Where Do Calls Come from: Common Promotional Methods in Pay-per-call

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Pay-per-call is a form of performance marketing in which advertisers pay to receive inbound calls from their target consumers. Many pay-per-call advertisers report a high return on ad spend (ROAS) since inbound calls typically come from consumers who are ready to purchase a service or book an appointment.

But where do these calls come from, and how do they end up in the advertiser’s call center?

When starting a pay-per-call campaign, advertisers partner with a pay-per-call provider, the third-party that generates calls to sell to advertisers. These call sources can be affiliates, publishers, networks, or other lead-generators.

With the help of their provider, the advertiser sets a bid price and identifies their call requirements. The pay-per-call provider assigns a tracking number to the advertiser’s campaign and promotes the tracking number using approved promotional methods.

In this post, we will break down the most common promotional methods used by pay-per-call affiliates, publishers, and networks.

To understand how pay-per-call can help drive calls to your business, download our free guide below.

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Online Promotional Methods

In a mobile-first technology landscape, pay-per-call thrives. 61% of people prefer to call a business before making a service-based purchase, and that’s easy to do when surfing the web on your phone. This is why so many pay-per-call affiliates and publishers use online media to promote the advertiser’s tracking number.

Common online promotional methods include SEO and blogging, paid search, social media, display ads, email marketing, and online listings. Although you may be familiar with these digital marketing tactics, we’ll break down how pay-per-call publishers and affiliates leverage them to generate calls.

  • Owned listings, SEO, and blogging – publishers, bloggers, and online listing sites can monetize their SEO and organic traffic by promoting pay-per-call tracking numbers on their websites.
  • Paid search – with the paid search model, lead-generators buy keywords and craft ad copy that is relevant to the advertiser’s services. The ads will either be click-to-call ads where the user simply clicks the ad to call the tracking number, or they will lead users to a generic landing page that promotes the tracking number as the primary call-to-action (CTA).
  • Social media – affiliates and publishers with a large organic social media following can create organic social content with a CTA to call the tracking number. Additionally, lead-generators can sponsor social media posts to promote the tracking number. Like the paid search model, these ads could be click-to-call or could lead users to a landing page.
  • Display ads – display ads live on third-party websites, usually publications. Lead-generators can leverage display advertising to reach an audience that might be interested in the advertiser’s services based on the websites they visit. For example, a display ad for pest control services might be effective on a webpage dedicated to DIY bed bug removal.
  • Email marketing – publishers that have built an engaged email marketing list can advertise tracking numbers in their regular email marketing campaigns or through special offers.
  • Online listings – some pay-per-call sources sponsor listings with online listing sites to promote the tracking number.

Offline Promotional Methods

In addition to online advertising, some call sources find success promoting advertiser tracking numbers through traditional, offline marketing methods. Examples include:

  • Print – this can include both owned and sponsored print content such as subscription publications, magazines, newspapers, coupon books, etc.
  • Radio and television – even with the rise of streaming services, publishers can drive calls through local or national radio or television advertisements
  • Outdoor advertising – outdoor advertising includes billboards, transit stops, benches, and more
  • Direct Mail – as an alternative to email marketing, some publishers advertise tracking numbers on direct mail materials that show up in the consumer’s physical mailbox

Carrier Traffic Sources

Some pay-per-call affiliates and networks leverage the relationships they have with major telecom carriers to send calls to their advertiser partners. They do this in the following ways:

  • Intercept traffic – when callers place a call to a business that is no longer in service, they receive a pre-recorded message that offers to connect them to a related business in their area; if the caller opts to connect to a related business, the call is directed to the advertiser
  • Directory Assistance – callers who use directory assistance (411) can be connected to the advertiser through the tracking number
  • Voice search – callers use their phone’s voice search capabilities to call a related business

Pay-per-call Networks

Working with a pay-per-call network is a good idea for brands that are new to pay-per-call. To drive calls to their partners, networks build a pool of vetted call sources and assign a unique tracking number to each call source that is approved for the advertiser’s campaign. The call sources then use approved promotional methods to generate calls for the campaign.

Networks will monitor their call sources’ call quality and ensure their network is remaining compliant with federal and local laws and restrictions. They will also pass along any channel restrictions and creative approvals that the advertiser may require.


When starting a new pay-per-call campaign, it’s important to understand how your pay-per-call provider generates calls, so that you can qualify calls and remain compliant with the laws and regulations surrounding the pay-per-call industry. It also helps you understand the consumer journey and how the callers that connect with you found your company.

You can restrict certain channels or promotional methods to ensure you are only receiving the kind of calls you want, so you can provide a seamless consumer experience once the caller is connected to your line.

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