How do you know what people are saying about you online? What are they saying about your customers and competitors?
Use a search engine I hear you say, but do you really want spend your time doing all sorts of search queries just to keep tabs on this, even though it’s important? If your budgets stretch that far, you could of course hire a research team to do this for you.
Another approach, which is free, is to use “Google Alerts” to do the bulk of the work for you. This is an easy to use service from Google that can automatically email you the results of a search query, as new results are found. You simply set up an alert with your search query (eg “Acme Washers”) and whenever Google finds results that match, it will send you an email with the relevant links. You can also have your results grouped into daily and weekly emails to avoid overload.
To set up your alerts, all you need is a Google account and an email address, then visit www.google.com/alerts.
To use Google Alerts you will need a Google account (this can also give you a Gmail email address if you want one). If you haven’t got a Google account then you can sign up at www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount. It’s all pretty self-explanatory and you can opt to just use your own email address as the username for your account.
If you opt for a Gmail address (they can be quite handy as a backup), it can be a good idea to set up forwarding so that email sent to your Gmail address also ends up in your usual email account. You can set up forwarding using the “Settings” link when you are logged into Gmail. When the settings page is displayed, just click the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” link and choose the forwarding options you need. There are a host of other useful (free) things you can do with a standard Gmail account, but perhaps that’s for another post.
Once you’ve signed in to www.google.com/alerts you set up your alert by entering your search term eg “Acme Washers” and choosing where you want your results delivered. You also have the option of specifying which elements of Google to search along with the frequency and volume of the results. From here you can also manage any of the alerts you have already set up and the “Google Alerts Help” links gives clear and useful advice on using the service.
It’s as easy as that.
To illustrate how useful this can be: one of our customers recently found out via a Google Alert, that they had been very well reviewed in an independent newspaper and online article. They were delighted to then be able to capitalise on the review in their own marketing activities.
We’re often asked whether there is such a thing as Bing alerts, an equivalent service to Google alerts but driven by Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The nearest equivalent I can find is Bing News Alerts (which limits searches to the “News” section of Bing). I’ve even heard rumours that the good folks at Microsoft use Google Alerts to keep tabs on things! Perhaps someone can let me know if this really is true.