While other online reputation management tools come and go, Google Alerts persists as one of the oldest and most effective tools of the trade. Sure, it may be a bit more time consuming in terms of setup and upkeep than a SaaS like, say, Mention in that each alert needs to be set up piece-meal, but this same flexibility makes it a tailorable tool that can be adopted to a host of online reputation intelligence gathering endeavors.
Our review highlights the advantages, disadvantages, capabilities and limitations of using Google Alerts as an ORM tool:
Beginning with the end in mind, here’s a quick run-through of Google Alerts for ORM.
At literally ZERO dollars to use, Google Alerts is a great online reputation intelligence gathering tool for princes and paupers alike.
We docked Google Alerts a star for usability because it lacks a batch alert setup, meaning users must commit to the tedium of setting up alerts individually. Also, there's an arbitrarily set limit of 1000 alerts per Google account. Sure, most users won’t cross this 1000 alerts limit, but this feature can be somewhat limiting to Enterprise-level power users.
Thanks to the power of Google’s vast user demographics data, Alerts enables you to target users by language and locale. However, Google Alerts can't target alerts based on display media, a la Adsense and Adwords, where ORMs can target keywords based on PC, Tablet or Smartphone. And that's a big drawback.
“As it happens” means as fast as Google can crawl results, which could be days later — hardly conductive to time-sensitive online reputation management endeavors like event coverage. This only gets worse the more specific your search string becomes, as Google is less likely to crawl and index outlandish or highly specific terms than it is to index general ones. Alerts is best used in a more laid-back setting, where time isn’t of the essence.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look underneath the hood of Google Alerts to get a better picture of what makes this platform tick:
In the world of UI/UX, Google Alert ascribes to the simple design philosophy of WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get). The initial input field only takes the search string you’d like to create an Alert for. The real magic happens when you click on the “Show options” field below the input box; but, even then, the input fields that come up are hardly telling of the power of this platform.
“Frequency?” “Sources?” “How many?” What could you possibly glean about your online reputation from these ambiguously named rows of inputs?
Let’s dissect the Google Alerts dashboard, looking at each input field and how it can be harnessed in crafting an effective search engine online reputation:
Think of this as the bones of your Google Alerts ORM search endeavors. This input field is where you supply the specific search term you want to receive alerts for. This input field behaves in much the same way as Google Search, meaning you can use all Boolean search operators here that you would there, including the “AND,” “OR,” and “*”. Generally speaking, having several alerts, each with a specific search string, yields better results than clumping together “AND” or “OR” expressions in a single search term.
This one is a goldmine for the enterprising online reputation manager. Using the sources field, you can pick and choose the types of online content Google should match your search term against. Choices include “Blogs,” “News,” and “Video,” which are the three fields representing user-generated content that greatly affect online reputations. Example: You could use “[Product Name] Scam” with the source type “Blogs” to bring up blog posts of people calling your product or service a “scam.”
The name says it all: This one determines the language of the search results returned in your alert. If you’re an international brand, operating in numerous lingual locales, this can be an excellent way to gauge the temperature of your online reputation with different language demographics. Don’t forget to change the search string to the name of your product in the respective language when using this feature.
Together with Language, this provides another powerful means for demographic segmentation when gauging online brand perception. Setting up several alerts for a specific language in non-native speaking regions provides a powerful means of gauging online reputations in specific demographic regions. Many online reputation managers have had considerable success in marketing brand images for expats, for example, using creative combinations like “English” language in “France” to gauge the reputation of their online language schools targeting English-speaking expatriates in France.
For this field, it's best to set it to "All Results” when using Google Alerts for ORM of specific brand names or products. Although the Google selection algorithm for “Best results” does a good job at picking and choosing, do you really want to risk having a negative review of your product or service slip through the cracks because you left the algorithm to do the choosing? If anything, having large amounts of results to sift through when doing ORM should be treated as a blessing, as it makes it easier to put your finger on the pulse of your online reputation.
Given the slower, more tedious side of Google Alerts, you may want to explore other options. Below is a brief run-through of SaaS solutions that could serve as viable alternatives to Google Alerts:
Keyed more toward social media analytics than SERPs, Talkwalker is, nonetheless, a feature-rich alternative to Google Alerts for ORM. The platform enables much finer market segmentation by age, gender, and other markers. It also claims to curate content at a much faster pace, using 1500 dedicated servers.
Mention is another robust enterprise level solution that does Google Alerts but better. In addition to Web Monitoring, Mention is also capable of brand tracking and social media monitoring. It’s the natural successor to ORMs who’ve feel they’ve outgrown Google Alerts and are looking for something bigger and better.
Google Alerts persists as a cornerstone of modern online reputation management among first timers and vetted pros alike, but the piecemeal input of Alerts, relatively long delays between content generation and alert notification, and absence of more advanced demographic targeting might make you want to look to more robust solutions once you can afford them.