Pay Per Call 101 – A Guide for Beginners


The Internet has given rise to a plethora of new marketing opportunities, from pay-per-click to the endless supply of social media campaigns.  But one of the most effective and valuable modes of marketing available predates the Internet era, and yet it has even more applicability today.

I’m talking, of course, about Pay Per Call marketing, which is one of the best ways to make money with affiliate marketing.  Considering that two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, it’s only logical for savvy marketers to take advantage of the technological advances.  And Pay Per Call fits in perfectly with the brave new Internet advertising landscape—research shows that “by 2018, mobile search will drive 73 billion inbound phone calls to businesses.”  Furthermore, “70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results.”

Chances are, these trends will continue as consumers continue to move their lives into the digital realm and come to completely depend on their smartphones.


What is Pay Per Call marketing? 

Let’s start with a brief history.  There are numerous old-school forms of Pay Per Call, such as simple paper advertisements urging consumers to call the number listed and purchase a product or service.  But the method with which you might be most familiar is late-night infomercials, which are designed to spur you to call the number on the screen and try out what they’re selling.

One of the major benefits of Pay Per Call is that it’s easy for companies to track their return on investment (ROI).  In the case of infomercials, marketers assign numbers to each infomercial and can track which consumers are calling which number.  This makes it simple to determine how much bang you’re getting for your buck.

So what exactly is Pay Per Call?

Pay Per Call definition: a marketing strategy in which advertisers pay publishers to generate qualified calls who, thanks to the affiliate’s creative and messaging, are induced to make inbound calls to the advertisers either to purchase or inquire about a product or service. The publisher/affiliate who participates in Pay-Per-Call affiliate marketing earns a commission for every sale the advertiser closes, or every call that lasts a certain minimum duration (e.g., 90 seconds).

There you have it.

How Does Pay Per Call Work?

Say a solar panel installation company called Company X wants to generate leads via Pay-Per-Call. Company X will place an order with a performance marketing agency to receive a specified number of calls from prospects interest in going solar. The performance marketing agency then creates the content and has its affiliate/publisher set up an ad campaign with forms and tracking phone numbers targeting the right websites and various channels either online or offline to generate calls that will be directed to Company X.

Now, say I want to install a solar panel in my home, and I come across Company X’s Pay-Per-Call ads. I call the number directly on the page and will be forwarded along to Company X. Alternatively, I fill out a form, and the performance marketing agency or their affiliate will have an agent call and text me to gauge how serious I am. The inclusion of an IVR (interactive voice response) can further qualify me as a prospective buyer, and then my call will pass through the performance marketing agency’s call tracking technology and route me to Company X’s sales team, and they will take the process of selling me on solar form there. Depending on the type of deal the performance marketing agency worked out, the affiliate can be paid either a commission of a sale or a bounty for my call if it lasts the required minimum duration.

In sum, with Pay-Per-Call the advertiser is buying phone calls from qualified leads that have a good chance of turning into a sale.

Though as we’ve discussed, infomercials are easy to track for ROI, it can be very difficult for advertisers to ensure their advertising dollars are being spent effectively online with many of the various social media options out there. But Pay-Per-Call campaigns eliminate this problem by providing marketers with all the tracking information they need. This is one of the best Pay-Per-Call features. As with infomercials, when doing Pay-Per-Call online, advertisers create tracking phone numbers to apply to their ad campaigns, allowing them to track each call to the particular Pay-Per-Call campaign and to the affiliate that helped generate that call. Now the advertiser will have a qualified call from a hot prospect, and if the call meets the required conditions, you, the publisher, will get a commission.


Pay Per Call Basics:

As discussed, the goal of Pay Per Call is to drive qualified leads to a business in a manner that can easily be tracked so that the parties involved can assess the value of the marketing campaign and the source of the lead.  It is often the case that you’ll be running multiple campaigns simultaneously, which makes it all the more important to be able to keep track of a whole host of information.

As other experts have discussed, two crucial aspects of how to set up Pay-Per-Call effectively are putting in place a comprehensive call tracking system to monitor and control all aspects of each campaign and call attribution. You’ll want to use a call tracking system to make sure you have control over creating the campaign, assigning tracking phone numbers, terms and conditions of the payout, overall costs, ROI, and the ability to store or pause campaigns that are not active. Call attribution is the ability to connect each phone call to the particular campaign that brought it about.

There are two basic kinds of tracking phone numbers you can use in Pay Per Call.  The more basic type is to assign a unique tracking number to each publisher and/or campaign.  Much like with infomercials, when prospects dial that number you will know which publisher/campaign to which the call can be attributed.

Dynamic tracking numbers, on the other hand, are embedded in your web content and offer much greater detail about the lead.  One of the best Pay Per Call tips is to use dynamic tracking numbers to determine which keywords and landing pages led the prospect to view your ad and make the call.  You can also use dynamic tracking numbers to trace campaign IDs to a specific advertisement.

Launching A Pay Per Call Campaign:

Before you start a Pay Per Call campaign, you have to make a number of important decisions.  One of the best affiliate marketing tips is to ask yourself the following questions well before you launch your campaign:

  • What are your goals?
  • What demographic(s) are you targeting?
  • Which location(s)?
  • When is the advertiser’s call center open?
  • Which channels will you be using? Will they be online or offline?

Let’s dig into this a little. If you don’t have concrete goals, you will be lost. You must know where you are headed if you are ever to get there. Next, you have to know your audience. Who are they? What do they want? What do they love? What do they hate? What do they fear? Why do they need your product or service? And so on.

Locations and the platforms you will choose are very important for obvious reasons. A bit less obvious is timing. You want to make sure you time your campaigns so that the advertiser’s sales team will be available to take the call. if you generate a lead that calls an insurance company at 1:00 in the morning, chances are nobody will answer, and if they ever do reach that prospect, it may be too late to close a sale for one reason or another. So you want to make sure your advertiser can strike while the iron is hot and handle leads at the right times.

Why you should be using Pay Per Call:

So why use a Pay Per Call campaign?  While pay-per-click has gotten a lot of attention, pay per call marketing can get much better results. With pay-per-click, conversion rates tend to be low because all the prospect does is click a mouse. For all you know, this could be an accidental click. The visitor might stay on your site for only a few seconds and then vanish forever.

But with Pay-Per-Call, when a prospect makes a phone call, it’s a strong indicator they’re interested in a product or service. This is because it requires effort to pick up the phone and take the time to speak with someone. If a prospect puts aside a couple of minutes out of their busy lives to make an inquiry, there’s a good chance your advertiser will close the sale.

This means conversion rates tend to be higher with Pay-Per-Call. And that translates into more commissions and higher payouts than other forms of lead generation for affiliates, making for a potentially lucrative revenue stream. Other reasons why Pay-Per-Call is so popular among publishers are because it gives them an opportunity to monetize smartphones, and it’s easy to track and avoid disputes over the validity of the lead or call.

In closing, I’d like to paint the picture more clearly with some enticing statistics: “including a phone number increases online CTR up to 30%, average phone order values are 1.5-2x higher than online orders,” and last but not least, Pay Per Call boasts “30-50% call to conversion rates,” compared with a mere 1-3% with pay-per-click.