Paid Search (PPC)

Google recently introduced click-to-message extension which allows customers to send a text message directly to your business when they click a Pay Per Click (PPC) ad. I'm trying it out for one of my clients and this is what I've learnt so far.

Click to text

Click-to-text (SMS) is a relatively new extension now available to all Google Adwords advertisers.  The extension was in beta in the middle of last year and was rolled out in October.

I recently ran some pilot tests using it for one of my clients and in this blog I’ll share with you my conclusions about it so far, including it’s advantages and disadvantages, as well as how to implement it.

The increasing use of mobile devices is well documented and has led to Google rolling out of a mobile site tester, a mobile-friendly ranking algorithm and mobile friendly PPC ads. It’s therefore no surprise that they’ve now introduced the Adwords click-to-text ad extension. A contact at Google recently told me that they expect 6 billion people to have internet access via their mobile phones by 2021 and that:

“60% of Millennials prefer two-way text engagement with companies because it’s convenient, fast, and easy to use”*

“65% of consumers say they’d consider using messaging to connect with a business to get information about a product or service, or to schedule an in-person appointment”*

(source)

What Does Adwords Click to Text Look Like?

Adwords Click to text

Three step process of Google Adwords Click-to-text extension

Adwords click-to-text is a simple three step process:

  1. The user clicks the click-to-text extension
  2. The user’s mobile prefills a text message directed to a number that can receive messages
  3. The business either replies to the message (if they have that functionality) or calls back

Does Click to Text Work in Real Life?

Adding the extension to one of my client’s accounts seemed a good fit because their mobile traffic was relatively high and texting for a quote seemed like a sensible approach for their service. Because of the way Google serves up extensions, I’ll have to run this test for a few months to get any reliable information but the initial data looks favourable. The below table shows two weeks of data:

Click typeClicksImpressionsCTRAvg. CPCCost
Headline10995911.37%1.09118.96
Table extension283188.81%1.4340.02
Click to message79590.73%1.188.27
Sitelink46120.65%0.863.45
Get location details16260.16%0.440.44
Promotion Extension1561.79%1.221.22

N.B. Once implemented you can get the same extension performance data by going to: Ad Extensions>View: Message Extensions>Segment: Click Type

The ad’s headline is unsurprisingly the most clicked element of the ad, followed by the table extension, or price information. I expect most customers want to get to the website and/or click through to pricing. What I am looking for, however, is more engagement.

Based on the data so far, the click-to-text extension seems to have a few things going for it:

  1. It’s not an ordinary click, it’s a lead generation click meaning the client proactively engages with the company which gives them a hot lead via the customer’s phone number. I’ve always believed in making things easy for the customer. The fewer clicks the better.
  2. This advertiser does have call-only ads and click-to-call extensions, which didn’t receive any clicks this time. This could mean SMS is more preferable as a direct contact option.
  3. Most interestingly though, CTR has gone up between 24% and 35% for customers on mobile devices, on the two accounts I have running.*
CampaignClicksCTR (New)CTR Before)CTR (Change)CTR (%)
Keyword 113512.65%9.35%3.30%35.35%
Keyword 218415.02%12.06%2.96%24.57%

*these figures include all ads shown to mobile devices and not just ads shown with the message extension.

What Does This Mean?

In the short term, the results so far do look promising and the feedback from the client is also positive as it gives their customers more options to engage with them. It does make sense that as mobile traffic to the client’s website increases, so does their need to provide mobile specific functionality. The increase in CTR from mobile users seeing ads with extensions is encouraging. However, whether this is a feature of having more extensions (and taking up more space) or having a click to message extension isn’t clear. More data is needed to make any solid conclusions. It would be especially useful to find out the conversion rate of a click to message compared to other channels.

What Is the Main Application of Click to Text?

Due to the limited nature (160 characters) of text messages, the main applications for click to message extensions are likely to be service requests for more information, a call back or quotes, for example. When speaking to Google, they said many of the feedback quotes come from businesses like hotels, car rental services and insurance.

So, not all businesses will find this feature useful. You need to check if you get sufficient mobile traffic to make it worthwhile. You also need to be sure that it is preferable for you to engage with prospective clients via the SMS platform, rather than driving traffic to your website to increase onsite engagement.

How to Implement AdWords Click to Text

The first hurdle is that you need a number that can receive messages. Google points larger businesses towards chat facilities, so they need to support SMS chat. If your business has a chat facility which is SMS capable they can give you a number to use in your extension. For smaller businesses, Google suggests using a business mobile phone to reply directly.

However, the method I chose to use was to get a mobile number through an online message service provider. This provided a number and an online platform to receive and reply to messages but it also allows any messages to be forwarded on to an email address, which can be used to reply to the message. There are many service providers out there but I chose Esendex, a Nottingham based company, and a service called Echo for Email as they provided a free trial.

Once you have a number, the rest is very simple:

Go to “Ad Extensions” tab and “View: Message extensions” and “+ EXTENSION”:

Click to sms instructions

How to access click to text

 

Then fill in the form that pops up with the following details:

  • Business name – this is the business name that will show in the message in brackets
  • Text phone number – this is the number the message needs to go to
  • Extension text – this is the ad message that prompts the user to text
  • Message text – this is the prefilled message that appears in the users phone

N.B. The “advanced” button will allow you to set a period that this extension runs or a daily/hourly schedule. For more information please see Google Best Practice

Adwords Click to SMS Application

 

What Are the Advantages of Click to Text?

My contact at Google said the main benefits of click-to-text is that it’s great for pre-qualification, generating phone leads and expanding subscription lists. I also believe click-to-text:

  • Prevents clogged up phone lines and allows support departments to respond more efficiently
  • Is less likely to suffer from channel noise compared to mail
  • Is good if onsite mobile engagement or UX is poor
  • Is an alternative for out-of-hours communication
  • Gives the business another tool of engagement

What Are the Drawbacks of Click to Text?

  • No conversion tracking! Unlike the “click to call” extension (below diagram) you cannot count messages or engagement as conversions/leads
  • Text messaging lends itself well to simple questions or requests but may not be suitable for more complex queries
  • The channel could be misused by customers e.g. customer support queries
  • Use might reduce website traffic
  • Google chooses (via ad rank) if your extension shows and what combination of extensions show based on likely performance
  • A business may have to add an SMS channel, as I did in my below test, to use this feature

 

Clcik to call conversion example

An image from click to call allowing an option to track calls as conversions

 

Overall

I think click-to-text is a solid tool to add to your armoury, if your target market use mobile to find and engage with you online. Things to note beforehand are the lack of conversion tracking and the need to make sure you have resources to reply to any messages promptly as it suits the channel. You may also want to consider using negative retargeting to existing clients to prevent customer service queries coming in.

I hope you found this useful! It would be great to get some feedback from you if you have had success or otherwise from this extension.

2 responses to “What is AdWords Click to Text (SMS) and does it work?”

  1. markkennedysem says:

    I am testing it as well and seeing simialr numbers. However, my one issue is that if they click to message and don’t hit send, you still get charged for the click. And we’ve seen that happen a few times

    • Ed Ryan Ed Ryan says:

      Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. I have found a similar scenario especially at the start. I tweaked the text that was pre-written in the “Message text” which seemed to reduce the amount of none message clicks but it hasn’t ruled them out completely (maybe due to accidental clicks). A problem I have with the extension is the lack of engagement between the advertisers website and the paid traffic. I think a good suggestion to Google would be to direct the browser to the site as well as opening the text message. Therefore, if the user accidentally clicks on the text extension the browser will have been direct to the site ensuring the advertiser doesn’t pay twice.

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