It turns out that marketing teams and online business owners don’t have superhuman hearing when it comes to detecting whispers about their products and services online.
So how do they manage to always respond to comments every time their company or products are mentioned in blog posts or forum discussions or social media blasts?
Well, it’s not by manually scrounging for data on a daily basis.
Instead, they have automated tools that listen to buzz on the internet for them.
Now, you might think a fancy automated monitoring system costs a monthly fortune to deploy and would be super complicated to setup...but you’d be wrong!
The leading keyword monitoring tools are FREE and only take a few moments to get up and running.
If you have an online business, this quick post will teach you how to start listening to the internet to help manage your brand and product perception in real-time to boost your online authority and make more sales!
Now I’ll be the first to admit that “Keyword Monitoring” sounds pretty boring, but think about this…
What if you could get an alert every time something about your business, a competitor’s business or one of your authority topics were mentioned online?
How would such a superpower allow you to boost sales and your online authority?
If someone writes a review about your product, you’d have the power to reach out and clarify any missing or incorrect points made in the article. You could thank people for their positive comments as well as respond tactfully to any negative ones.
This power would also allow you to spy on your competition’s major activities while having a steady stream of relevant content ideas hitting your inbox on a regular basis.
Now before showing you in detail exactly what keywords you should start monitoring to accomplish all this, let’s start by briefly showcasing the two free tools that will make up your keyword surveillance dragnet by the end of this post...
You don’t even need a Gmail account to start using Google Alerts. You simply enter a keyword (or keyword phrase) and enter the email address you want your alert sent to. Freaking simple!
Google Alerts provides you with some advanced monitoring options including how often it sends you alerts and what sources (Blogs, News, Web, etc.) it should focus its search for your keywords in.
Before you click the “Create Alert” button, check out the “Alert preview” section to get a feel for what your email alerts will look like and whether or not a keyword refinement is needed to produce more relevant results.
If you’re logged into your Google account, the alerts will be sent directly to your gmail address by default.
The free keyword monitoring tool Talkwalker Alerts is virtually identical to Google Alerts in setup and functionality.
However, the alert search results can be very different which is why it’s a good idea to use both systems at the same time.
Talkwalker Alerts also provides a “Preview” button to see what your selected keyword or phrase will return before you commit to creating the alert.
Again, don’t worry about which tool is best. They’re both free and use different search algorithms so I recommend using both to cast a wider keyword surveillance net.
And if you’re afraid of your inbox filling up with too many daily keyword alerts – because you’ll be setting up quite a few – I recommend using the filter and label system described in our recent ActiveGrowth Gmail Swipe File post to manage them all in an organized way.
How To Refine Your Google Searches Like a Pro
When creating your keyword alerts, it’s important to pair your keyword and keyword phrase alert terms with Google search operators that bring you back relevant results.
For example, the keyword "apple" could bring back alerts for the tech company or the fruit. If you were only interested in alerts about the tech giant, Google search operators would allow you to avoid fruity alerts with the search term "apple -fruit".
Below is a list of basic search operators to help you get started:
Quotation Marks (“ ”)
Search for an exact match: “fastest animal in the world”
Minus Sign (-)
Exclude words from your search term: jaguar speed -car
Combine searches by putting OR in the middle of two search terms: cats OR dogs
Site search operator (site:)
Return search results from a particular site: site:activegrowth.com
Using Google search operators in your keyword search terms will help you refine your keyword alerts to eliminate extraneous search results.
There are 3 keyword surveillance nets you need to cast if you want to stay current on all things published about your business online.
These 3 surveillance nets include:
The following sections will show you how to select the right keywords for each of these “nets” to make sure you get notified anytime relevant content you should know about gets published.
Brand management is how people perceive your brand within your niche market.
It’s important to monitor your brand online so you can respond to any comments, blog posts, product reviews or forum mentions that are published about your business as soon as Google crawls and indexes them.
This helps you to clarify, correct or acknowledge any negative mentions published while also giving you the opportunity to boost and capture positive mentions (as potential testimonials) whenever they crop up.
The keywords you select to manage your brand perception are fairly straightforward. Set alerts around the following search terms:
To give you an example of brand monitoring in action, here are the alerts we currently use to keep an eye on Thrive Themes’ online presence:
With this simple alert system, Shane and the marketing team can gain awareness of any new posts or comments as soon as Google indexes websites that use the above keywords.
For example, Shane was able to quickly offer additional information and corrections to the following comparison post reviewing Thrive Leads against other online opt-in form products:
Over the past two years, Shane’s simple response to the review article has been upvoted to become the top comment. That’s undoubtedly helped to better inform readers of the review article and boosted the positive perception of our Thrive Leads product.
It’s likely that this one brand management action led to at least a few additional Thrive Leads sales.
Not only do you want to monitor your own brand, but keeping a sharp eye on your competitors should be one of your top priorities.
If you want to be competitive in your niche, it just goes without saying that you need to understand who your competitors are, what they’re selling, and what sort of buzz they’re making online.
When people post positive or negative content about your competitors, you should make it a priority to know. This will improve your understanding around what products and marketing strategies are either working or bombing in your niche.
This will give you more power to modify and test successful competitor strategies across your own products.
Another big advantage of monitoring competitor keywords is that you know whenever someone publishes something about your competition. If a negative post is published, it presents opportunities for you to emphasize positive aspects about your products and services that your competitors don’t do.
For example, a review stating that "LeadPages doesn't integrate with XYZ software" might be an opportunity for Shane to drop a tactful comment informing readers that Thrive Leads and Thrive Landing Pages does integrate with it.
Monitoring competitor keywords can also present you with opportunities to offer guest blog posts and product reviews. If your competitor keyword surveillance alerts you to a review of a competitor product, the reviewer is likely a good person to reach out to about also reviewing your own products.
When it comes to competitor surveillance, keyword selection principles are very similar to monitoring your own brand:
Continuing with the Thrive Themes example, competitor keywords for the Thrive Leads and Thrive Landing Page products might look like:
Obviously you can make a much more extensive competitor keyword surveillance list than the examples shown above, but these examples should help get you started building a keyword dragnet for your own competition.
The last keyword surveillance strategy you should implement is less straightforward and more dynamic than that of monitoring your own and competitor brands.
Here, I’m talking about how to monitor the different topics you write about to maintain your authority in your particular business niche.
If you want to be an online authority, it’s important to understand what’s happening with regard to the various topics your business is concerned with.
Setting up keyword alerts around your authority content topics allows you to write fresh blog posts and answer new questions as they appear among your online tribe. This is an evergreen way to show the internet that you’re one of the current authorities regarding key topics.
Start by brainstorming keywords and keyword phrases that encompass your authority content topics.
Good topics to focus on first are your main navigation page and blog category topics.
Using our Thrive Themes example once again, the Authority Content terms are listed in the Post Category section on the blog sidebar:
Thrive Themes Authority Content Topics:
Now, brainstorm synonymous search terms that will capture important blog posts, comments and forum discussions that are highly relevant to these pillar topics. Use these terms as the keywords in your alerts.
For example, the additional surveillance keywords attached to the Build Your List authority topic might include:
For the Increase Your Conversions authority content topic, a first pass attempt at your additional alert terms could include:
The trick here is to select keyword phrases that have a good chance of alerting you to relevant online content you’d benefit from knowing about.
Pro Tips For Authority Content Keyword Surveillance
Make sure not to spend too much time overthinking your initial keywords for your authority topics.
It will take some time to refine your terms to get super relevant results so just make some educated guesses to get started!
For example, using the “CRO” search term for Conversion Rate Optimization alerts might also bring alerts for the country Croatia. When this occurs, refine them by using the Google search operators discussed above.
A refined search might be: “CRO” -Croatia.
Also, you can also add more specific search words to be alerted about keyword questions like: “how to” “build mailing list”
*Note: Google search defaults to the AND search operator if there is a space between two search terms.
Are you using Google Alerts or a similar platform to monitor your brand, competitors and authority content topics?
If so, I’d love to know how extensive your keyword alert system is and how well it’s working for you.
Please share by joining the conversation in the comments below!
Matt's a geologist turned online marketer and digital nomad. He's a Modern Manimal on a mission to create a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in a high-tech world. When away from his tech, you can find him at the park training AcroYoga.