When Google released its Alerts tool back in 2003, there was a lot of celebrating. Instead of waiting for weeks for Google to crawl through the web and spit back reliable results about the changes it found, people could find out about changes in their fields within mere moments. At the time, that kind of speed was really remarkable.
Since then, people who specialize in reputation management have encouraged their clients to come up with sophisticated alerts for their names, their company names, and the key terms that refer to their industries. For those who didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars each month on a sophisticated monitoring system, Google was pretty enticing as it was both reliable and free.
Recently, however, many people have become concerned that the Google Alerts system isn’t quite as sophisticated as it once was. Count me among the worriers.
The Writing on the Wall
As a writer, I publish at least four pieces each and every week under my own name. If these pieces are shared via Twitter, my name is automatically appended to the Tweets. In addition, I also write comments on other blogs under my own name on a regular basis, and I work hard to answer comments people leave on my blogs.
By my accounting, I should be getting about 20 to 30 alerts on a weekly basis, as a bare minimum. On a busy week, I might even get 100 or more. My name is part of my brand, and it’s my job to get it out there. I thought I could use Google Alerts to make sure it was happening.
Unfortunately, in the 2 months or so in which I’ve had an active Google Alerts account, I’ve received exactly 2 email alerts.
That’s right: 2.
Only 1 or 2 of my blog entries sparked an alert, while no Twitter mentions showed up at all. Even the comments I wrote sparked no interest. Most egregiously, some blog entries were even skipped altogether, even though they were published under my own name and linked to my Google+ account.
This isn’t a huge problem for a user like me, since I’ve not been using Google Alerts for a long enough time in which to get attached. However, people who have been using Google Alerts for months or even years are, not surprisingly, a little panicked about the reduction in frequency of alerts they’ve seen. (See this open letter to Google from The Financial Brand for a good example of the complaints long-term users have about the tool.) People like this might be wondering what in the world they should be using in order to monitor the chatter.
Finding New Solutions
Google hasn’t openly responded to these criticisms, and it isn’t at all clear that they will do so. As a result, it’s a little fruitless to wonder what has happened and when it will get fixed. Instead of writing yet more letters and blogs about the topic, it might be best to declare the tool broken and come up with new reputation management monitoring solutions. Here are a few I’m using.
Google Autocomplete. Sometimes, simple reputation management means watching what terms people append to your name or your brand, when they’re searching online. Google helpfully finishes sentences via its Autocomplete function, and I’ve found this to be surprisingly helpful in terms of monitoring the online world. By running periodic searches with a super-slow typing speed, I can get a good feel for the phrases others think apply both to me and to my business, and I can amend my tactics accordingly.
Targeted Google searches. In the early morning hours, when my brain is foggy and the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in, I need a few warm-up exercises. For me, targeted searches fit the bill quite nicely. Each morning, I run searches for my name and I skim the top two or three page results. It’s not scientific, of course, but it only takes a few moments to complete, and it usually tells me what I need to know about the content that might be circulating in the wide world out there.
Online replacements. There are a few free services, such as Mention.net and Talkwalker Alerts, that can fill the gap Google Alerts leaves behind. In most cases, these services are modeled on Google Alerts, so they’re easy to set up and easy to manage. I’ve tinkered with a few of these, and I’ve found that the results have been surprisingly valuable. The tools may not be Google based, but they do seem to work.
Expert Assistance. It’s also worth mentioning that reputation management companies (such as the one I blog for on a regular basis) are equipped to run sophisticated searches on any terms you might find useful. The solution my company provides is even free, and the information gathered is stored in a dashboard system that’s easy to understand and access.
Getting proactive with new solutions may be a hassle, particularly for those of us who have a desperate love affair with Google and who don’t want to find a new platform in which to work. But if the tools just aren’t working, it might be best to move on.