How Google is monetizing phone call traffic

Local advertising is booming – in the U.S., the business is expected to grow from $21.7 billion last year to $42.5 billion by 2015, according to BIA/Kelsey – that’s 14.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
The reasons for the growth are the same in Europe: new technologies enable new types of services, which then allow consumers to find, call and visit local merchants easier and faster, compare prices and buy offline services online (i.e. the “daily deals” business). More and more companies are adopting performance based pricing, which lowers the bar for merchants to spend more on advertising, as they can easily control the spending to sustain a positive ROI.
Many people within the industry are asking, what is Google doing about this?

The answer is that they are doing a lot. But what we are interested in is the phone call traffic – as local advertising is all about offline leads and transactions.
Google speaks about two offerings – in addition to Google Voice – which are available only in the U.S. market.
1. Mobile Click-To-Call (CTC)

Mobile Click-To-Call – as opposed to Online CTC (rather, “Call Back”) – is an intuitive and natural way of connecting directly with merchants and stores. The end user simple clicks a link/button and makes a call. From the merchants’ point of view this is great, as they don’t need to have mobile landing pages – Mobile CTC works directly from an ad.
How to measure the amount of call traffic then? While it is possible to register and report the number of clicks, without call tracking you can’t tell how many calls were connected. When you are paying for the advertising, this can make a huge difference.
Google launched CTC for local advertising in January 2010 and expanded it to national advertisers couple of months later.
And the results? They were simply blown away. Early this year Google announced, that their advertisers receive millions of calls per month and 200% higher CTRs.
2. AdWords Call Metrics

Still the majority of people search for local merchants with their computers online – and of course search advertising is a great way to drive call traffic.
In November 2010 Google finally launched call measurements on AdWords – Call Metrics. While it’s still available only to a limited number of advertisers – and only in the U.S. – it proves that Google wants to be where many of our partners already are today.
What’s in it for me?
Whenever you pick up the phone to call a car dealer, real-estate agent, insurance company or a restaurant, think how great it is to get a human being to serve you and gets things done instantly. Think how valuable your business is to the merchant.
Every time you see a phone number ask yourself, does that advertiser know how many calls they receive through the ad? Is the media publisher or the ad network able to prove the media value,  including phone leads?
How much is your call traffic worth?