Face-to-face, most people have a certain minimum level of respect and common courtesy for others. But behind the cloak of anonymity on the Internet, people will say anything. Online, they’ll say the meanest, nastiest, coldest and most calculating things about you, about your team and about your business. Online comments and reviews often turn into games of one-upsmanship, where commenters compete with each other to write the wittiest, snidest, most scathing things they can. When this stuff gets really bad, sometimes the best course of action is to just ignore the most ridiculous comments or reviews of your business. Sometimes though, it just makes sense to jump into the conversation and defend your business’s reputation by responding and showing that you take customer feedback seriously. (Read the complete guide on how to respond to negative online reviews here.)
But how are you supposed to know that stuff is out there in the first place? You can’t go Googling yourself or your business every day and wade through all the junk looking for new things people are saying about your shop, right? There’s an easier way, and it’s called Google Alerts. They are the quickest and easiest way to keep track of what’s being said about your business online, and they make it easy to join conversations about your business, thus empowering you to take charge of your online reputation.
What are Google Alerts?
They’ve been around for years, but they’re still not commonly known. Google Alerts are email notifications that Google can send you when Google finds new mentions of something that you’re interested in.
Here’s how they work:
- You tell Google what keyword or phrase you’re interested in.
- Google scours the web for you and checks for new pages that match your interest.
- When they find new pages, Google automatically emails you a list of the links.
- Once you get the email alerts, you can read what everyone is saying about your business, and selectively respond when you feel it’s needed.
How do I get started?
It’s easy, and it takes just a couple of minutes.
- Visit www.google.com/alerts.
- Sign in (button in the top right).
- Click the button to create a new alert.
- Fill in the blanks.
- Experiment with the options for result type: everything vs. specific types of pages. I generally recommend seeing everything since the email alert will classify the results automatically for you, based on the type of content they contain. You might want to narrow it down if you’re setting up multiple alerts for similar queries, or if you’re getting far too many alerts (if that happens, read on for how to refine your search criteria).
- Click “Create Alert” to save.
What else do I need to know?
Just like when you’re searching Google, you can use logical operators to refine your search criteria and alerts.
Search for an exact query
Put quotes around words that you want to appear together on pages you’re alerted about. For example, if you tell Google to find the phrase, auto repair marketing, they’ll give you all pages that are generally relevant and that contain any combination of those three words. If you put quotes around the phrase, “auto repair marketing”, Google will only show you the results of pages that have exactly those three words, in exactly that order. This is really helpful if there are lots of pages that match the phrase you’re interested in, or if you have a really specific search in mind. Take one of our customers, Motorcars Ltd., for example. There are tons of unrelated pages that would show up for a Google Alert for the phrase Motorcars Ltd. But by entering that in quotes, or revising the criteria a little, such as “Motorcars Ltd.” or “Motorcars Ltd”, TX, we’d see a more relevant set of alerts.
Search for either word with OR
Use the OR command (capitalized) between words when you want to find pages that have only one of several words. For example, if you set up an alert for “auto repair marketing campaign ideas”, you’d get alerts for pages containing all of those words. If you throw in the OR function, like so: “auto repair marketing ideas OR campaigns”, then you’d only get alerts for auto repair marketing ideas OR auto repair marketing campaigns…but NOT pages that contain all four words.
Exclude a word
Use a minus sign (-) in front of the word you want to exclude. This tells Google to exclude pages that contain the word you marked with a minus sign from your alerts. For example, I might set up an alert for the phrase automotive service marketing. But I’m really interested in seeing what others are saying about the topic and I don’t want alerts with links to my own site. So I’d set up the alert with this text to exclude pages containing the word CustomerLink from the alert: “automotive service marketing”, -CustomerLink.
For more tips on searching smarter and creating better Google Alerts, see Google’s help here.
OK, I’m getting alerts, what now?
Once you start seeing what people are saying about your business online, you may be pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful things your customers are saying. Or you may not like what you see and may instead feel the urge to tune it all out. The important thing to remember is that this is just one tool in your marketing toolbelt. Keep it in perspective. Keep your sanity and don’t overly worry about every single thing you find. Then again, don’t just ignore it all either. It will take a little time and practice to master, but if you spend just 5 minutes a day or just 30 minutes a week keeping your online eyes and ears open, selectively responding when needed and taking honest customer feedback you find to heart, I promise you it will be time well spent.
There you have it: how to take control of your online reputation in just 5 minutes a day. For more helpful and cheap (or free) marketing and advertising ideas, subscribe to our blog and check back for weekly tips. And of course, check out our auto repair marketing services while you’re here!
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You might also like:
- 5 Inexpensive Ways to Get More Google Reviews
- How to Respond to Online Reviews
- Can’t Keep Up? 6 Ways to Simplify Your Auto Repair Marketing