Google Call History: The Verdict

Two illustrated mobile phones with text messages displayed on each.

You might’ve heard that Google recently launched Google Call History. This free call tracking feature essentially logs all calls that businesses receive when customers use the “call’ button on their Google My Business (GMB) profile. Once call history has been turned on, customers connect with you via a local forwarding number.

All calls are kept for 45 days, meaning business owners can dip into their log and respond to any calls they’ve missed. However, it’s worth pointing out that this feature is still in beta and currently only available to a select group of US-based businesses.

So does this mean the end for call tracking software as we know it? For some businesses, perhaps — but for others, likely not. Throughout this piece, we’ll explore:

  • Why has Google released Google Call History?
  • What do you get with Google Call History?
  • What don’t you get with Google Call History?
  • Our overall verdict

Why has Google released Google Call History?

First and foremost, Google wants to be front of mind for consumers and business owners alike, connecting as many products and services as possible to its world-leading search platform. Google Call History is yet another feature in Google’s ever-increasing infrastructure. So what’s the logic behind it? If a business sets up Google Ads, and runs reports using Google Analytics, then they might as well track all incoming calls (well, all incoming calls from their GMB profile) using Google Call History too.

And of course, the more time people spend on Google-related products, the more successful Google will be. That’s a given. But perhaps there’s something more to it than Google simply wanting to extend their reach as much as possible.

Amidst widespread lockdowns and restrictions, Google Call History has arrived at a very welcome time for businesses worldwide. According to some sources, call volumes increased by 300% in the early days of the pandemic, while Verizon claims to be handling an average of 800 million calls per day during the week. To put this into perspective, this is over double the amount that they handled on Mother’s Day, typically one of the busiest call days in the entire year.

This is understandable. ‘Business as usual’ has been rocked to its very core. It’s no wonder that consumers want to ring businesses up to see if they’re open, if they do deliveries, and whether or not they have their desired goods in store. By introducing their Call History Feature, Google is trying to help small businesses stay on top of the mountain of calls that they’re receiving every day.

In fact, small businesses historically have a very poor record when it comes to answering the phone — 2016 research suggests that as many as 62% of all inbound calls are left unanswered by small businesses. But this isn’t really a cause for concern, right? After all, the customer can just call back later.

Sure, they could. However, approximately 85% of customers whose calls you missed won’t call you back — and you could be losing out on around 80% of your conversions. The message is clear: calls count. In fact, they’ve never counted more than they do right now.

What do you get from Google Call History?

Right, let’s take a quick look at what Google Call History offers its users.

  • The ability to track calls for up to 45 days
  • A detailed log listing the time, date, and phone numbers of those who called

When it comes to Google Call History’s features, the first point to make is that it’s a very similar concept to your smartphone voicemail. Once a customer clicks your phone number from your Google local listing/business profile, this call will then be dialed through via a Google local area number. If the call goes through, it’ll then be recorded in your log.

This log can be accessed at any time from your GMB app, though calls will only remain on there for 45 days.

What don't you get with Google Call History?

Unfortunately, Google Call History is far from an all-encompassing call tracking tool, and it’s found wanting in a number of significant areas.

  • You can’t track all your calls (i.e., those not made through GMB)
  • You’re unable to track texts or calls made over 45 days ago
  • You can’t see the caller ID
  • The solution only works for those that click the “Call” button on your GMB profile, meaning it won’t log calls that come from people who type your number into their phone.
  • The log doesn’t display the answer status (if a call was answered, missed, went to voicemail, etc.)
  • You can’t record, tag, or qualify your calls
  • There’s no way to see an overall picture of your lead (i.e., if they’ve called you before, when they last called, if they’re an existing customer or a new prospect, etc.)
  • There’s no single place where you can manage and respond to all your calls (unlike our Lead Center)
  • You don’t even own your number
  • Many businesses won’t even be able to use the feature given that it’s still in beta

Despite its (limited) functionality, there are quite a few areas where Google Call History falls short. First, you’re only able to track calls made through your GMB listing. Any other calls — whether they’re made via Bing, Facebook, or just a customer dialing your number on their phone — won’t be logged. So while it gives you a decent log of all Google-made calls within the past 45 days, this is by no means a log of all the calls that your business has received in that time period.

What’s more, this log itself is far from detailed. It doesn’t even include answer status, so you’re left unsure as to which calls went to voicemail and which ones you picked up. Plus, you’re unable to see any details regarding the caller ID or whether this caller has spoken to you before, and if so, when.

For instance, you might have been expecting a call from an important client between 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. When you decide to leave work at 5:30 p.m, a call comes through. The client was stuck in meetings, and this is the first chance they’ve got to ring you back. However, you don’t recognize the number and are already on the way out, so you decide to let it go through to voicemail.

While this might not be the end of the world, it’s very frustrating to be left in the dark when a caller rings and you lack any context whatsoever on who they are and why they might be calling.

You don’t even own the number that callers end up ringing, so if you decide to stop using Google channels to promote your business, then your customers won’t be able to ring you back using the number they’ve always used.

Google Call History also doesn’t allow its users to record, tag, or qualify their calls. Rather than making calling a competitive advantage, they just give businesses the bare bones of who called, when, and leave them to it. Plus, unlike CallRail’s Lead Center, Google Call History lacks one single place where you can dive in and manage/respond to your calls.

Last but not least, it’s worth highlighting that Google Call History is only available to a select number of U.S.-based businesses. Even if you like the sound of it and think that the feature would be beneficial to your business, you may well be unable to use it — at least, not yet.

The Verdict

Google Call History could be a very helpful resource for small businesses who just want to kick the tires of call tracking. It provides companies with a free way to track their incoming calls, which may well be crucial in improving their customer service, increasing their sales, and generally surviving the COVID-19 economic downturn.

However, it’s got shortcomings — it’s far from the best call tracking option out there. It reroutes all calls through Google’s own phone numbers, you can only log calls made through Google, you don't get a detailed view on each caller (or even their Caller ID), you can’t see if a call was answered or missed, and you can’t track texts. Most importantly, however, it only provides 45 days’ worth of data. If you wear multiple hats (which is common for small business owners and employees), then you might forget to pull the data before the 45 days mark. As a result, you’ll miss out on all these valuable insights.

If your company does a lot of its business over the phone and prides itself on impeccable customer service, it probably doesn’t have the functionality you need. Plus, there are different — more advanced — ways of analyzing all calls made through Google. Take our Google My Business integration, for instance. This two-click setup allows you to put a CallRail tracking number into your Google profile, meaning you can benefit from our advanced functionality while still staying on top of incoming calls from Google channels.