Lead Gen Questions (Part 3): Who are my customers calling?

Jennie Scholick Nov 18, 2014

Picking up where we left off last week, when we discussed the path a consumer may take from Googling your name to clicking on a lead generation site's ad and ultimately landing on your competitor’s website, this week’s Lead Generation Question revolves around another method that lead gen sites use to drive customers: pay-per-call.

So what are Pay-Per-Call Sites and how do they work?

Pay-per-call lead gen sites work very similarly to standard lead gen sites, with one essential difference: the lead gen company is paid for each phone call rather than filled-out web form. Otherwise, they are very similar. Let’s take pay-per-call lead gen site targeting Liberty Mutual as an example.

A search for “liberty mutual” on Google Mobile returned the following ad:

Liberty Mutual Pay-per-call

As we saw last week with Farmers, the ad is clearly insinuating that, should the consumer click on the ad, they will be taken to a site with Liberty Mutual Auto Insurance quotes.

In this case, that assumption is somewhat true. The landing page does mention Liberty Mutual several times--but, likely to Liberty Mutual’s chagrin, it also offers to compare Liberty Mutual’s prices to 25+ other insurers.

FastQuote Landing Page

Entering your zip code will take you through the same set of steps that any standard online lead generation site would.

Clicking on the phone number, on the other hand, will call the phone number, or, if you’ve navigated here via a desktop computer or tablet, will open FaceTime or Skype. Calling the number will connect the consumer to an affiliate or an automated call center that asks a variety of questions in order to pre-qualify the lead. Upon answering the questions, the system will redirect the consumer to an insurance provider--not necessarily Liberty Mutual.

Another version of this same technique is for the lead gen site to add a call extension to the ad itself, as seen in this example:

Liberty Mutual Call Extension

If the consumer clicks on this ad--which would only run on mobile search--she will not be sent to a landing page at all, instead, she will be immediately connected, via phone, to a lead gen call center. The system will proceed as above: upon answering a series of questions, the consumer will be redirected to an insurance provider, possibly Liberty Mutual, but just as likely someone else. This kind of ad should be even more concerning for brands, as the consumer may not even realize that she was not calling Liberty Mutual directly.

Is there a difference between these sites and standard lead gen sites?

Not really, the difference lies in convenience. For a consumer, it may be much more convenient to use a pay-per-call site if she is searching for insurance on her phone [edit 11/25: a report released by Google and Ipsos suggests that users do strongly prefer "Click to Call." This Search Engine Journal article covers the report in detail]. These kinds of sites know that and therefore largely target mobile search, though they do pop up with some regularity on desktop searches.

The issues remain the same as in standard webform lead gen: diverted direct traffic, potential loss of brand loyalty, and concerns that your leads can be sold to your competitors. The tangled web of automated phone systems also makes it even harder to track where these leads come from and who they’ve gone through before they get to you.

What can I do about it?

The standard response: monitor. In general, you can learn a lot by asking potential partners how they handle compliance and other brand issues before you start working with them. You should also probably do some basic monitoring of who is bidding on your brand terms in order to avoid purchasing leads from sites who do. If enough brands push back against some of the obscurity in the industry, there may be the potential for more widespread change.

Are you targeted by pay-per-call lead gen? Ideas on how to manage these relationship? Leave a comment below or contact us at BrandVerity!

Topics: paid search

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