Almost every major player in the search world had a public statement to make at last week’s Search Engine Strategies Expo in San Jose. Of note, were announcements about the Ingenio Pay Per Call (TM) Application Programming Interface (API), and the unveiling of Verizon SuperPages new Pay For Calls advertising service.

The Pay Per Call advertising model lets advertisers bid for phone call leads rather than clicks, at the rate of $2.00 and up, depending on category selection. To give you a quick review, the Ingenio/Miva PPCall system was put into operation earlier this year. Its advertising distribution network includes AOL, go2 Directory Systems (mobile search directory) and the Miva network.

The Verizon SuperPages PFCalls service starts in September. PFCalls also leverages the power of more than 1,000 printed telephone directories published by Verizon. An additional value of PFCalls is the ability to leverage ads in local Verizon yellow pages directories. Then there’s the fact that IYP (Internet Yellow Pages) traffic gives advertisers prospects ready-to-buy rather than just browsing.

The two advertising services have many similarities. They offer geographic targeting and provide a dedicated toll-free number in the ad, which rings through to the business’ regular phone line and is used for tracking and billing. They provide a business-information landing page. One difference is Ingenio’s new API, which it calls an industry-first.

Ingenio API Features

The Ingenio Pay Per Call API Program gives participants the following features:

  • Seamless access to Pay Per Call functionality, including ad creation, geo-targeting and real-time visibility into an advertiser’s competitive bid environment.
  • Auto-scheduling capabilities, which allow campaign managers to pre-set hours of availability and receive calls only when they’re ready to do business.
  • Customizable reports in a variety of formats, such as Excel, Comma Separated (CSV), XML and Adobe PDF, which showcase total calls, impressions, conversion rates, average call charges and call duration over any period of time (such as day, week, month or quarter). Participants can also integrate this reporting data into their existing analytics programs to measure campaign effectiveness.

“Pay-Per-Call coupled with search is a powerful combination for high involvement purchases or high ticket items,” said Kevin Lee, executive chairman and co-founder, Did-it, a search engine marketing and advertising services firm. “As with other auction based media, an API facilitates agencies like to expand and automate client campaigns much more effectively, allowing their clients to tap the potential in Pay-Per-Call.”

PPCall Benefits SEM Firms and Advertisers

PPCall programs allow SEM firms and agencies to diversify their existing offerings, capturing revenue from new audiences. Roughly 14 million small businesses do not currently transact business online, and this product is uniquely designed to serve this untapped market. Larger firms selling products that require high-touch sales technique can also use PPCall.

Ingenio sees Pay Per Call as a great fit for advertisers whose products and services require a back and forth exchange prior to purchase. High-end travel, financial services, real estate and mortgage companies are a few examples. These advertisers are proficient at telephone sales, and Pay Per Call plays well to their skills.

Competition With Verizon

Ingenio is not worried about a major IYP entering the market. This only proves that Internet-driven phone leads are of great value to the local market, and it doesn’t view Verizon's implementation as competitive. “Since the market consists of millions and millions of businesses, the involvement of major IYPs and search engines is key to market adoption,” said Valerie Garing Combs, Ingenio spokesperson.

When asked for a major differentiator between Verizon Pay For Calls and Ingenio Pay Per Call, Ingenio points to its distribution network, which is currently the only ad distribution network dedicated exclusively to Pay Per Call. This allows Ingenio to offer increased distribution to anyone wanting to syndicate Pay Per Call listings.

Verizon states it will have “the largest distribution network for PFCalls.” The network will consist of, IYP network affiliates and another extended network.

Progress With Pay Per Call

Ingenio has had good feedback from advertisers, especially with regard to conversions. It already has thousands of advertisers, ranging from national floral services to insurance providers. These advertisers are converting 1 in 3 incoming leads on average, reinforcing the notion that phone calls move online advertisers closer to the point of sale. Below is a case study illustrating one company’s experience with PPCall.

Advertiser Case Study From Ingenio

American Incorporators Ltd (AIL) is one of the nation's top providers of incorporation services. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, AIL has been providing entrepreneurs, business owners and their advisors worldwide with efficient and cost-effective incorporating services, in all 50 states & DC, since 1991.

David Clarke has been in the incorporations business for over 13 years and handles all aspects of marketing for the company. AILs' ad mix includes print ads in major magazines and newspapers, direct mail and paid search marketing with Google and Yahoo!. Currently, David estimates he spends about $10K a month on his pay-per-click advertising, which he calls "moderately successful" – he feels like he gets good exposure, but that it's quite expensive. AIL operates a website and can even incorporate people online, but he says the conversion rates for his pay-per-click campaigns are 1-2%.

Dave immediately thought the Pay Per Call concept was a natural fit for his company's unique service when he first heard about it. He said, "We're not just an online business by itself. Due to the nature of our business, people have lots of questions and need to have a live conversation; therefore, 60-70% of our business comes through the phone." AIL has a seasoned team of incorporation specialists manning their local call center, and using an advertising mechanism that plays to AIL's strengths is ideal.

AIL currently has about 5 different Pay Per Call ads running, and Dave finds the Pay Per Call ads cost less and convert better than his click ads -- at roughly 7-10% as compared to 1-2% with clicks. He is currently bidding $2 a call for most of his ads, $10 a call for one ad. With an average sale of up to $400, he is very pleased with the ROI thus far.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

August 19, 2005

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

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