Google has begun
testing a new click-to-call service that lets people speak
with advertisers on its search results page without having
to pick up the phone and dial.
A Web surfer can
click a phone icon adjacent to an ad, enter his or her
own phone number and then click a "connect for free"
button. Google's service calls the advertiser's phone
number and when the Web surfer picks up the receiver on
his phone, he or she hears ringing as the call to the
advertiser is connected, according to a Google Click-to-Call
Unlike voice over
Internet Protocol, a technology that sends voice transmission
over the Internet, this service appears to connect two
parties over the regular phone lines. However, Google
declined to provide more details, including the specifics
of the technology employed.
"We won't share
your telephone number with anyone, including the advertiser,"
the FAQ states. "When you're connected with the advertiser,
your number is blocked so the advertiser can't see it.
In addition, we'll delete the number from our servers
after a short period of time."
It was unclear
how broad the test is. A few sample searches for frequently
searched topics, such as "shoes," "electronics"
and "mortgage," failed to turn up any of the
icons. However, blogger Greg Yardley was able to obtain
screen shots, which he posted last Wednesday.
Google said it
pays for the calls, whether local or long distance.
However, the Web surfer may incur airtime fees depending
on the mobile phone plan used, the FAQ said.
"Google is always
considering new ways to provide value to its advertisers
and we frequently run tests of potential new features
and products," the company said in a statement sent
via e-mail. "We are currently conducting a limited
test of a pay-per-call model, but we don't have any additional
information to share at this time."
to reach advertisers through the computer could increase
the value of online ads, particularly for companies like
Google, which reaps nearly all of its revenue from advertising.
Microsoft said it had purchased Teleo, an Internet calling
company with the potential to allow MSN to offer click-to-call
IBM has said it will
integrate click-to-call technology from Avaya in Lotus
Notes and other applications. And Yahoo has tested click-to-call
in instant messaging.