- Google put out a two weeks notice for an upcoming change to how local business phone numbers appear in AdWords ads, potentially affecting both call extension and location extension campaigns, according to reporting by Search Engine Land.
- Starting Jan. 19, Adwords ads "may" begin showing location-specific numbers when available for retail businesses, even if the campaign uses a different, specific call extension for ad relevance and even for ads that only impact certain locations.
- Adding to the confusion for marketers, Google’s announcement was worded in such a way that stated location-specific phone extensions "may be used" rather than "will be used," and a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that AdWords is continually testing and ads might still show no number in the location extension.
Google is likely testing using local numbers in AdWords to see if this increases the relevancy of ads for mobile users and is in keeping with the company's broader efforts to enhance the mobile user experience, including plans for a standalone mobile search index.
Location extensions can be valuable for marketers because they offer increased exposure for ads showing up in Google Maps and Local Finder results, but automatically showing a local phone extension as opposed to a marketer's indicated central number will mean some might have to adjust their AdWords strategy.
The changes will likely affect campaigns designed around tracking to central call centers or dedicated numbers, hurting the ability to monitor call conversion. Advertisers can opt-out of having local numbers appear in location extensions, but Google suggested that this could negatively impact ad impressions, per Search Engine Land.
Over the past year or so, Google has built out AdWords offerings to better accommodate a mobile-first marketing world and also local businesses, including expanded text ads and responsive native display spots, but the new changes may earn more ire than praise. Location-based marketing is another area Google has been trying to bolster, with brands like Starbucks and Walgreens seeing success at the hyper-local level with ad products like Promoted Places.