An important part of building a successful business is managing your online reputation. This means more than just checking how many stars you have on Yelp, it also incorporates tracking when your company is mentioned in the media, what your competitors are saying about your business, and how your customers talk about you on social media. This can seem like an overwhelming job – who has time to be constantly checking what people are saying about you online? After all, that’s why people hire Public Relations firms! Fortunately, there are lots of tools that can help you more easily manage your online reputation without having to spend a fortune, and one of those is Google Alerts.

Why you should be using Google Alerts

You need to know when people are quoting you, supporting you, or bashing you to your potential customers, and Google Alerts is one of the most versatile (and free!) tools you have to track those things. Google Alerts allow you to listen to any online conversation that mentions you, your competitors, or any keywords or phrases you’re trying to rank for. Most startups and small businesses don’t have the Public Relations (PR) budget to pay for a media monitoring service, so using Google Alerts – which sends you regular reports of all your business’ coverage – is a great budget-friendly stand-in. So if you’re not ready to pull the trigger on hiring a PR firm, you should be using Google Alerts to keep track of what people are saying about you, how they’re saying it, and on what sites you’re most frequently mentioned.

But why do you need to know who’s talking about you online? Because if you don’t know who’s writing glowing reviews about you, you can’t use good press as promotional material to share on your website and social media. And on the other hand, if you don’t know who’s talking negatively about you, you’ll have a much harder time getting on top of bad press and handling PR crises before they become bigger problems.

Keep in mind, however, that Google Alerts can only track when you’re mentioned online, so you’ll still need to keep an eye on trade publications and other print media that don’t run versions of their articles online.

How to set up Google Alerts

A good way to think of Google Alerts is to imagine it as an automated Google Search that delivers reports for each of your search terms to you at set intervals. You can choose to set alerts on up to 1000 words and phrases per email address, meaning you can track nearly every word you can think of that is remotely connected to your business, if you so choose. It’s a good idea to start by setting up alerts for your company’s name, your direct competitors’ names, and your top keywords and phrases.

Google Alerts is completely free and easy to set up. Here’s how to get started:
1. Go to and sign in to your Google account.

Image Source: Google

2. Enter the name of your business in the search bar to add it to your alerts. Click on the “Show Options” drop down to choose how often you get alerts, the sources you want alerts from, language, region, how many alerts you want, and what email address Google should send the report to.

Source: Google

3. After you select your preferences, click “Create Alert.” You can now view all of your alerts as a list and change your alert preferences as-needed.

Source: Google

4. Below your list of alerts, you’ll also find Alert Suggestions from Google that you may choose to add, if they are relevant.

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5. You’re done! You’ll now begin receiving email alerts for the search terms you entered.

Image source: Gmail

Other ways to use Google Alerts

In addition to monitoring your online presence, Google alerts can be used in a variety of other ways that you should also be taking advantage of.

Lead Generation

One of these creative uses is for Lead Generation. One way to do this is by setting up alerts for potential sales leads that fit your target buyer persona.

For example, if I owned a small floral shop in Salt Lake City that focused on weddings and I wanted to find qualified sales leads, I might set up Google Alerts for the word “engagement” in the Salt Lake City region. This way, every time an engagement was announced in a Salt Lake City-area publication, Google would flag it and then send me a daily email of a list of qualified prospects (brides- and grooms-to-be who are now planning a wedding) that I could then market my services to.

Checking for Plagiarism

Another great way to use Google Alerts for your startup or small business is to use it to check for plagiarism. We’ve written before about how hackers can scrape your content and make you look like the bad guy, so it’s important to be vigilant about protecting your intellectual property.

To set up an automated plagiarism monitor for a page, pick a unique line from your content that Google should only find in that piece of content, and insert it in double quotes into the Search field and click “add alert.”

Image Source: Guiding Tech

Now, any time your content is duplicated somewhere on the web, Google will flag it and send you a report, allowing you to take action to have the plagiarized content removed before it does damage to your site’s reputation (or gets you banned from the search engine).

You can also use this method to check where your Creative Commons content is being used online. Even though this content has been labeled as free-to-use, it’s not a bad idea to keep track of how people are engaging with your work.

Providing Better Customer Service

If your company is focused on providing great customer service and engaging with your fans online (and you should be!) Google Alerts can be a good way to track when your customers mention you so you can reach out personally to thank them for telling their friends about you. On average, a customer tells nine people about their experience with a company, meaning your customers are talking about you, and you should know what they’re saying. There’s no faster way to earn lifelong customers than going the extra mile by sending a personalized thank you note for their loyalty, and Google Alerts makes it easier than ever to do that.

On the flip side, Alerts can also be useful for addressing problems personally when a customer has a bad experience. After all, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep a current one. If you notice that a customer has written about a bad experience with your business, Alerts make it easy to know who the customer was and what the issue was, so you can more easily reach out to the customer and rectify the situation, and you should, because unhappy customers, on average, tell 16 people about their negative experience.

Tracking Industry Trends

Another critical key to running a successful business is keeping up with industry news and staying on top of trends. Especially if you work in a fast-paced industry like tech, it can be difficult and overwhelming to keep up with all of the news that may affect your business and customer base. While social media can help, you likely don’t have time to be logged in all day watching for news, and if you’re a small business, you probably don’t have the budget to hire a full-time social media marketing person. To help alleviate some of the stress of needing to be constantly in-the-know, we suggest setting up Google Alerts for industry-related words that might be important for you to track.

For example, if I owned a 3D printing business, I might want to track keywords related to the 3D printing industry so I can keep up on daily news related to my industry and my competitors.

Image Source: Google

Now you’ll be regularly briefed on all news related to your industry so you can make smarter, more informed business decisions.

Go even further with Marketing Automation

Google Alerts is an extremely versatile and budget-friendly way to make managing your brand’s online presence easy. You can use it to watch for mentions of your business, your competitors, and keywords, check for plagiarism, build your list of qualified sales leads, provide better customer service, keep up with industry trends, and more. Alerts are easy to set up and modify at any time and are a cost-effective way to begin automating your business marketing.

Looking to do even more marketing automation so you can spend more time and energy building other areas of your business? Sign up for a free Big Leap consultation to see how easy it can be to plan, manage, measure, and coordinate your marketing efforts on and offline.