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Pay per call - providing offline companies with an online presence.

Many people are familiar with pay-per-click advertising, a form of internet advertising where firms bid on search terms to boost their search engine ranking. Well now, a performance marketing network called MIVA has introduced a new service known as pay-per-call advertising.

One reason for pay-per-click’s success is that it’s measurable. Advertisers can identify the leads they receive from search engines and which of those they convert to sales. In addition, they can establish which search terms work best. If “marketing support” doesn’t generate sufficient traffic, other search terms can be used to help lead internet browsers to a website.

The problem with pay-per-click is that it is only available to organisations with a website. And according to the National Audit Office, 84 percent of SMEs in Britain don’t have an online presence and therefore cannot exploit this advertising opportunity.

MIVA recognised this untapped market and so developed pay-per-call advertising, launching the service on 13th September 2005. Pay-per-call enables businesses without an online presence to attract warm leads from customers searching for a product on the internet.

So how does it work? Pay-per-call advertisers are allocated a freephone number and asked to describe their business using one or more of 1,000 categories.

Using the same framework as pay-per-click, advertisers bid for various search terms; the greater the bid, the higher they rank in the search results. As for payment, the advertiser only pays when a potential client calls the freephone number displayed in the search results. At present, the call is free and the duration unlimited.

The minimum pay-per-call charge is £2 with an annual fee of £10; this is considerably higher than MIVA pay-per-click, where bidding starts at 10 pence. However, according to MIVA research, a phone call is more valuable than a website visit, with 45 percent of calls leading to a sale. Research suggests only 3.6 percent of website visits result in a sale.

At present MIVA only offer pay-per-call listings through their own website. 2 other small companies have also introduced pay-per-call advertising recently, they are Callgen and Touch Group.

Based on pay-per-click, companies such as Google and Yahoo have introduced a whole new element to marketing. Pay-per-call has provided a great opportunity for offline organisations to jump on the online marketing bandwagon.