Although my agency does use a variety of paid and free tools for various purposes, by and large, we do most of our discovery through manually searching the web.
If you’ve done it, you will know that while it’s fun and interesting at times, it’s also a serious pain. It’s inefficient, it’s tedious, and you’re likely to keep running into the same sites over and over. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and let the link potentials come to you using a variety of free alert tools.
Alerts are a great way to stay informed about what’s being said. You can use alerts just to monitor your brand or a keyword and stay informed, or you can view the information sent to you as a new place to get a link, however you go about doing that.
This has been particularly helpful when a blogger advertises that he or she is interested in guest posts on a specific topic or a new page about a topic that we market is indexed. These are great opportunities for new links.
You can set up both web and social alerts so that you can be notified when:
- your brand has a new mention
- your competitors have new mentions
- there is news about your industry
- your competitors write new guest posts
- a site seeks out guest posts about your industry
- someone asks a question about your industry that you could answer
- content with critical keywords you track is indexed
- new industry-relevant sites appear
- key players in your industry are mentioned
- a link with your desired anchor has appeared for a competitor
- a blog comment mentions you, your brand, your competitor, or your keyword
- a negative experience surrounding your brand has occurred
- a positive experience surrounding your brand has occurred
- a potential new customer appears, asking about your product
How To Use Web Alerts
Google alerts: I use this as my catch-all for mentions. You can set up basic alerts or customize the alerts using advanced search operators as well, which can be very handy. You can set up the alerts to let you know as something happens, daily, or weekly, and you can narrow down the list of sources to news, discussions, blogs, video, realtime, or just search everything.
In addition, you can choose to get only the best results or everything and how the alert gets to you (email or RSS feed). I usually get everything, at least when I do a new alert.
There’s also a handy preview that lets you make sure you’re going to be getting the result that you’re after. This is particularly useful when you’re using advanced operators. I’ve found that I can use the negative function a lot with these, mainly to weed out certain keywords or sites. You can also get alerts in multiple languages and set up to 1000 alerts.
For brand and URL mentions to monitor your reputation, this is a must-have. For some keywords that I want to monitor, I’ll have it set to send me a daily email listing all the new results, but for brand/URL mentions, I like to have it come to me the second something new is picked up, especially because it’s not wise to ignore a brand mention when you could easily email and ask for a link to be put in.
Also, Google advanced search operators are way too cumbersome to go into detail about any more than I have here, so I suggest that you do a good bit of reading about all the various ways you can use them.
How To Use Social Alerts
Monitoring social media is becoming more and more critical due to its massive popularity with just about everyone. If you use Twitter you’ll see that many people complain, fuss, and talk about bad experiences.
If you’re being complained about, responding quickly can (hopefully) help you from garnering further bad reviews from the immediate source and others. Many people who start out complaining on social media will go on to write blog posts or articles about their bad experiences, too. There’s a link you really don’t want right?
By monitoring and responding to negative mentions, you can hopefully turn the situation around to your advantage and, if someone decides to write about it, your link will have a much more positive sentiment. Responding to positive mentions can also help you build links, as there are some people who write about positive experiences as well.
Social Mention is a catchall alert system for social media that bills itself as being like Google Alerts, but for social.
You get a daily alert email that lets you know what is being mentioned on social sites. Like Google alerts, you can customize your sources (blogs, comments, bookmarks, etc.)
Social mention is a great backup system for the specific Twitter and Facebook alerts, but due to its daily email (and not real-time notification) I would caution you to use it alongside other real-time alerts. Otherwise opportunities could be lost.
They also have a pretty cool widget that you can display on your site to show a feed of what’s being said about your brand. Sounds a bit dangerous though doesn’t it?
There are a few good ones, with new ones popping up now and again. I’d suggest trying them out as some can be inconsistent. If all else fails, just search for your brand or URL in Twitter every now and then.
Google Alerts can also pick these up, but if you do a lot of promotion on Twitter, you’d be wise to sign up with a service that is specifically dedicated to Twitter alerts (I like Twilert.) This is a great way to be alerted to new content on Twitter that may interest you. The same as with Google alerts, if someone tweets and is asking for a guest post or pointing you to new relevant content, that’s a good linking opportunity.
I love HyperAlerts for this, as it sends you an email whenever someone posts or comments on your Facebook page. While I confess to finding this the least useful for my purposes, I do realize that people will occasionally post something interesting on your wall, so it’s worth checking out (in case you can, ahem, get a link.)
(Debra Mastaler listed some other good alert services here last year as well.)
At the very least, you’ll want to use alert services to monitor your own brand of course, but they really can be a great source of potential linking opportunities. Even if a site doesn’t look promising right now, it’s still worth noting somewhere and going back to later, and it’s also a great way to find potential influencers on Twitter, for example, whom you can follow, interact with, and maybe earn a link!
Don’t ignore the impact of quickly resolving bad situations that come to your attention via social media alerts, either. These can cost you customers and send them to your competitors, and, as mentioned above, have the potential to flood your brand SERPs with negative mentions, causing even further loss of viable traffic.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.