A tiny tweak to search results in Google's mobile site could help some users, and proves once again that advertising is Google's core business at least as much as search itself.
Starting Tuesday, Google.com users on the iPhone, Palm Pre, and Android smartphones may notice that they can click a phone number in a sponsored ad to call an advertiser's national phone number. Back in January, Google first allowed advertisers to display their local phone numbers as an extra line of ad text. This new change allows ads to carry national numbers in addition to those local digits.
Google noted in an earlier post that visitors click more often on sponsored results containing phone numbers than they do on advertiser links leading to a Web site. Advertisers wind up paying Google the same amount per each click to a phone number as they do for clicks leading to Web sites. But if displaying phone numbers means users click a sponsored search result more often, the better it is for Google's bottom line.
Google and the advertiser aren't the only ones to benefit. As a user, if the purpose of your search is to find a phone number anyway, seeing that number floating at the top of the screen could bring you to your goal faster than wading around mobile Web sites or third-party apps in search of those digits. And if seeing the advertiser's number isn't personally useful (as we guess it won't be most of the time), never mind. It's just one more line of text to gloss over when reviewing your search results.