By Steve Morgan, Senior SEO Account Manager at Liberty Marketing

Made up of millions of websites, the web is a vast landscape, containing a plethora of business websites, personal websites, blogs, forums and everything in-between. And with the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, it’s not just the web savvy who can publish content on the Internet these days – virtually anyone can tweet or post a status update.

Therefore it can be a daunting task for a business to both find and keep up-to-date with everything that is being said about them online. Is it positive or negative? Is it fair? Is it slander?! Can anything be done about it?

Obviously the first task would be knowing how to find that such content even exists. Thankfully however, there are two free tools at the marketer’s disposal that can automatically notify them of anything being said around the web. And with a bit of clever tinkering, they can even be used to find sales and new business opportunities as well.

1) Google Alerts

What is it? Google Alerts are simply “email updates of the latest relevant Google results... based on your choice of query or topic.” Simple enough, right?

How does it work? When your chosen topic is picked up by Google in a webpage, you will be told about it. They can be customised in the same way a normal Google search can be customised (e.g. you can use quote marks, search parameters such as the OR command, etc.) and they can be set as weekly, daily or ‘as-it-happens’ updates.

How do I do it? All you need is a Google/Gmail account; then simply set up your alerts via their Alerts section (see the link above).

How can I use it to find mentions about me and my business? If Joe Bloggs of Joe Bloggs Photography wants to find any mentions about him as and when they happen (or as and when Google finds and indexes them, to put it more precisely), then he might want to consider:

joe bloggs

However, if that’s too broad – e.g. if there are a lot of other Joe Bloggs’ out there – then he might want to consider:

joe bloggs photographer OR photography

Or use the OR search parameter to pick up as many variations as possible, not only by what people might call the service, but also possibly by location:

joe bloggs photographer OR photography
joe bloggs cardiff OR wales

Spelling mistakes and abbreviations could also be considered, if your business name is notorious for falling into one or both of those categories. Old business names (e.g. if you’ve rebranded) could be considered as well.

Multiple alerts can be set up independently of each other, so do not be afraid to use multiple types to cover all bases (be careful not to rely on just one alert as it might be more restricting, relying on more words to be in a page for it to be shown).

On the web, there’s more to your business than simply what is written on your own website. You might have been reviewed; you may be featured in a directory; a blogger might have blogged about you; maybe you’ve been nominated for an award (and haven’t been told)... Google Alerts are particularly useful when finding out what has been said about you, and from there you can think about whether or not a contribution is required, e.g. if someone has left a bad review, you might be able to argue it if you think their comments are off the mark or unfair.

How can I use it to find new opportunities? Joe might also want to consider an alert for something like:

wedding photographer OR photographers OR photography

This would be a lot more broad and general, but could help Joe to find:

Blogs and forums to get involved with
Guest blogging and article-writing opportunities
Industry-relevant social networking sites
News sites and stories
Potential advertising opportunities, e.g. on wedding directories

The list goes on...

Anything else I should know? Not really, other than the fact that it works on the basis of when Google finds a page, and not as soon as a page has gone live. Depending on the popularity of a website, it might take hours, or it might take days. So be aware you may not be notified immediately, but hey, it’s better than nothing (or finding out by other means, once it’s too late).

2) Twitter Search

What is it? How does it work? Twitter’s Search function is pretty self-explanatory: it’ll show you all the tweets that include whatever it is you’ve searched for, from the most recent backwards.

How do I do it? Use the above link! It should be noted that Twitter applications such as TweetDeck and HootSuite will allow you to save your searches as separate columns, so you can keep them saved for reference, instead of conducting new searches each and every time you want to check for fresh tweets. In that case – and also in order to communicate with the user who posted the tweet – you will need a Twitter account as well.

How can I use it to find mentions about me and my business? Similar to Google Alerts, you can save a search on your name. Anyone who tweets about you – but who might not @mention you – will be featured. So similar to Google Alerts, Joe might want to try:

joe bloggs photographer OR photography

How can I use it to find new opportunities? This is where things get exciting. Joe could consider:

wedding photography OR photographer OR photographers near:cardiff within:15mi

Twitter gives the capability to search for tweets coming from users based within a certain radius of a location, such as a city. This can be handy as the person tweeting may not necessarily say the location they are based in (“Cardiff,” in the above example).

So when @brideindistress from rural South Wales tweets the following:

HELP! Wedding photographer pulled out with 2 days to go! Can anyone recommend a replacement at short-notice?

Joe can step in...

@brideindistress Hi, I’m a prof. photographer in Cardiff. I’m free that day & able to step in if you want? Give me a call: [link]

Jumping onto a stranger’s tweet may not work every time (some people might not like the approach, or would prefer to be recommended by a friend/follower), but it can still be a great opportunity to be ready and available for someone who might be in need of your products or services at that moment in time.

Anything else I should know? Don’t forget to block spam profiles and/or simply those who tweet non-stop about your chosen search terms, in order to eliminate the ‘noise’ within the search stream. Including -twittername (without the “@”) as part of the search query works as well.

About The Author

Steve Morgan is a Senior SEO Account Manager at Liberty Marketing, an online marketing agency based in Cardiff. Steve also has his own blog, SEOno, where he talks about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as well as other forms of Internet marketing, including social media marketing. Follow Steve on Twitter: @steviephil.