Google and eBay have joined forces in a pay-per-call deal which could act as a catalyst in helping the emerging channel gain a much bigger foothold.
The partnership means that click-to-call ads will appear globally on both companies' websites (and also that Google's text ads will appear exclusively on eBay properties outside the US), according to ClickZ News.
Internet users will be able to speak to eBay vendors or Google advertisers on the telephone, using eBay's Skype techology or Google Talk. A joint billing platform will enable both companies to benefit from ensuing revenues.
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, told ClickZ: "[The eBay/Google deal] is very significant because Google has the dominant market share, so it instantly exposes the model to a wider audience of advertisers, gives pay-per-call more credibility, and provides much more traffic volume to pay-per-call."
The move by Google (also reported in the New York Times) follows AOL's decision a few months ago to offer pay-per-call services in its search results.
The development will be watched with interest by other key players in this embryonic marketplace, not least by MIVA, a performance marketing network offering pay-per-call services (based on Ingenio technology) which has been working hard to establish the channel.
The likelihood of pay-per-call gaining impetus seems to be high given that it is typically easier to convert a sale into a lead over the telephone.
The benefits of the channel were summarised at an E-consultancy roundtable on New Technologies in May this year. Registered users can download the notes here for free.
In summary, there are millions of small and medium-sized firms without a web presence who could exploit pay-per-call while larger companies can also benefit greatly, especially if they are selling 'high-involvement, high-ticket' items where customers have to be guided through complex purchasing decisions.
But despite these benefits, and the trialling of pay-per-call by some top online brands, it's still early days - especially in the UK - because a lack of volume and successful case studies.