November 22, 2016

Google Rolls Out Click-to-Message Extension for AdWords

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After only a month of regional testing, Google has pushed the new Click-to-Message extension for AdWords to the entire platform.

The Click-to-Message extension performs exactly as it sounds: advertisers can set up a prompt to text beside their search ads. If someone clicks the icon, an SMS message will populate with the advertiser’s phone number.

According to Google, 65 percent of respondents to a Google Insights survey said they would “consider using messaging to connect with a business to get information about a product, service, or to schedule an in-person-appointment.”

Image Courtesy of Google

Image Courtesy of Google

Other sources have corroborated consumers’ growing propensity to communicate with businesses via SMS or a messaging app. For example, Facebook found that 67 percent of consumers expect to message businesses more in the coming years.

To the Main Stage

As a marketing channel, SMS isn’t that new, and it’s traditionally been relegated to an ancillary role among marketing channels.

Google’s new ad extension will catapult SMS from an afterthought to a main-stage consideration. It’s not hard to imagine businesses suffering from an overload of messages sourced from AdWords.

Automation is an obvious solution to deal with that problem. Platforms like Marketo have offered SMS functionality for some time now. Speed of response will also be a huge factor in the success of any click-to-text process, which only strengthens the case for automation software.

Chatbots represent another technology possibly made more relevant by Google’s new AdWords feature. For most businesses, the influx of messages will coalesce around a few main topics. Deploying a chatbot to handle those inquiries seems much more efficient than hiring a text messaging specialist.

A Convergence of Trends

The Click-to-Message extension itself is noteworthy for the reasons listed above, but it’s also a microcosm of two larger trends: search engine advertising and the growth of mobile.

According to an IAB report, digital ad revenue for the first half of 2016 topped $32 billion, with search engine advertising for desktop and mobile claiming 50 percent of the total. In addition, mobile ad revenue had increased by 89 percent since last year, though this number is somewhat less specific because “mobile” includes a variety of channels.

Still, the data clearly states that both search advertising and mobile are growing at tremendous rates, so adding Click-to-Message as an AdWords extension just reinforces both of those trends.

In further deference to just how much people use the internet on mobile devices, earlier this month Google began using the mobile version of sites as its first reference point when indexing for search. The desktop version of the site will be referenced as a fall back option after mobile.

While not immediately connected to AdWords, prioritizing mobile websites over desktop versions does intersect the basic principle of Click-to-Message: phones have become the primary way people use the internet, and marketers need to adapt.