WordPress, code, design, business

An Alternative to Google Alerts and Mention That’s Better and Free

When we launched churchthemes.com I wanted to stay on top of what people were saying about the business, our WordPress themes and about building church websites in general. That way I could chime in with my own thoughts when helpful. The Internet is huge so it would be impossible to track all this blog, forum and social media chatter manually. I quickly found Google Alerts and Mention but neither satisfied.

You might be surprised that I found the best solution to be a regular Google search with one little known option switched on.

Google Alerts: Utter Failure

I figured Google Alerts would be the best solution. You put in a few keywords and they mail you new results every so often. The problem was that the results were so sparse it would have been easy to forget I had been using Google Alerts at all. It’s no surprise that there is speculation that Google will bury this service.

Mention: Close But No Cigar

I went searching for alternatives to Google Alerts and after weeding out some alternatives that were just as useless, I found Mention. Being fully aware of Google Alerts’ limitations, they present themselves as an alternative with free and paid plans. It looked pretty slick so I tried the free plan for a few weeks and was somewhat satisfied but not totally convinced. I figured I’d give their lowest paid plan a shot for one month.

I ended up canceling because I was finding myself spending time going through a pretty good number of results that were mostly irrelevant or repeats from what I was already seeing from my Twitter feed and a weekly Google search that I was running manually. In other words, I was paying for something that in my case was not giving me an advantage over what I already had and was in effect causing me to spend time unnecessarily.

The Better and Free Alternative

People use Google search multiple times a day and it works pretty good, right? That’s why they have no real competition. They’ve blown everybody out of the water with superior search relevance. Google Alerts for some reason does not provide the same fantastic results but it turns out regular search can be used just fine for seeing what people have said recently on blogs and forums. This is how I use it.

1. Find Good Keywords

Go to Google and enter a keyword relating to your business, product, industry, etc. Search to verify that the results are relevant. If so, save that keyword then repeat with others until you’ve compiled a list of good keywords.

2. Search All Keywords Simultaneously

Combine all those good keywords into one query, separating each with OR. The query I compiled is:

church wordpress themes OR wordpress themes for churches OR wordpress church themes OR church themes OR wordpress church OR church wordpress OR church wordpress sites

Plug your query into Google and you should see some pretty good results (see mine). The problem is that they are results from forever but you want to keep up on the latest only.

3. Limit Results by Time

I like to check for new matches weekly (Tuesday is when I wear the marketing hat) so I limit the results to the past week. I didn’t know this option existed until recently.

  1. Click on Search tools under the search bar
  2. Click Any time in the bar that has appeared below
  3. Change it to Past week or the range of your choice

Google Search Time Filter

Now you only see content that was published or updated in the past week (see mine). This keeps you from having to go through articles you’ve already read. This is basically the information I was expecting to get from Google Alerts.

4. Bookmark Your Results

Simply bookmark your results to easily re-check again in a week. You can also shorten the URL with bit.ly if helpful (I store the shortened URL in my marketing notes). Google Alerts provides results by email but that’s probably not any more convenient than simply clicking a bookmark, which is also not unlike clicking an icon to open the Mention app.

Maybe now you’re starting to see why I call this solution better and free.

Additional Tips

Website Popularity

I use the Alexa Toolbar to save time when scanning search results. This browser addon injects a traffic rank indicator into the results. One thing I am looking for is blog articles about church WordPress themes. I don’t want to waste time commenting on or asking for coverage on blogs that nobody reads. Many blogs post junk articles and they usually have little traffic. Blogs with more traffic are often more popular because they publish useful content. That’s where we want to be mentioned.

Google Search Alexa Traffic Rank

You can see by the traffic indicators in this example that if I have limited time, it’s probably better spent checking PremiumWP (Alexa Rank 4,862) versus the other site (Alexa Rank 613,962). This hunch turns out to be true upon closer examination. The PremiumWP article proves useful to people looking for a church WordPress theme while the other result shows a single free “Merry Christmas” theme linking to a page that doesn’t seem to load.

Social Media

Google search doesn’t provide much by the way of social media results. It’s great for blogs, forums and other websites. The world of WordPress and church communications is almost universally on Twitter so I simply continue my daily use of TweetDeck to monitor tweets from people I follow. Every week when I run my time-limited Google search, I also filter tweets from the last week by a few keywords relating to church themes and websites just in case I missed anything.

I don’t feel a need to but if you want to track other networks such as Facebook then Topsy and HootSuite might be options.

Wrapping It Up

In my case, a regular Google search with multiple keywords, limited by time and supplemented with TweetDeck proved to be the best solution. I wasn’t looking for a free solution, just a good one. It turned out that the best solution was free.

What do you use to track chatter about your brand, products and industry? Share your tips!

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4 Comments

  1. Wow, it’s an amazing trick! Earlier, I had just put-up the keywords in Google Alerts and I was receiving a lot of email, which are not relevant also. But, I can take the advantage of your trick! Thanks man, for the alternative :D

  2. Whew, after wading through a dozen or more posts on the various services for reputation management, I was about to give up. They all mentioned the same two or three services and many wrongfully claimed they were free or low-cost.

    All these years on the web and I never thought to see what was hidden under that option in Google Search. Duh. Thank you for sharing your find.

  3. Thank you for posting this…I’ve been searching for an alternative to google alerts that won’t clog up my email. These tips are simple, but not really obvious! Thanks for bothering to post them. Great job.

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