Google Testing Click-to-Call

Google searchers can turn to the phone as well as the Web to connect with advertisers.

Google is testing a new feature for its AdWords keyword ads that appear alongside natural search results: click-to-call.

Greg Yardley, author of the blog, first reported seeing small green telephone handset icons next to some ads on Google.

A Google spokesman confirmed that the company was testing the service, but declined to give any details.

But Google has published a FAQ. According to it, when searchers click on the phone icon, they get a prompt to enter their phone numbers, then click a “Connect For Free” button. Google calls the number provided, then, when the searcher picks up, connects the searcher with the advertiser.

Google said it pays for the call. Not disclosed was how much it charges the advertiser for these ads, nor which vendors provides the click-to-call functionality.

Google said the advertiser can’t see the searcher’s phone number, and it promised to delete the number from its servers after a short period of time. However, the phone number is stored in an encrypted cookie placed on the searcher’s computer, so that next time, he or she won’t need to re-enter the phone number. The company suggested that users who don’t want their phone numbers stored should refuse the cookie.

Research firm Classified Intelligence said in a research note sent on Tuesday that the methodology described in the patent application for Google Automat includes a way of setting and collecting payment from advertisers using the cost-per-conversion model, in which payment is collected only when an advertiser connects with a customer in a pre-defined way. Google might collect based on a fixed commission or on a percentage of the selling price, according to the report’s author, Jim Townsend.

Townsend said Google Base and the rumored Google Purchase could be combined with Automat to facilitate selling and collecting money for advertising including the Click-to-Call ads.

Interest is rising in the click-to-call model. In August, Microsoft bought Teleo, a provider of VoIP technology that could be integrated with Microsoft’s Outlook and Internet Explorer, so that users could place a call from inside e-mail or a Web page.

Also in August, Avaya unveiled the latest release of Avaya Voice Portal with click-to-call and click-to-conference functionality. IBM uses Avaya’s Meeting Exchange to let Lotus Sametime, Notes and Domino users place a VoIP call directly from their instant messaging or e-mail clients.

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