Report: Mobile Display Ads Outperformed Search In Delivering New Customer Calls

Nearly half of search-generated calls were from existing customers.

Mobile advertising Financial Services Marchex

A fascinating new report from Marchex analyzed 1.8 million calls to compare the performance of different mobile ad channels in driving new sales prospects in the Financial Services and Insurance categories. The ad channels examined were directories, search engines, Marchex’s “voice search” network and mobile display ads.

The uniform objective of the ads across channels was to generate new sales calls rather than clicks or form fills. Marchex uses an IVR disambiguation system to separate genuine prospects from customer service calls and others (i.e., “press 2″).

Some of the calls were fielded by national call centers and some by local agents. The data were collected and analyzed in 2014.

Marchex Calls data

In the aggregate, combining all four channels, Marchex found that 31 percent of calls were from new sales prospects. Otherwise, 69 percent were unintended calls, existing customers, telemarketers or repeat calls. This is sobering information for all those who believe that all calls are equally “good leads.”

Below is the relative performance — percentage of calls that self-identified as new sales prospects — of each of the channels examined:

  • Search engines (Google, et al) — 32 percent
  • Voice search network (Marchex network of third party sites) — 35 percent
  • Directories (e.g., Yelp, Angie’s List, YP) — 11 percent
  • Mobile display — 37 percent

Interestingly, of the four channels, search engines had the highest percentage of calls (48 percent) from existing customers. Mobile display had the least number of calls (10 percent) from existing customers, which makes sense. Directories suffered because telemarketers mine them heavily to sell to business owners. Indeed half of the calls generated directory sites, in the study, were considered “spam and misdials.”

In terms of mobile devices, the iPhone was responsible for 2X the call traffic of Android phones according to the report. This potentially reflects demographic and income differences in terms of smartphone ownership and those in the market for insurance or financial services.

Call volumes Apple vs. Android

The research did not consider the relative cost of the different channels nor analyze actual “closes” by channel. So we don’t know which of the four was most “efficient” from those perspectives. However the idea that mobile display ads beat search in generating new sales prospects is certainly a surprise.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

(Some images used under license from


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