Call-only Google Ads campaigns directly connect brands with their audience through phone calls. This strategy is especially useful for local businesses, high-value purchases, and fostering trust connection with your audience.

Here, you’ll find:

Ever bought a big-ticket item online?

While ecommerce giants like Amazon make it easy, 44% of customers still prefer to make a phone call during the research phase. Another 30% are ready to make high-value purchases directly over the phone.

Enter Google Ads’ call-only campaign type, a speedy advertising tactic to connect you with audiences over the phone and boost conversions.

In this guide, Steven Dang, growth and strategy VP at HawkSEM, breaks down the call-only campaign type, which businesses benefit most, and how to use it to maximize ROI.

woman using smartphone on staircase in public areas, during leisure time. The concept of using the phone is essential in Google Ads and shopping.

With a similar look and feel to regular search ads, Google Ads call-only ads include a call button. (Image: Adobe)

What is a call-only campaign in Google Ads?

Call-only ads appear on the Google search network and let you target browsers on devices that make calls, encouraging them to take immediate action by calling (and interacting with) your business.

Rather than clicking on a link to visit a landing page, they get an instant connection to your business.

Think of it as a turbocharged version of a traditional Google Ad, where the primary goal is to get on the phone with your audience ASAP.

When someone submits a relevant search, these ad types appear with a Google call-forwarding number. From there, your prospect clicks the ad to call, connects with you, and Google records the call.

The Google Forwarding number allows you to track the ad’s performance and details from the call, like the date and time the conversion occurs. Plus, you can set up an ad schedule to only show your call ads during business hours, so you never miss a potential customer.

Most pay-per-click (PPC) ads link to a landing page, where audiences can submit personal details like their phone number or email address. Here, you can bypass those steps and talk directly to your audience.

Here’s what a call ad includes in its structure:

        • Business name
        • Business phone number
        • Two headlines of 30 characters each
        • Two description lines of 90 characters each
        • Your website URL (also known as a final URL)
        • Display path (two 15-character segments)
        • Verification URL

These ads capture audiences’ attention with a prominent call-to-action (CTA) button that encourages them to call.

Those who want more info can find the “visit website” option below the ad. Sometimes, you might also see a Google Ad to a regular landing page with the phone number button included at the bottom as an ad asset.

How to set up a call-only campaign

Ready to get more customer calls? Here’s how you can set up your first call-only campaign:

1. Enable call reporting

So, how does Google know to record data from your call ads? One initial step is to enable call reporting.

Here’s what you need to do:

        1. Log into your Google Ads account
        2. Click the Admin icon
        3. Click Account Settings
        4. Go to “Call Reporting”
        5. Click “On”

Once you complete these steps, you’ll be able to report calls from call-only ads, call assets (ad extensions), and location assets (phone number). When you track customers and have their contact information, you can understand which calls translate into revenue.

What if you start to notice a bunch of new calls from spammers who hang up immediately? Or a potentially interested audience that finds out your business isn’t the right fit due to budget or preferences? That’s where your definition of a conversion comes into play.

2. Set up conversion call tracking

For your call-only ads to work, you need to initiate conversion tracking. This will help you monitor details from callers, and what calls came from which ads. Google Ads offers five different types of conversions you can implement with phone calls, including calls and clicks from call ads.

The most relevant is the conversion calls from call ads. These are the calls that your audience makes after being exposed to your call ads.

You can toggle a minimum call length (for example, two minutes or more) to count as a conversion. If you’re curious about audiences who make it to your website, you can also track clicks from call ads, even if they don’t call the number on your ad.

Conversion tracking set-up

To implement conversion tracking:

        • Log into your Google Ads account and click the “Goals” icon
        • Select “Conversions” from the drop-down menu, and click “Summary”
        • Click “New Conversion Action”
        • Select “Phone Calls”
        • Click “Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads” and “Next”
        • Then click the drop-down menu “Goal and action optimization,” then “Phone call lead” and “Conversion action optimization” as “primary action”
        • Name your Phone Call conversion(make sure to keep it under 100 characters)
        • Add a monetary value to your conversion based on how much you estimate a phone call is worth
        • Set the Count to “One” to count each unique phone call conversion
        • Set a call length (in seconds) that would equal a conversion
        • Select a conversion window between 1 to 60 days under “Click-through conversion window”
        • Check “Account-default conversion goals” to include data for conversion actions under the Conversions reporting column
        • Select your attribution model, which describes when each conversion activates (before a conversion, first click, or multiple clicks)
        • Select “Create and Continue”

These initial steps ensure all your calls are recorded for you to analyze later. Next stop? Campaign execution.

3. Create a new campaign

You’ve set up your foundation, and now it’s time to hit go on your first call ad campaign.

To get started:

        • Login to Google Ads
        • Go to your Campaign screen
        • Click the plus sign (+) to create a new campaign
        • Select the campaign and ad group for the ad, and click “OK”
        • Add relevant information in the edit panel, including the phone number and description
        • Choose “Leads” as your goal
        • Click “Continue”

But just like search campaigns, you’ll need to continuously fine-tune your call-only campaigns to keep them fresh and optimized.

How to optimize call-only campaigns

The customer calls are rolling in, but how do you make sure you’re getting the most ROI for your ad spend?

You could partner with an award-winning Google Ads agency and enjoy an average 4.5X of ROI like our clients do here at HawkSEM.

Dang shares these best practices for marketers to get started with call campaign optimization:

1. Add call assets

Call assets provide more information about your business, its offerings, and the benefits of choosing you over your competitors. Here are some you should consider including in your ads at no extra cost:

        • Location extensions
        • Callout extensions
        • Structured snippets
        • Sitelinks
        • Lead forms (if you’d also like to gather leads)
        • Promotion extensions (if applicable)
        • Price extensions (if applicable)

2. Schedule your ads

Potential customers want to speak to someone when they make a call, not your company’s voicemail box. That’s why ad scheduling is so important, so you can ensure someone is available to take their call when they reach out.

You can schedule calls at certain days or hours of the week to align with your business hours.

To do this:

        • Go to “Ad Schedule” under Audience, keywords, and content” in your Campaign settings
        • Select your ad campaign
        • Select specific dates and times to show your ad
        • Click “Save”

Curious to know more about ad schedules? Check out more details on Google’s ad scheduling webpage.

3. Retarget calls that didn’t convert

Sometimes, customers need a warm-up before they’re conversion-ready. It might take a second phone call, or a few more personalized ads after an initial phone call for them to make a purchase. If your audience doesn’t convert after that first phone call, take it as an opportunity to nurture a warm lead.

Retargeting ads use more persuasive, personalized copy to convert quality leads upon multiple interactions with your brand.

Dang says all interactions should be tagged so that users who don’t call are added to a retargeting list. And for those that show unique intent?

“We can bucket call campaign users into their own retargeting list and retarget them separately, but only if we regard call only users as being substantially different in nature and intent than our web lead users,” says Dang. “We can also use different call metrics to further segment our call users. For example, users with a call duration of at least 60 seconds could be bucketed differently than users with a call duration of at least 120 seconds.

4. Target call-focused keywords

Keyword research is just as important for call-only ads as regular PPC ads and SEO. If customers want to make a call, they’ll likely type in purchase-intent keywords like:

        • Open now: This might mean your audience is eager to make a purchase as soon as they type in their search query
        • “Near me” or any city, region, or neighborhood: Location-targeting keywords signify that your audience seeks a nearby service, like “Greek restaurant near me.”
        • “Buy:” If you sell more expensive items, a customer might be more inclined to make a purchase over the phone

So, which type of keywords work best for call-only campaigns?

“At the end of the day, high quality, high intent, bottom of the funnel keywords should work best,” explains Dang. “In some cases, we may want to add qualifiers that signal immediacy (‘repairman now’, ‘quick turnaround’, ‘fast response time’) or proximity (‘near me’, ‘around 92683’, ‘in my area’); but in general, the keywords for call only campaigns and search campaigns should not vary greatly.”

4. Track key metrics

Phone off the hook? Chances are, your call-only ad is working. But when it comes to performance, quality of results are just as important as quantity. Dang says these important metrics will help you assess success in your campaigns:

“For call only ads, we may only want to track or record calls over 30 or 60 seconds as a conversion or lead,” says Dang. “We should look at the different call segments in order to glean additional insights about our calls. These include call status, caller area code, call type, and call duration.”

Why are call-only ads so effective?

Let’s face it: we live in a mobile-first world. If businesses don’t cater to the mobile market, they’re unlikely to gain as much exposure as their competitors do on an online advertising platform.

People browsing the Internet increasingly make purchases on mobile devices, with roughly two-thirds of online shopping orders made through a smartphone.

What makes call-only ads so effective is that Google provides a no-friction way for customers to reach you. With call-only, you shorten your funnel and reduce the number of clicks. This lets you connect with your audience precisely when they’re ready to engage – not an hour or a day later, as often happens with landing page forms.

Woman entrepreneur busy with her work in office. Young woman talking over telephone while working on computer at her desk.

Mobile audiences searching for businesses see a phone number as they review the text ads and organic results.  (Image: Adobe)

Benefits of this campaign type

Call-only campaigns can offer instant value for businesses that use them. They help you offer a prompt response and personalized touch that sets you apart from your competitors. This approach lets you lock in leads before prospects consider a rival business.

Here’s a snapshot of what you can achieve with call-only ads:

Stand out in the SERP

Mobile customers who search for businesses see a phone number as they review the text ads and organic results. When they see the phone number (and CTA), they may prefer to take this more direct route to accomplish their goal.

The speed and ease of making calls directly (rather than fumbling around on a website) appeals more to searchers who like to get answers quickly and easily.

Forge a human connection

The best ad copy is personalized and engaging, but nothing trumps the human touch of a voice-to-voice phone call.

At least, that’s true for the 80% of customers who prefer to talk to a live customer service rep over online text or chatbots.

Connect with high-intent searchers

People who contact businesses through call-only ads normally have a strong intent to purchase. This makes them more valuable than prospects from other types of ads that target keywords with low buying intent.

Who should use Google Ads call-only ad campaigns?

Any business that engages with leads over the phone or in-person would benefit from using call-only ads. For example, a store might run a branded call campaign to ensure that potential customers can call for open hours, directions, or item availability.

Additionally, any business that provides urgent, last-minute services can benefit from call campaigns.

The good news is, this urgency can create lasting returns. Dang elaborates:

“Even if average [cost per click] or [cost per lead] come in higher for call only ads, the return for this type of campaign could still be higher if it generates higher quality or higher revenue leads,” says Dang. “For businesses where call leads tend to be of greater importance (maintenance and repairs, HVAC, contracting jobs, installation, custom orders, B2B, etc), we should not let higher CPCs or CPLs deter us.”

Here are some industries that gain most from call-only ads:

Real estate firms

A Google Ads call-only campaign can help you generate high-quality leads for property sales. When prospects search for real estate-related terms in your area and call your agency, they’re often serious about exploring listings. It also helps you save time and effort from sifting through less-committed leads from landing pages.

Travel agencies and tour operators

Travel and tourism is a booming industry, and many travelers are interested in going on tours. Call-only ads are a perfect way to give these travelers the information they need over the phone, answer their questions, and help them find the right tour or package.

IT and computer repair

Almost every business relies on technology, which inevitably leaves room for technical issues. When IT problems arise, businesses want an immediate response and solution. Call-only ads allow you to do just that, offering prompt and personable customer service when prospects are most in need.

Restaurants and hotels

Similar to tour agencies, the hospitality industry can use call-only campaigns to boost bookings. In hospitality, customers often have questions they want immediate answers to, such as “Is there a table available for 7:30 PM tonight?” or “Do you have a double room with a view available this weekend?” Calls give you the chance to answer those questions and secure a booking before the competition does.

Emergency trade service providers

Have you ever needed to call a plumber in a pinch? You probably called the first one you saw in the search engine results page (SERP). And since your sink was clogged, you didn’t mind paying the extra fee. In fact, you were stoked they were available on short notice.

But things like address, pricing, and more in-depth detail about a home issue are often easier to discuss over the phone. If all parties are happy, the scheduled appointment follows. Trades that do well with call-only campaigns include plumbers, home contractors, electricians, locksmiths, and auto repair shops:


Image: Google

When you make your trade business available for phone calls, you can build rapport with new customers and quickly let them know your availability to fix their vehicles.

Dentists, orthodontists, and doctors

When it comes to health, people don’t want to have to click through endless pages on your website to find answers. Fevers, coughs, or food poisoning are all ailments that urge us to get on the phone to find a solution ASAP.

Dentistry and orthodontist services might also see urgent phone calls for chipped teeth or broken fillings. And even for more routine checkups that aren’t as urgent, they’re still high-cost services, meaning many prospective customers are more comfortable arranging it over the phone than online.

Legal services

There’s a reason why lawyers get the big bucks. Most of us aren’t suited to take appropriate legal action in a fender bender, child custody case, labor issues, and more.

That’s why call-only campaigns are especially convenient (and popular) for legal services.

Since every case is so unique and subjective, and could potentially affect your finances or freedom, it’s natural to want to get on the phone for a consultation instead of trying to figure things out solo:


Image: Google

The takeaway

Call-only ads are a fast-track to customer engagement, increased conversion rates, and amped-up revenue. However, staffing your business to handle customer calls while managing the rest of your digital marketing strategy is no cake walk.

A more efficient approach?

Enlist a Google Ads company with decades of experience to manage the intricacies for you. Our skilled PPC strategists are experts in all things Google Ads and leverage insights from our proprietary tech, ConversionIQ, to strategize the best possible ROI from your marketing assets.

Ready to say hello to call-only ads? We’re just a phone call away.

Contact HawkSEM for Free Consultation