Give your readers a way to talk to you straight from your web site with a single click of their mouse. That is the promise that several click to call web service providers are offering to bloggers big and small. By simply signing up for one of these free click to call services and embedding a hyperlink or widget into your web page, you can provide your audience with this convenience.
But why would you want to do that? A successful blog functions as a network. If you take a look at the top 100 blogs on the Web, one common feature comes to light. They are places where people can socialize and exchange information, the catalyst for that ad hoc network being the blog and its content. Sometimes the readers talk to each other, but most of the time, they are trying to talk to you.
Currently the only real way for this conversation to take place is by text via comments. Some innovative services like Google Friend Connect are bringing live text chat features to your blog, further facilitating the networking affect that is already taking place by allowing individuals to chat in real time with one another and with you. But glaringly absent from this mix is the ability for your audience to talk (and by talk I mean, really talk) to you.
So in this article, I have brought together seven services (Jajah, TringMe, Google Voice, Raketu, Jaxtr, Flaphone, and Jaduka) that bring voice to your web site. Each of the seven click to call web services reviewed below are evaluated using four criteria:
Furthermore, every one of these click to call web services is easily embeddable via a free call widget or simple hyperlink that can be placed on your website, blog, social network, etc., and they let you easily receive calls from your audience, friends, and strangers alike with a single click of a button.
Some of these services are more complete than others, and come packed with features like voicemail and texting. However, every single one of these click to call web providers hides your number so that telemarketers and other malicious characters cannot easily harvest it for their own purposes.
For each one of the services reviewed below, the cost for the call initiated from the click-to-call widget / link will be covered by you.
If you have set up your click to call widget to dial a softphone (like SkypeIn), other SIP service, or VoIP provider rather than a mobile or landline phone, then your cost could essentially be free (this capability is not available on all applications). But if you have set up the service to send a call to your mobile or landline, then you can be expected to pay some amount of money.
The exact cost per minute varies from service to service and country to country, but in most cases the cost is comparable if not cheaper than Skype Out calls.
Jajah is known for providing high-quality, inexpensive long-distance calling (and in some cases free calling) without the hassle of contracts, software installation, or hardware. But they also provide some useful web applications for the professional blogger. One of this is the JaJah Button.
The JaJah Button is a simple flash based click to call widget that can be embedded in your blog, e-mail signature, and social networking sites like MySpace by simply copying and pasting a little bit of HTML code (or hyperlink in the case of LinkedIn) on to your web page. Once placed on your blog, social network, etc, the JaJah Button allows any visitor who sees that button to place a call directly to you. Your number will not be shown, so you can maintain your privacy while still giving your reader a convenient way of contacting you.
One of the great features that JaJah offers is the ability to set your availability. From your profile settings page, you can set the times when you are free to accept phone calls, and if you find yourself with a telemarketer who won't leave you alone you can even block phone numbers. Using JaJah you can also set up your widgets to dial different numbers, but you cannot set it up to dial a SIP service directly.
Finally, although JaJah does allow some basic customization (color, size, and shape), the customization options are limited beyond that. But the ease of setup and the low cost calls offered by JaJah make the service well worth checking out.
TringMe is working hard to become a unified communication platform, bringing all your voice communication devices together into one place.
TringMe offers a nice click to call web service (they call it Push N Talk) that can be placed on your web site, blog, social network, etc. with just a few lines of HTML code that will send visitors who want to speak to you directly to your phone.
Additionally, if you find yourself swamped by calls and the constant buzz isn't letting you get any work done, then the TringMe Push N Talk widget can be set up to take voicemails only. Voicemail notifications will be sent to you via email. Like the other services offered in this guide, TringMe does not share your phone numbers or disclose any IDs. TringMe also offers one of the best customization features. Rather than limiting you to only a few select colors, TringMe allows you to upload your own background image for your Push N Talk button.
But what makes TringMe really stand out is its ability to also receive calls on the Web via a non-TringMe SIP server or VoIP provider (like gTalk). Using TringMe's voice platform, you can choose where you want to receive your calls. If you want calls to go to your mobile phone, it will. But you are not limited to just your phone. If you decide that gTalk is a better place to receive your calls, then you can do that too. However, if you set up your TringMe widget to send your calls to an outside service, only the first 10 minutes of the call will be free.
From sign-up to setup, the process is a breeze and should take you less than 15 minutes to have your very own click to call widget working on your own web site.
3. Google Voice
Google Voice (formerly GrandCentral) is another web service attempting to make unified communication a reality. The original company GrandCentral was acquired by Google almost a year ago now and has recently been relaunched as Google Voice.
Google Voice offers a range of services that allow you to bring all your voice communication devices together under one roof. One of which is the click-to-call button (they call it WebCall) that can be placed on your web site or blog to allow visitors to quickly and easily get a hold of you via voice, all the while keeping your number private.
With Google Voice's service you also get access to robust call screening, blocking, forwarding, and other features that put you in complete control of your calls. Customization is limited at the moment (all you can do is choose from different button styles) but there are plans to allow you to create your own personalized buttons to embed on to your web site or blog.
Google Voice offers features beyond just the ability to receive calls. If you cannot or choose not to answer a call, the call will be sent to your Google Voice voicemail box, which can be accessed directly from the Web. A notification of the new voicemail message will be sent to you via email or SMS, or both if you so choose.
At the moment you can connect Google Voice with other SIP or VoIP service providers but those services will view Google Voice as a regular landline number so the fees for receiving calls at those numbers will be comparable to any other landline. The biggest issue that Google Voice has is that it is available only in the United States at the moment, so if you are outside of the US, you are out of luck for the time being.
When an interested reader wants to contact you, all they have to do is simply click the button and the call will automatically be initiated through Raketu. If someone makes a call using the Raketu click to call service, you will receive the call on the number you selected (your landline or mobile).
The click to call web service still works anywhere in the world though. Creating your click to call web widget only requires you to first sign up for Raketu, once creating your web widget is a piece of cake. Raketu allows you to choose among a variety of click to call buttons (from an embeddable iframe to a simple hyperlink) but outside of that it lacks customization features. Also the call availability options are limited to your present status (available, not available - leave voicemail, and not available) which can be updated via your profile page. And you can only have one widget active at any time, which means that you cannot create different click to call buttons for different sites.
Also, calls via your click-to-call widget are anonymous on both sides (i.e. the caller can't see your number, but neither can you see theirs). This may be a boon to privacy advocated, but because the call is anonymous you don't get the same kind of call control features (screening, blocking. etc) that you do with some of the other services reviewed here.
But Raketu does separate itself from the crowd with its RakIN number. The RakIN number is a SIP phone number that looks like any other phone number so that people can easily call you from their phones. But what makes it better than a regular number is that as long as the person calling you also has a RakIN account, then the call is free. Unfortunately, the RakIN service is only available to users in the US and UK.
That being said, Raketu is much more than just a click to call web service (it also offers unified instant messaging, among other things), so it may be worth checking out if you are looking for more than just a simple click to call service.
Jaxtr widget is a polished product.
To use it, you sign up for an account then publish your Jaxtr widget on your blog, web site, or social networking profile page. Jaxtr also offers basic privacy and call control features. Like the others services reviewed in this guide, your phone number is never revealed so you can install the widget on any of your web sites without worrying about exposing your phone number to strangers. You can also block callers or specify on a per-caller basis which callers can reach you live and which get routed straight to voicemail.
One of the drawbacks of Jaxtr compared to most of the other similar services is the ability to take voicemails. If you are not able to answer the call for any reason, Jaxtr allows the caller to leave a voicemail, and Jaxtr will then let you know that have a voicemail via email or SMS. Unfortunately unlike Google Voice there is no way to access your Jaxtr voicemail from the Web. Rather you have to call in to the Jaxtr service to access it. But unlike Google Voice (which is currently limited to the US), Jaxtr will work nearly anywhere in the world.
The only real disadvantage I really saw with Jaxtr was that you can set up your widget to only send calls to one number. There doesn't seem to be a way to set the number that the widget dials, so it looks like it can just call your main number. But on the plus side, Jaxtr does have one of the better customization features for their click to call widget.
Overall it is definitely worth checking out.
Flaphone is one of the newest entrants into the web softphone scene, and as a result it lacks some of the polish that the other services have.
Flaphone is a flash based SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) application which makes it compatible with any web softphone, and it will work in any browser without installation of any special software, as long you have Adobe Flash / AIR installed.
Among other features, Flaphone allows you to create an embeddable widget that can be set up so that if a visitor to your site clicks on the CallMe button, a call is placed via a SIP provider that you’ve specified to your Flaphone, any SIP softphone, or your cell phone. To place the widget on your blog, web site, or social network you simply copy and paste the HTML embed code provided to you.
The customization option for the Flaphone widget is one of the better ones available for click to call services. However, like most of the other services reviewed in this guide, you can only have your widget connected to one SIP number at a time.
The biggest limitation for this service is that you must have an outside SIP provider (like GizmoProject) or VoIP provider (like Skype) lined up in order to use it because Flaphone does not handle any of telephony backend (call termination, billing, etc). Instead Flaphone wraps a fancy flash skin around your existing VoIP / SIP service so that you can easily embed it into your web sites.
As another word of warning, once you have created an account, there does not seem to be any easy way of deleting it without contacting customer support directly.
Jaduka is not a service provider as much as it is a development platform for internet telephony services, meaning that Jaduka is really a VoIP platform that targets developers. But they do offer some services for individuals who are not developers that can be viewed via their Jaduka Labs page to demonstrate different possible uses of their service. One of those services is called dukaLINK.
dukaLINK is a simple service that allows you to create a personal HTML hyperlink that you can post on Craigslist, Facebook, your blog or emails. When someone (a reader) lands on that page and clicks your dukaLINK, they will be prompted to submit their phone number to automatically initiate a free phone call to you. As with the other services reviewed here, your phone number remains hidden.
The biggest disadvantage to dukaLINK is its simplicity. Besides creating a link that will initiate a call with your phone, you can do nothing else with it. Because it is an HTML hyperlink, you cannot personalize it easily unless of course you know how to code HTML. Additionally there is no way to set your availability for call times, so if someone happens to click on your link at 3am, your phone will ring. There is no way to disable the dukaLINK during certain times as you can with some of the other services. And finally, you can only receive calls at one number.
But as a I said earlier, because Jaduka is primarily for developers, if you have some programming experience, Jaduka's API will allow you to build some powerful internet telephony applications.
Originally prepared by Robin Good and Andre Deutmeyer for MasterNewMedia, and first published on April 8th, 2009 as "Click To Call Embeddable Widgets: How To Bring VoIP To Your Web Site Customers And Readers".
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.Robin Good -