The Ultimate Guide to Google Voice (2021)
The Ultimate Guide to Google Voice (2021)
Aug 31, 2021 - 13 min read time
The ultimate guide to getting the most out of Google voice for business and consumers.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most Out of Google Voice for Business and Consumers

Every business invests in communication tools for keeping connected to contacts, customers, and clients.

Voice, email, and text are all essential to a business’s conversational messaging strategy and each plays a part in marketing, sales, support, service, payments, team communication, and event review collection.

But there are always challenges with picking the right communication tool for engaging customers. Businesses need messaging tools that are easy, intuitive, and cost-effective. This is why many businesses (especially smaller ones) use Google Voice.

Google Voice is a popular VoIP and texting solution that gives businesses and consumers phone numbers. And it even allows you to take calls from any computer or personal cell phone.

Google Voice is a great option for someone who:

  • Needs a flexible phone service that makes it easy to take calls from anywhere
  • Wants a separate phone line tied to your existing personal phone
  • Wants low-level access to features like phone trees

But Google Voice comes with some limitations, especially for businesses. So to help you understand your needs we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Google Voice.

We walk you through:

  1. Google Voice frequently asked questions
  2. Google Voice features
  3. How to get started with Google Voice
  4. 6 Google Voice for business best practices
  5. Problems with Google Voice for business
  6. How to port your number out of Google Voice
  7. The best Google Voice alternatives

Read on for more.

What is Google Voice?

Created in 2009, Google Voice is a popular VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service offered by Google. All you need to receive phone calls or send text messages is an internet connection. Call forwarding is another popular feature that allows you to forward calls from your Google Voice number to your personal device.

You can use Google Voice for both personal and business purposes. Although there are more paid features available in the business version.

Many businesses and consumers enjoy the convenience of Google Voice. This is due to its simplicity and ease of use. But other businesses find themselves limited in their communication capabilities with Google Voice.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol, (VoIP), is a way to make a phone call over the internet rather than using a mobile carrier. Typically offered at a lower price point than many cellular or landline networks, it's become a favorite of many businesses. Besides the cost, it also offers features like the Google Voice app, phone trees (auto-attendants) and voicemail transcription.

With VoIP, you’re free to take a phone call from virtually anywhere.

Since Google Voice is a VoIP service, it works solely over the Internet. As long as you have an internet connection, you can take a call from anywhere on a computer.

The flexibility of VoIP is one of the reasons why it's so popular. Leading most buyers to choose VoIP over any other type of phone service.

Can you text with Google Voice?

Text messaging is another fundamental feature of Google Voice.

Google Voice has text messaging (SMS) capabilities in addition to phone calls. But these SMS text messaging capabilities are limited and lack essential features typically included with other business text messaging services.

Google-Voice-1-1200x630.png

And Google hasn’t been adding new features to Google Voice. Text messaging and especially mass text messaging is undergoing significant change at the mobile carrier level.

In response, Google has actually been removing existing features - some of which play an important role in business workflows.

This includes text message forwarding which allows you to forward text messages sent to your Google Voice number to your personal device.

Google-Voice-2-1200x630.png

Is Google Voice free? How much does Google Voice cost?

Google Voice is free for personal use. All you need is an existing phone number so that you can forward calls that are made to your Google Voice number when you aren’t connected to WiFi.

But using Google Voice for business can get expensive depending on the amount of users you need. Currently, Google voice costs $20 per user, per month for businesses.

Chapter 2

Google Voice Features

guides chapter placeholder mango

Voice

Voice is the number one feature of Google Voice. Its simplicity is an asset for those who just need to take calls - this is where Google Voice excels. It gives you exactly what you need to send and receive phone calls.

But if you’re looking for features beyond that, then you may need to look at other VoIP options.

Google-Voice-3-1200x630.png

Voicemail

Voicemail is another key feature included with Google Voice. You get technology for a near perfect voicemail transcription and it works as you’d expect a voicemail box to work.

Auto-Attendant

An auto-attendant, also known as a phone tree, is a powerful automation tool that only comes with Google Voice for Business.

Phone trees give businesses an easy way to route and manage incoming phone calls. This becomes more important if you’re someone who works in the field, you’re frequently unavailable or if your business experiences high call volume.
Phone trees usually sound like, “Thank you for calling Paul’s Plumbing. We're happy to assist you with any questions about our products or services. Press 1 to speak with Sales, press 2 to speak with customer service, press 3 to hear our hours of operation.”

This is a standard feature for most VoIP applications. It can help eliminate the time spent on the phone to transfer callers elsewhere.

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding is yet another powerful feature of VoIP applications. With call forwarding you get to forward calls to any existing business line. Call forwarding is a great feature for someone who isn’t at a desk all day or doesn’t want to buy a handset.

It can bridge the gap between only having your mobile phone and using a separate business line.

Getting started

Google-Voice-4-1200x630.png

The first decision you need to make when getting started with Google Voice is if you’re using it for personal or business use.

Now, of course, you may be tempted to choose the personal use option since it's free. But if you’re a business, the free version of Google Voice most likely won’t work out long-term.

The personal use version is limited and you likely wouldn’t even get much value from it even if it's free.

How to set up Google Voice for personal use

Setting up Google Voice is a seamless process. But it's going to be different depending on whether you want to use it for personal or business use.

Selecting the “For personal use” option begins your account set up process.

It will either attach your Google Voice account to your existing Google account (if you have one), or ask you to create and log into a new Google account.

From there you select your desired phone number.

Google-Voice-5-1200x630.png

How to set up Google Voice for business use

Selecting the “For business” option redirects you to a Business oriented Google Voice page.

Here you’ll find Voice for Business pricing, a list of features, and find out how to get started.

Google-Voice-5-1200x630.png

Before getting started, keep in mind that in order to sign up for Voice for Business you’ll need to already have a Google Workspace account.

Google-Voice-7-1200x630.png

Signing up for a Google workspace account adds an extra $12 a month per user for their recommended plan.

Choosing Google’s recommended plans for Google Workspace and Voice would cost $32 a month.

For example: with just two users that number doubles to $64 a month.

Even with only one user, you’re getting less for more money compared to other platforms. But there are some ways to make Google Voice more effective just by making sure you enable some key features.

1. Change your voicemail from the default

Google-Voice-8-1200x630.png

It’s a good idea to change the default voicemail that comes with Google Voice.

The default voicemail: “The Google Subscriber you have called is not available, please leave a message after the tone.”

It isn’t a great voicemail to begin with so you may want to change it regardless. But if you’re a business, it may seem unprofessional.

2. Turn on your spam filter

Google-Voice-9-1200x630.png

By default the spam filter on your account will be set to off. It’s a good idea to turn it on to avoid any unwanted calls or texts. This is useful especially if you have your calls being forwarded to your personal device.

Which means you may get a lot of phone calls…

3. Turn browser notifications on

Google-Voice-10-1200x630.png

If you aren’t going to be forwarding calls and messages to a mobile phone, you’ll want to make sure desktop notifications are enabled for Google Voice.

That way you can be sure of getting notifications on your work computer when you get a call, text message, or voicemail.

The last thing you would want to do is set up a phone service that doesn’t tell you when you're getting a phone call.

4. Choose how you’ll get notified

There are multiple ways to set up notifications for certain events that occur in Google Voice.

  • Email: for new texts, voicemails, and missed calls
  • Calls: for call forwarding
  • Texts: for forwarding text messages

Email:

  1. For email you can choose to be notified for all text messages that are sent to your Google Voice number. You can do so by navigating to Settings > Messages > and then toggling the “Forward messages to email” switch to on.
    Google-Voice-11-1200x630.png
  2. To be notified when you miss a call, navigate to Settings > Calls > and then toggle the “Get email alerts for missed calls” switch to on.
    Google-Voice-12-1200x630.png
  3. To receive your voicemails via email, navigate to Settings > Voicemail > and then toggle the “Get voicemail via email” switch to on.
    Google-Voice-13-1200x630.png

Voice:

You have the option to forward all calls coming into your Google Voice to a mobile device. This is useful if you aren’t sitting in front of your work computer all day and are away from your desk (or if you don’t work from a desk).

This gets turned on by default when you set up your Google Voice account. To make sure it’s activated navigate to Settings > Calls > Call forwarding > and then toggle the switch to on next to the number you have linked.

Google-Voice-14-1200x630.png

If the number you have linked to your account isn’t the one you’d like calls forwarded to, you can link multiple numbers.

To link another number, navigate to the Settings > Account > Linked numbers > and then select New linked number.

Google-Voice-15-1200x630.png

Text:

Currently, you can route all text messages sent to your Google Voice number to your mobile device.

To activate SMS forwarding navigate to Settings > Messages > Forward messages to linked numbers > and then toggle the switch next to the phone number where messages will be forwarded.

Google-Voice-16-1200x630.png

5. Create an auto-attendant in Google Voice (for business only)

An auto-attendant diverts phone calls to different users so that you can eliminate the need for a front desk person to answer the phone.

You can easily set one up to handle all of your phone calls

  1. From the Admin console Home page, go to Apps > and then Google Workspace > and then Google Voice > and then Service management.
  2. Click Auto attendants.
  3. The Admin console shows a list of the auto attendants in your organization.
  4. In the upper right, click Create.
  5. Enter a name for the auto attendant and, optionally, add a description.
  6. Click Create.
  7. In the Welcome message field, enter an opening greeting.

For example, "Thank you for calling Paul’s Plumbing. We're happy to assist you with any questions about our products or services." Callers can skip this message by selecting an option from the menu.

Set up call handling:

Call handling is a step that occurs after you set up your welcome message. These are the actions the caller can take after they hear your welcome message.

For example:

“Thank you for calling Paul’s Plumbing. We're happy to assist you with any questions about our products or services. Press 1 to speak with Sales, press 2 to speak with customer service, press 3 to hear our hours of operation.”

There are four types of actions you can use with call handling:

  • Play menu prompts (as shown in the example)
  • Transfer the caller
  • Send to voicemail
  • Disconnect caller (hang up)

The typical set-up for call handling starts with playing various menu prompts and then transferring the caller to a particular extension.

When you're done setting up your auto-attendant click Publish.

Make sure you assign a number to your auto attendant after publishing to choose what phone numbers trigger the auto attendant when called.

6. Customize your working hours (for business only)

You can set up an alternate greeting depending on the time that incoming calls get placed. This means the auto-attendant can handle calls differently if you receive a call outside your working hours.

Outside of working hours, you could have a welcome message like, “Thank you for calling Pauls Plumbing, you have reached us outside of our operating hours. We would love to hear from you so please press 1 to leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

To customize your working hours:

  1. Click Apps > and then Google Workspace > and then Google Voice > and then Service management > and then click Auto attendants.
  2. On the left, click Edit Business Hours
  3. For the Open Hours, choose 24 hours per day if you’re open 24/7 or choose Customized Hours to select exactly when you’re open.

Bonus: Set your holiday closures in advance by clicking on the Holiday closures field, click Add, and choose the day you will be out of the office.

Chapter 5

Problems with Google Voice for Business

guides chapter placeholder mango

Google Voice problems and limitations

There are a few reasons why Google Voice may be less attractive for many business owners.

First, there are rumors of Google canceling Google Voice. Which is why many business owners are trying to get ahead and switch before it’s too late.

Those using the free subscription even if they are using it for business will most likely get pushed into a paid Google Fi plan if Voice is cancelled.

Second, the features certainly don’t justify the price charged for Google Voice. Most competitors provide more robust and advanced experiences compared to Google for less money.

Google Voice offers simplicity and ease of use. But there are platforms that can provide a better experience through ease of use in combination with more robust features.

Is Google Voice getting cancelled?

For some time there’s been speculation from tech insiders that Google Voice may be on the chopping block.

As of now, no, Google Voice is not getting cancelled. But, the future of Google Voice is uncertain.

Though, Google is infamous for cancelling services even though many rely on them on a daily basis.

Google is looking at their phone service known as GoogleFi as a frontrunner for their phone enterprises. Which could serve as an indicator that Google Voice may be deprecated in the future.

Both Google Voice and GoogleFi have similar features. Which has led many to believe that Google Voice will be cancelled.

Chapter 6

How to Port Your Number Out of Google Voice

guides chapter placeholder purple

Google Voice number porting

If you’re considering switching to a Google Voice alternative, it’s easy to transfer your Google Voice number to another platform by porting it. Porting your number means that you can transfer your existing phone number to use with other services to prevent any confusion with your customers.

To complete a Google Voice port you’ll first need to unlock the number you’d like to port. You’ll likely get charged a $3 fee to do so.

  1. Start by opening Google Voice.
  2. At the top left, click Menu > Legacy Google Voice. Google Voice will look different, but you're in the right place.
  3. Click on Settings.
  4. Click the “Phones” tab.
  5. Next to the number you’d like to port click Change/Port.
  6. Select, I want to use my mobile number. Follow the instructions and pay the $3 fee.

Note: Numbers may take 2-4 days to port.

After unlocking your Google Voice account and paying the $3 fee, you can now port your number to another provider or platform. You’ll need to contact your new platform and let them know that your number is ready to be ported over.
If you haven’t found a Google Voice alternative, then you’ve got a few to choose from.

1. MessageDesk

MessageDesk allows you to text from any 10-digit phone number on any device. Voice capability includes call forwarding from a dedicated 10 digit number to any phone line of your choosing.

Instead of switching from Google Voice, simply add MessageDesk as a text messaging provider. You get to keep your current phone number and still get enhanced messaging capabilities.

Suggested Article: 5 Google Voice Alternatives and Questions to Consider

Pros:

  • Can text enable your existing business phone number
  • Supports SMS and MMS
  • Allows you to set up call forwarding to your personal device to eliminate the need for a voice feature
  • Easy to use interface
  • Pricing that fits the needs of your business

Cons:

  • Does not have a voice feature

Pricing:

MessageDesk pricing starts at $29 a month but depends on your monthly texting volume.

MessageDesk has yet to add a VOIP feature to enable calls. However, MessageDesk serves as a perfect complement to your existing phone system (you can even use the same number you use for phones with MessageDesk).

What customers have to say:

"This has been a great tool helping us to text our owners and keep the lines of communication open while not keeping our front desk on the phone constantly." - Review from Capterra

"This allows our customers to directly connect with us without having to remember another phone number. Most of our customers are on the go and love to get texts rather than read an email." - Review from Capterra

“This has been the app that I have been looking for and researching for over a year. We are a small company with a small budget. I feel like this software and our needs are the perfect pairing. I wish I would have found them much earlier.” - Review from Capterra

2. OpenPhone

OpenPhone has many features like Google Voice such as calling and messaging capabilities. For the average small business, this may be a fairly pricey option.

3. Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a simple platform that is similar to Google Voice. But, like Google Voice, it’s simplicity tends to create more problems than solutions.

4. Telzio

Telzio has a lot to offer with regards to automation for phones and texting. But, for features that will likely never get used their price makes it difficult to justify their platform.

5. Nextiva

Netiva is clearly geared towards large businesses with many people. Their pricing structure tends to push small businesses aside and won’t give them the functionality they need.