Google is getting ready to change the way it shows phone numbers in ads using location extensions. Until now, advertisers have been able to choose between showing a local number or a centralised number – but it seems Google is going to force local numbers on advertisers.


Why is this important? Well, aside from the cases where you might prefer to offer a centralised number, there are also conversion tracking issues with the localised approach, which could be problematic for some advertisers after the change.


What exactly is Google changing?

When you choose to run both call and location extensions on an ad, the obvious approach is to provide a local number to match that location. In most cases, this is the best way to go but there are times where you might want to use a more generic, central number. Google gives you this option, too:

In these cases, all you need to do is tell Google why you don’t want to shoe your local number and that’s it – no problem. However, Google seems intent on changing or removing this option altogether.


Why does this matter?

Of course, this only matters if you run ads using call and location extensions together. And, even then, it’s only a problem if you want to send callers to a central number rather than a local alternative.

It could be that your local stores aren’t equipped to handle the kind of calls your ad is promoting, for example. Or, it could be that you want “detailed call reporting and the ability to track conversions from these phone calls” – something you can’t do with local numbers.

That last reason is a bit of a stinker if you’re used to tracking conversions from said calls.

Why is Google making the change?

Google’s reasoning behind the move is basically because it makes little sense to have a local ad run with a centralised number. Fair enough. It’s even raised fears that neglecting local numbers could negatively affect impressions and the number of calls those ads are capable of generating.

We haven’t seen any numbers from Google to back this but it’s clear Google doesn’t want us to be avoiding local numbers anymore. The problem is, many of us aren’t doing it because we want to use a centralised number, but rather because we want to track the call conversions.

It’s a compromise many of us felt have felt the need to make, not choose. And it seems Google hasn’t come up with a method to track call conversions for the local numbers it wants us to use.

When is the change coming in?

Google says the change will come into effect on January 19 – so there isn’t much time left. However, the search giant isn’t exactly clear about what will happen to ads that continue to use centralised numbers.

It says those ads “may” drive users to local numbers regardless of your settings. It also suggests you might be able to opt-out of the change by filling out a request form, although Google is recommending advertisers go along with the transition, of course.

Something it doesn’t suggest is that there’ll be a solid option for tracking calls from local numbers anytime soon.

Sadly, that’s all we know at this stage but we’ll be quick to report any new development and you can always reach out to us on social for the latest PPC tips and news.