Dissecting a Taboo: Phone Numbers in PPC Ads

Creating relevant and effective ad text is one of the most difficult, yet influential things you must do as a PPC advertiser. Within this daily management duty are a myriad of sub-tasks or “flavors” that can affect the outcome of your click-through-rates and conversion rates. Along with this wide world of ad text possibility also comes a flurry of disagreement on tactics. Today I’d like to talk about one of the most taboo tactics – the use of phone numbers in PPC ads.

There are discussions on both the advertiser
side and publisher side regarding the use of phone numbers. The topics range from whether phone numbers in ads are allowed, whether it’s effective, or if it’s merely a way of avoiding paying for clicks. There was even an article published on SEOMoz.org (from YOUmoz) about common PPC mistakes. Lucky number seven was, you guessed it, about using telephone numbers:

Not many people will pick up their phone and dial your number if they see your ad. So what you’re doing is just wasting space that can be used for a good message.

I’d like to officially agree to disagree! A client of mine has actually done quite well using phone numbers. They are in the hydraulic pump service industry and rely heavily on PPC advertising for lead generation. A little over a year ago, someone in our office read an article regarding this tactic and decided to give it a try for my client. August of 2006 was the first full month for using phone numbers in split-testing. There was an immediate jump in both CTR and conversion rate.

Ad Type







Conv. Rate

Without Phone #’s








With Phone #’s








Since that time, the phone number ad variations have become the “constant” that I test against for new ads. I can say without a doubt that the phone numbers in my ads are not a waste of space. Additionally, these ads have contributed greatly to the continued increase in my CTRs and the ongoing growth of lead generation efforts for this account.

The primary reason for this performance record is that the ads demonstrate that my client is ready and waiting for customers! Show the potential client that no matter how they contact you, you’re not only willing to serve them – you are chomping at the bit for their business!

I’d be curious to hear if anyone else has tested using phone numbers in their ads. Leave me a comment and let me know about your experiences!