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The business phone number Google displays to your PPC ad viewers could be changing this week. AdWords will begin to show certain local search users the phone number advertisers pair with a specific business address (the location extension), instead of the ad campaign call extensions, you may have set up on your Google My Business account.

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What We Know About the Change

Here’s how WordStream summed things up:

Google announced yesterday that starting on January 19, AdWords will also begin to show local searchers the local phone number of that advertiser’s address as it’s listed in their Google My Business account, regardless of how they’ve set up their call extensions. That means that if you’re using call tracking or another number phone in your call extensions, that call extension number will no longer appear alongside your ads on the local SERP with your location extension. (Emphasis WordStream’s.)

Google has advised AdWords customers to review their Google My Business account, verifying that your business listings have the correct phone numbers — since these will be the numbers most likely displayed to users in Google Local Finder and Google Maps results and ads.

Word of the change only came out earlier this month, taking advertisers who meticulously tend their keyword bid management strategy by a bit of surprise.

Despite the fact we’re talking about a seemingly minimal switch from the display of one functional phone number to another functional phone number, this does put a wrench in the works for some advertisers.

Who’s Affected by the Change

Call conversion tracking could be a challenge, and businesses that use a call center, phone tree, or central phone number could also face problems.

The biggest change will be felt by local businesses who have one or more office or retail locations yet prefer to direct their calls to a different phone number. International, national, and large regional companies probably won’t notice much of a change.

Search Engine Land details the challenges for local business advertisers:

There are numerous scenarios in which advertisers with physical location prefer to have calls directed to a central number or call center. With AdWords, chief among those reasons is the lack of call conversion tracking at the individual location level. Google is clearly aware of that concern. There is a form that advertisers can submit before the change to opt out of having local numbers show in location extensions, but Google warns it could negatively impact ad impressions (and, in turn, calls).

What Steps Advertisers Can Take Next

Are you a local advertiser who wants to know how much this could affect you? One clue is to log into your Google My Business account and click on the “Ad Extensions” tab at the top of the dashboard. Here, you can view all your extensions, how often each is shown (impressions), and how many clicks each gets. If you have lots of calls coming into your local extensions already, you could see an increase. If not, this change may not affect you very much.

If your primary goal with your AdWords campaign is to drive calls and track call conversions, there are still some steps you could take to improve campaign performance. Call-only campaigns are alive and well, and while Google sorts out this new change, it’s another area you could focus on. Call conversion focused folks could also dig into landing page call tracking if you haven’t already.

Lastly, you could take a wait-and-see approach. It’s beginning to look like Google isn’t quite done with changes in this area. While Google hasn’t detailed their master plan for local business phone numbers in ads and search results, it’s clear they’re focused on making some changes to improve the user experience. I imagine we may see more announcements in the coming months as more details come out.

Need help digesting the meaning of this new Google AdWords change? Call us at 313-338-9515 or email to learn how our full-service digital agency can help.