Today I’m going to talk about using Google Alerts, a simple, easy, and very effective way to keep tabs on what others are saying about you, your product, your web site, and your niche subject.
There’s no question that today’s Internet is a social world. People talk and gossip — positively and negatively — about everything. The question is, what are they saying, and why would you want to know?
The answer is simple. You want to know in order to offer solutions, protect your image, be of help to people, and gain trust for yourself and your products. You can even discover newly hot topics to develop a new product or niche web site around.
What is a Google Alert?
Google Alerts is a free service you can configure in your Google Webmaster Account that monitors online use of any subject or terms that you specify. The Google app emails you whenever that term appears within the top 20 web sites or top 10 news stories of Google’s organic search results/index for the time period that you set.
Setting up your Google Alerts
It’s easy to set up an alert, even if you don’t have a Google account or Gmail address. The process is simple.
First, go to the Google Alerts Sign up page: http://www.google.com/alerts
You’ll see this form, which I have already filled out with sample data:
You have three options for the “How Often” field: As It Happens, Daily, or Weekly. Unless you have a very hot topic that you need to monitor constantly, I recommend using Weekly.
Also notice that I put the entire term in quotes. If you don’t use quotes, your alerts will contain results for all the words you enter, not just the group of words. (“Broad” versus “phrase” matched results.) I only want the news articles, blog posts, web sites, etc. that contain the phrase “Niche Profit Classroom blog” in its entirety, so I need the quotation marks.
Note that Google Alerts allows advanced searches. That means you can use the plus sign or negative sign to include search filters, or to filter out certain terms. This is very useful for honing in on a particular niche or a specific person (including yourself), or for narrowing your results to only forums or blogs.
You can vary your search criteria in any number of ways, including searching for links coming into your site! Our members are constantly looking for ways to monitor their backlinking efforts, and Google Alerts is one way to do it. (I’ll explain exactly how a bit later.)
In the example above, I used an AOL email address to show you that any email address will work. Personally, I prefer setting up a Gmail account just for the Alert notices. My working email stays clean, and I gather all my alerts in one location.
Once you create the Alert, you’ll need to verify that you own the email address.
Hint: If you sign in with a Google Account/Webmaster Tools, you’ll have additional options and more control over how to manage your Alerts. For example, you could have the alerts sent as a Google Alert RSS feed instead of being emailed to you. You can also export the results. It’s not much more control, but some people prefer the RSS feed.
The Type of information sent to you can be “Everything,” as I have set it in the example, or you can limit it to Google Blog Searches, Google News, Video, or Discussions.
Google Web Alerts is not 100% accurate or guaranteed to provide results all the time. Google Alerts won’t return pages that aren’t in Google’s index, material that is too old, or results that don’t appear near the top of their index/search results.
Now that you’ve set up your Google Alert preferences, what can you do with the results?
Almost anything you can imagine! But let’s narrow it down to a six useful ideas:
1. If you have a product, monitor what people are saying about it.
In the search field, place your product’s name in quotes. Maybe it’s an ebook called “How To Have The Best Growing Roses.” Or even better, put the author’s name in quotes. An author’s name is specific whereas a phrase such as “How to have the best growing roses” could be used by anyone interested in growing roses.
This brings up another important point: choose your search criteria wisely. Use specific terms that are unique to what you’re looking for, and you’ll get the results you want.
By monitoring your product, you can get a sense for what people think about it. Is the product getting good reviews? Positive comments? Are there support issues that need to be dealt with? These results will tell you what people want.
2. Backlinks can be monitored.
It’s all in the search criteria you use. Since Google Alerts allows complex search syntax, you could place a search string such as link:www.yourdomain.com. While not 100% accurate, the alerts will notify you any time someone links to your website.
Want to find out if anyone is linking to a specific article? Modify the search criteria to something like link:www.yourdomain.com/your-article-page.
3. Check your on-site or off-site articles for plagiarism.
There are always several lines of text that will be unique within an article. By placing the unique terms into the search field like this, “My unique phrase on rose growing,” Google Alerts will notify you if anyone uses that phrase in their article or on their web site. Be careful — it may not be plagiarism. But you can visit their site and find out if it is.
4. Discover hot topics within any niche.
This isn’t mentioned often, but using Google Alerts is a great way to create new products or discover hot trends. Pick a niche topic you’re interesting in pursuing as a possible market. Place that term — the niche topic — in Google Alerts, and set the results to “discussions.” Is there a recurring theme, question, or problem in the discussions? If so, find the product (as an affiliate or vendor), go to where people are talking about it, and let them know – subtly, of course – that there is a solution!
5. Off-site customer service and controlling of your reputation.
This takes a bit of practice and is not for the faint of heart. If you have a disgruntled customer, chances are that they have vented somewhere, and that whatever they’re saying about your product or service isn’t pretty.
Rule 1: Resist the temptation to get defensive. Don’t directly confront individuals or start posting replies in forums, blogs, or social networks that this person is xyz. (It doesn’t matter what XYZ is.)
Rule 2: Don’t ask your friends and fans to defend you, either. There’s nothing worse than a discussion that gets bombarded with comments in an obvious attempt to sway everyone’s opinions.
So, do you ignore it and hope it goes away?
The answer is no. But you must approach this type of situation very carefully.
First, step back and evaluate the complaint. Is the person correct in their evaluation? If so, stand up and admit it. Even go as far as to thank them for alerting you to the situation, and to let others know you’re willing to adjust in order to correct the problem.
In the world of online social interactions, admitting fault when you’re wrong impacts your reputation positively far more than the original complaint impacts you negatively.
If you don’t feel the complaints are justified, tell the facts — not your opinion — and let others make their own decisions about what happened. Given the honest facts, people will dismiss someone who seems to be complaining unreasonably. They will appreciate that you simply provided honest information and didn’t try to sway their opinion.
Honesty, logic, sincerity, and transparency in social forums, blogs, etc is very important. Confrontations and defensive postures will lead to mistrust.
And our last suggestion for using Google Alerts is to:
6. Monitor your competition.
What’s being said about them? What are they doing? Is what they’re doing successful? Do you need to do something in order to keep up with your competition?
One Last Tip:
If your Google Alerts results are not specific enough, use negative terms — minus signs with the term — in your searches.
For example: Let’s say I want to find information on Niche Profit Classroom, but I don’t want posts or tweets made on Twitter. I can exclude Twitter from my results by setting my search term like this:
“Niche Profit Classroom” -site:twitter.com
Now my results will not include Twitter posts or tweets, but will include other comments and blogs and links to Niche Profit Classroom.
I could go on and on about how to use Google Alerts to guide and monitor your web site, online reputation, and online presence, but I think you can already see how valuable Alerts from Google can be. Now that I’ve given you some ideas, how about sharing your ideas on how to maximize your Google Alerts in our comment box below!
Talk To You Soon,