Effective January 19th, Adwords will be implementing a change to their call and location extensions that could impact users of call analytics, diluting their data and rendering it inaccurate. Adwords users received an email from Google that explained upcoming changes to call/local extensions on ads and how to opt out of that change.

As Google explained in the email to users, it may show the local number in the business’s Google My Business (GMB) listing even if the campaign uses a different number in their call extension with location extension enabled. As a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, the uncertainty comes from their process of continuously testing. And it’s possible the ads could still potentially show with no number in the location extension.

In Google’s email they made the distinction between two types of ads that will be affected. The most significant difference is that in ads with location extensions, a location-specific phone number may be used.


When I contacted AdWords through their Twitter support, they responded by stating that instead there will be two numbers on ads with the location extension enabled, and that the call extension will take priority.

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How that will look on ads is not yet clear but may cause some confusion for customers, leading some to use the number in the call extension and others to use the location-specific one.

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Who will this change affect?

Anyone who uses either a central line or call tracking numbers for conversion tracking could be affected by this change. And starting on Jan 19th, two numbers may be included on their ads, a call extension and a location-specific number.

For our Telmetrics customers, this change may affect your call analytics by diluting the data. Customers will have the option to either use the call extension or the location-specific number. As a result, the reliability of your data could be compromised if customers are using both numbers, and with the option to use either, they are likely to do so.

Given you’re using call tracking numbers, we strongly recommend opting out to maintain the accuracy of your data. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Telmetrics account representative.

How to opt out

All advertisers who wish to opt out of this change, need to fill out a form provided by Google. Worded to strongly discourage opting out, the form warns that opting out “may reduce your ad impressions and call volume, while making it difficult for users to reach you.” This is not the case and all your customers will still be able to reach you, using call tracking numbers.

In the form, Google also admits that this change will impact advertisers using conversion tracking and lists it as one of two reasons for opting out: “I want detailed call reporting and the ability to track conversions from these phone calls.”

Opt out immediately to keep collecting data

Advertisers who rely on conversion tracking need to opt out right away or risk compromising the data. One issue with opting out is that it may prevent you from using location extensions in your ads.

A possible work-around involves using one main line call tracking number for all organic search including web listings like GMB. This method is less granular because it lumps paid and organic search in one bucket, and blocks advertisers from comparing ads on other search engines or across channels such as social media.

Having that unbiased view on ads allows advertisers to evaluate the marketing performance of each search engine. One of our clients found that their Bing ads brought in the lowest cost-per-lead and based on that information made adjustments to the way they allocated their ad budget. If you don’t opt out and you want to compare data on paid ads between search engines, you will not be able to and may not get the lowest cost-per-lead while maintaining your traffic flow.

A third party unbiased view on Google’s paid search performance is just one benefit to using call tracking and analytics with paid search ads. There are many more benefits to call attribution that we’ve outlined here.

Don’t lose out on crucial data

Call tracking provides more meaningful conversion data than a click through to a website and is a crucial metric for many industries that rely on calls from customers. 61% of consumers say calling a business is important during the purchase phase. Especially for local businesses, a phone call is the conversion channel and ignoring that channel results in inaccurate and underrepresented ROAS (return on ad spend). Furthermore, third party call tracking provides unbiased and reliable data on call conversions that reflects the actual performance of your ads.

Why Google made the changes

Although there are no definitive answers to where this change is leading, one possible motivation involves a new ad format based on GMB listings. This is just speculation - but the changes to call extensions may be paving the way to ads that are automatically filled in using contact information on verified GMB listings.

Google’s changes to call extensions do reinforce the importance of local numbers in driving calls to your business. We recommend, whenever possible, to include a local call tracking number, so potential customers know they’re reaching a local business.

If you have any questions regarding Google’s upcoming changes or how call tracking and analytics drive responses, please contact our Customer Success Team and we’ll be glad to help.


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