"CALL ME, PLEASE"
Greg Yardley has a detailed post titled "Google tests out Click-to-Call AdWords" with accompanying screen-shots (click image on left to enlarge).
While it's not unexpected that the "G" in GYMAAAE would potentially compete with the "E" in this market, it is of note that Google is already in test phase with the approach and technology (from an unnamed thid party, according to Search Engine Watch).
Both giants will join a number of start-ups like Ingenio already in this nascent market. Of course, Ingenio recently teamed up with Yahoo! as Search Engine Roundtable reported a couple of weeks ago, so the "Y" is potentially in the game as well.
Timing for all participants will continue to be important given the obvious appeal of the market and it's potential to be a meaningful business. As I noted in the post on the eBay/Skype acquisition,
"...(the) opportunities to extract any kind of pricing for voice communications at all, may be fleeting, like a fistful of sand running through one's fingers."
Of course, eBay's monetization of the feature is likely to see paid-search supplemented with transactions, but it's not clear yet.
Overall though, it's not just about putting up the little telephone icons next to the paid-search links, nor it is just about the underlying internet telephony infrastructure.
Those things are important, but of most importance is having the correctly tweaked algorithms to help place and price the ads, along with the massive page views for placement opportunities.
Greg also points to an informative "frequently asked questions or FAQ" page on the Google site regarding the new advertising feature.
What's particularly admirable, and I guess "so NOT evil", is the effort Google goes to make sure the advertiser or any other marketing entities DO NOT get the user's phone number. As the FAQ explains in the first point,
- What's the phone icon on Google search results? How does it work?
We're testing a new product that gives you a free and fast way to speak directly to the advertiser you found on a Google search results page – over the phone.
Here's how it works: When you click the phone icon, you can enter your phone number. Once you click 'Connect For Free,' Google calls the number you provided. When you pick up, you hear ringing on the other end as Google connects you to the other party. Then, chat away on our dime.
We won't share your telephone number with anyone, including the advertiser. When you're connected with the advertiser, your number is blocked so the advertiser can't see it. In addition, we'll delete the number from our servers after a short period of time.
This does not work both ways, as the last point explains:
- Whose caller ID do I see when connected?
The advertiser's number appears on your caller ID when Google connects you. This way, you can save the merchant's number for future call-backs.
On a separate note, as Oliver Thylmann points out:
"The amount of things Google is doing is starting to get a little bit scary..."
Overall though, this "click-to-call" feature has potentially great utility for users.
Anecdotally, I know I don't click on the unobtrusive Google ads a lot (see recent post on this). But when I do, it's for a specific purpose, like looking for turkey recipes online with the family yesterday.
If there had been a little telephone icon next to the Butterball "Turkey Help" site last night, it sure would have been more convenient than scrolling through a bunch of text while trying to speed-read the turkey recipes.
Of course, some would maintain that it's just as easy for consumers to dial the toll-free number in a paid-search ad if they want to talk to the vendor. The toll-free feature would be expensive for the vendor, and would preclude smaller and/or local vendors from using the feature. An internet telephony based feature on a per-call basis would obviously be much less expensive for the vendor than the toll-free line.
But there's an important benefit from the consumer's perspective to keep in mind as well.
"One of the lessons that I’ve learned through my own experience with web-based consumer-facing services is the importance in reducing friction between and before desired actions.
Any element of a service that would cause a user to either hesitate or initiate an extra step in the process before a desired action should have a solid reason why it’s incorporated.
Of course, this rule manifests itself a product strategy level – is there a download to initiate, registration to complete, or new behavior to learn in order to use a service? But this guide also governs granular tactical decisions – how many inputs fields should be included or how is a page laid out?"
Every little detail matters in terms of reducing friction, just as Google initially figured out with it's spartan Search page with the multi-colored logo almost seven years ago.
For those interested, Search Engine Watch has an on-going forum discussion thread on the Google Click-to-Call Advertising.