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AdWords Call Extensions: CPP Details Begin to Emerge

Last week we found ourselves on the phone with Google’s help desk asking for more information on Cost Per Phone call (CPP) bidding, a relatively new service for call extensions. The information we could find online on CPP (call extension info and CPP bidding info) left us with a lot of questions, so we rung them up. The representative we talked with didn’t know the answers to a lot of our questions, so said he’d get back to us with an email later in the day. True to his word, we got an email with a lot of details about the new AdWords bidding system. Here is what we learned.

Let’s start at the beginning:

Free vs. Paid AdWords Call Extensions

Call extensions officially changed recently and now come in two flavors:

  • Free – In a free call extension you use your actual phone number, but it only appears in ads appearing on, what Google calls, “high end mobile phones” which can be translated into “smart phones.” If your number appears in the ad on the smart phone (it is an extension, so there’s no guarantee it will) is clicked on by the smart phone user, you will be charged for the click just as if they had clicked on the ad. If you want your phone number to appear for free in ads on desktops and laptops, you will have to put the number in the ad copy.
  • Paid – If you want your phone number to appear in ads for desktop and laptop users, you have to agree to pay a minimum of $1.00 per call. Then Google will provide a random phone number that will forward to the phone number you choose. This allows Google to count the phone calls and give you details on how many calls you’ve received from your AdWords account.

What is CPP?

Call me

Call Me

As I said above, if you want a phone number to appear in ads for desktop and laptop users, you have to pay a minimum of $1.00 per call. The word “minimum” indicates that the price can be higher; that’s because Google now allows you to bid on how much you’re willing to pay to receive a call on a phone number that appears in your ads. They now allow you to set your maximum cost per phone call (CPP).

But that basically is where the information we found on Google’s site ran out, leaving us with a lot of questions. Questions the Google rep couldn’t answer until he had done some research. Here is what we learned: (Information copied directly from the email is in quotes.:

  • Q: Are the forwarding phone numbers applied at the account, campaign, ad group, or keyword level?
    A: The rep wasn’t sure, but later verified in his email that they are applied at the campaign level. So, if you’re hoping to get call data at the ad group or keyword level, you won’t be able to from Google. They will let you know how many phone calls came to each campaign, but that’s it.
  • Q: Are your campaigns assigned a number that you can then use in other marketing?
    A: No, the phone numbers displayed in your ads are random and can change at any time.
  • Q: What are the rules for bidding more than $1.00 a call?
    A: The rules are rather convoluted:

    • “In order to bid per phone call, an ad group has to reach a specific call metrics threshold in the last 30 days (about 25 calls). Until this threshold is reached, the Max. CPP column will display ‘Fee: $1.00’ and the regular $1 fee will apply to call metrics calls. Only $1 paid calls count towards this threshold. The call must be of a reasonable length, not duplicates, and not on the mobile call metrics number.”
    • Once you can bid on phone calls, the Max CPP column can be in one of three states:
      • “Ineligible: The ad group is not meeting the minimum click threshold needed to use call metrics (about 25 calls in the last 30 days).”
      • “Fee: $1.00: This means call metrics is enabled for the ad group, but not meeting the call threshold to use the CPP bid, and is instead charging the normal $1 fee per call as usual.”
      • “Bid: $x.xx: This means call metrics is enabled and using the Max CPP bid of $x.xx that you set.”
  • Q: How do CPC and CPP interact?
    A: It may be a good idea to increase your CPP bid to over $1.00 because it, “could both get you more calls and have your ads appear higher in rank.” No more details were available on how much the CPP influences ad position, but he made it clear that a higher CPP will increase your that ad position.

These answers open up more questions, which we’ll be trying to get answers to. Let us know what questions it leaves you with and we’ll try to get them answered.

Thank you to Sean Dreilinger for kindly sharing the phone call photo via the Creative Common’s license.

Rod is a partner at Chicago Style SEO, a full-service Internet marketing company in Chicago. His main responsibility around the office is being the head Director of Sales, which means he spends a lot of time on the phone talking with clients and prospective clients.You can find Rod on several social media channels: , Twitter, and Facebook.


I’ve been mentally trying to dig through if the $1 a call idea is going to be good. The economics of the product and the close rate would really have to be tracked. I’d love for someone to dig a bit deeper and see where this is a good fit, maybe cars? Larger ticket items? Directions to a restaurant?

Dan Bowtell

Slightly dubious accuracy of information there. Call Metrics numbers are applied at the ad group level, not the campaign level, meaning the data is a little more granular than they suggested.

Rod Holmes

Dan, Can you let us know where you’ve seen that information? I would very much like it if it were proven to be true! Thanks, Rod

We have gone from having almost all our keywords ranking somewhere above 75+, to having five keywords in the top 10, and 10 keywords in the top 20, we have seen some real progress. Related Posts:Google Tag Manager Guides: How to track PDFs in Analytics…How the Panama Papers Can Be Traced Back to a WordPress…The Rise of... continue reading

Chris Strupp, Marketing Manager – Chicago Flyhouse