sales conversation. It will therefore favour large companies with an existing call centre capability, or small companies providing a local service and who, for example, may use Yellow Pages (or Yell) at the moment.

Pay-per-call also extends search engine marketing to companies that don't have a website, as all traffic is handled through the advertising media and offline via the phone. This makes the Internet market accessible to the estimated 85% of the UK's 3.4 million SMEs who have no existing web presence, either from a lack of resources, know-how to develop a website, or perceived need. Now these companies can test the market for their business.

To give a idea of the costs involved, Miva charges calls at a flat rate to UK advertisers, irrespective of length, with page position working on the same bid structure as pay-per-click. The minimum bid is 2 and the actual bid price is the total cost of the call. The current set-up costs are 10 to get an 0800 number for 1 year and a pay-as-you-go account, with 50 being the minimum opening balance.

It is hoped that pay-per-call will improve on the conversion rates of other forms of online advertising, which are typically thought to achieve around a tenth of rates seen by business done over the phone. Conversion rates of incoming calls generated by advertising in traditional paper directories is thought to be around 40% whereas pay-per-click rates are rarely over 10% even for less competitive terms. Therefore it is hoped that pay-per-call advertising can address this disparity, delivering the coverage and cost efficiency of Internet advertising with the popularity and conversation success of traditional marketing channels.

As this advertising channel develops, the only way to find out if pay-per-call is right for your business and generates the quality of leads to justify the expense is to test a campaign. You'll need to consider the requirements for handling calls and converting leads, but you only pay for the calls received and therefore the ability to convert these leads to new business will be entirely down to the call handler and the business proposition.

This article was first published in the February 2006 edition of our monthly newsletter.

If you'd like to know more about using pay-per-call advertising now, or to plan for this in the future, please contact us for more details. Alternatively, please request a FREE website assessment and see what you could achieve with a successful search engine marketing campaign.