How can I best use Google Voice?

If you are fortunate enough to have received an invite to join the Google Voice beta, then you may be wondering what you should do with it. Here are some suggestions and also some pitfalls.

Suggestions

  1. If you live from your cell phone, Google Voice can help you protect access to that number. By placing your Google phone number on your business cards, email signatures or even your personal website/blog you don’t have to worry about abuse. It will act a screening mechanism. After you have established a relationship with someone you can share you real cell phone number.
  2. If you load your contacts into your Google account you can make intelligent decision on how those callers make it through to you. You can create a friends or family group that doesn’t have to announce their name before being forwarded to your phone. Or you can route callers not in your list directly to voicemail thereby limiting only know callers to your cell phone.
  3. Using their widget you can have Google connect you and a website visitor without exposing your real phone number. This is great for customer support or relationships that need a level of discretion.

Pitfalls

  1. You have to choose your area code when you create your account. Carefully think this through. Is there a move in your future? Are there multiple area codes available to you such that you can represent a presence in a city you may want to? If you so, choose wisely. It’s a one-time decision.
  2. Since the Google phone number you’ve chosen merely routes to another phone number, it is hard to respond to callers without exposing your real number. It can be done through the Google Voice system, but it’s likely more work than it’s worth.
  3. You cannot have two Google Voice numbers routing to the same phone number currently. While it would be nice to have a Google Voice work number and a Google Voice family number (that’s routes to you and your spouse), it won’t work. If you try to you will kick off the first account in place of the second.

Google Voice will grow and become even more powerful than its current adolescent self. When that happens its reach will have a significant impact into other applications currently supported by Google and used by us all.

Google Analytics and tagging your inbound links/campaigns

If you’re using Google Analytics, or any other web analytics tool, you must start now to tag your inbound links/campaigns so you can track their effectiveness.

Visit Google’s tagging page for details on how to use utm_source, utm_medium and utm_campaign, the three required parameters that make up campaign tracking.

Omniture’s SiteCatalyst has an even more extensive implementation of this through their default s_cid parameter that allows you to correlate campaigns across more dimensions than Google.  But no matter who you use, start using it now.

I’ve placed campaign tracking tags on my LinkedIn profile and even on the signature of my outbound emails.  You would be surprised how many people click on those links to learn more about you and your company.

A word of caution, I have found at least one place where you cannot place these campaign tracking tags, Google Local Business Center.  Surprisingly, the addition of the three utm_ tags above threw one of my customer’s listings into Flagged’ state for over a week.  That state supposedly sends it to Google for review.  After a week I couldn’t justify not having my customer listed in Google’s local search any more so I removed the tags.

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