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Study: 1 in 5 Calls from Paid Search Goes to Voicemail

Andrew Sheridan Business Intelligence Project Manager, DialogTech

Does your paid search ROI ever feel like a bit of a mystery? You are spending a big chunk of your budget on paid search, and doing your best to optimize messaging, manage bids, and develop targeting strategies to drive the most conversions at the lowest costs — yet you aren’t seeing the lift you wanted in customer acquisition and revenue. The problem may not be your AdWords campaigns, but who is — or rather, isn’t — answering the phone when consumers call your locations.

DT University, the educational and research arm of DialogTech, recently set out to uncover how many calls generated from paid search ads are going to voicemail. We examined data captured by the DialogTech voice management platform on nearly 400,000 calls generated by paid search ads from a wide range of industries. We flagged the calls sent to voicemail and used AI algorithms to examine the content of the voicemail messages each caller left and scored them for buying intent. Using our AI solution for scoring calls, we dug deeper to find out which of these calls were sent to voicemail and to identify voicemail messages that contained words and phrases that indicate buying intent.

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The Paid Search ROI Problem We Uncovered

What we found has huge implications for any business that invests in paid search to drive inbound calls. In short, we uncovered one in five calls generated from paid search campaigns ends up in voicemail boxes.

DT University- DialogTech Study finds nearly 1 in 5 calls from paid search goes to voicemail

What’s more, our study found 57% of voicemail messages from callers contained words and phrases that signaled buying intent. For example, they contained phrases such as “need to schedule,” “make an appointment,” or “how much does it cost.”

DT University- DialogTech Study finds 57% of voicemail messages from callers signaled buying intent

The problem here is two-fold — not only are these calls for which you are paying a pretty penny going to voicemail, but they are also calls with high purchasing intent. If you aren’t able to recapture that customer when (and if) your business calls them back, you are wasting ad spend, decreasing your overall paid search ROI, and losing potentially high-value customers all at the same time.

Your Customers Are Calling from Paid Search

Marketers are spending billions on paid search campaigns to generate quality leads and customers. And often, those conversions occur offline and over the phone. Due to the huge increase in searches made on smartphones, there has also been a 50% increase in calls from US mobile search ads from 2015 to 2017, and this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Think about your own consumer behavior. It is much more efficient to click a phone number and call a business than to fill out a complex web form and wait an unknown period of time for someone to get back to you.

US mobile search ads drive calls

Calls from Paid Search Are Big Revenue Drivers

These calls are not only one of the most popular conversions from paid search, they are also among the most valuable. Studies show that inbound calls convert to revenue 10x–15x more than web leads. Forrester found that consumers who call businesses convert faster, spend more, and churn less frequently than those who don’t. In fact, BIA/Kelsey research found calls will influence $1 trillion in US consumer spending this year. To put it simply: for most industries, calls drive revenue.

Are Your Locations Answering Calls You Deliver from Paid Search?

With one-fifth of inbound calls from paid search going to voicemail, businesses are potentially wasting billions of dollars in the US alone. Digital agency Merkle reported recently that paid search spend increased 21% year-over-year. When consumers see a paid search ad and are ready to call your business, is your business ready to answer the phone?

The DT University study found businesses are missing the most calls on the weekends, but calls are also missed on weekdays. More calls are missed on Fridays than any other day. Businesses answer the most phone calls during the 11 AM hour and, unsurprisingly, voicemail rates immediately begin to increase at 5 PM at the end of the business day.

DT University- DialogTech Study finds percent of calls going to voicemail by day and by hour

It’s not only calls on weekends that are going unanswered, but calls during business hours, too. This points to a much larger issue — many locations aren’t answering calls fast enough, even during normal hours of operations. Are they short-staffed? Are they not prioritizing answering the phone? Uncovering the reason is an important step in improving your paid search ROI.

Calls Go Unanswered Across Industries

Even during business hours, a significant percentage of calls in some industries are going to voicemail. For example, in the childhood education, home services, and automotive industries, nearly 20%–25% of calls are going unanswered during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.

What’s more alarming is that, of the calls going to voicemail in some industries, between 44% and 64% have buying intent. Think of the revenue you could add to the bottom line if all these ready-to-buy callers were answered.

DT University- DialogTech Study finds calls are going to voicemail even during business hours

To help you recover some of the budget that may be wasted on calls going to voicemail, we have compiled top tips based on our findings:

8 Call-Related Strategies to Optimize Paid Search ROI

1. Don’t run call-only ads when you aren’t open or staffed to answer calls.

Call-only ads can be effective at driving phone leads since they enable people ready to call to call your business right from the search ad. But those conversions could be wasted if you are running the ads when business locations aren’t open or staffed to answer them. So pause those ads during those times.

This may also be true for other search ad campaigns where a high percentage of conversions are inbound calls. You may want to pause them during nights or weekends when no one is there to answer.

2. Understand how your paid search campaigns drive qualified callers to each location.

Analyze your call data to further understand which campaigns, ads, and keywords are driving the most calls to each location and when. Analyze call data alongside web data to understand what is and isn’t working.

3. Optimize spend for the ads and keywords driving the most high-quality calls at the lowest costs.

Stop spending your ad budget on pricey keywords that don’t turn into customers and revenue. Optimize bid and targeting strategies to drive more calls to each location.

4. Route each caller to the best agent or location right away to convert them to customers.

Connecting callers in conversation with the best agent or location is an important part of converting leads to customers. Don’t make your callers wait on hold or get bounced around from agent to agent — each delay makes them more likely to hang up. Instead, you can set up rules to route callers down the ideal path based on data specific to each call and caller.

By routing callers based on time of day, the marketing source that drove the calls, if they are a new or repeat caller, or whichever strategy makes the most sense for your business, you can connect your callers with the person or location best suited to their needs. It will help your business convert more callers to customers, and that will help increase your paid search ROI.

5. Analyze conversations for unanswered rates, caller buying intent, agent performance, and call outcome.

With AI-driven conversation analytics, it’s easy to find the calls that convert to revenue and uncover the reasons why. For example, are your best-converting calls coming from a specific channel, ad, or keyword? Are your agents using specific words or phrasing on the calls that convert? Conversely, you can find any calls that didn’t convert or were poor lead quality and isolate the ineffective campaign or locations/agents.

6. Follow up with good callers who leave voicemail messages right away.

Like any inbound lead, the faster you respond the more likely they will convert to revenue. Harnessing the power of AI and conversation analytics, you can analyze voicemail transcriptions and prioritize follow-up for the callers most likely to convert.

7. Retarget good callers who didn’t convert with tailored, relevant digital ad campaigns.

Call analytics allows you to capture a wide range of data around the marketing source of the call, the caller’s phone number, what they’re looking to purchase, their purchasing intent, if they converted, and much more. This rich data can be used to retarget unconverted callers with personalized ads, making it more likely they will convert in the future.

8. Target lookalike audiences resembling callers who converted to customers.

Get your ads in front of new audiences that resemble audiences that converted by calling from specific ad campaigns. Extend your reach and acquire more customers and revenue by targeting these new lookalike audiences with the same ad campaigns that worked initially.

View the complete infographic and learn why you may be missing out on paid call conversions.

See our infographic, Unanswered Calls: The Plaque of Paid Search ROI, to get a comprehensive overview of the findings that you can share with your peers.

View the Infographic