If you think you need to hire a personal assistant to help monitor and protect your online identify, you'd be right, but using this tool, you can do it for free!
An online reputation begins by establishing your presence on the web: building a blog or resume site; establishing a social media platform; optimizing your LinkedIn account; and creating positive content about yourself and your skills and achievements.
However, when you do begin to take control of the first page of Google, that doesn’t mean the war is won. Instead, it means that you’ve won a battle. To remain a victor, you need to be vigilant in monitoring and safeguarding your online reputation. Otherwise, someone could come along and bump you off the front page of Google without you even noticing. Even worse, negative content could surface about you and do some serious damage to your reputation with employers, schools, and the digital public.
So what steps can you take to defend your online reputation from these threats—preferably without having to Google your own name on a daily basis? One of the best tools currently available to help you monitor your online reputation is Google Alerts.
An Introduction to Google Alerts
When you Google yourself—or any other search term, for that matter—the search results that you see are not set in stone. On the internet, new content is being published every second, which means that every search you make is just a snapshot of what the search results look like at that particular moment in time. In a day, week, month, or year, the search results could look entirely different, thanks in part to the constant and rapid creation of new content.
According to Little Jacket Marketing, 211 million pieces of online content are created every minute. That number is overwhelmingly high—to the point where it might seem virtually impossible to take control of the first page of Google search results and stay on top. After all, if you are facing off against more than 200 million pieces of content a minute, how can you hope to compete? You’re just one person!
The good news is that those 211 million pieces of content that are being posted each minute are spread across all of the topics and keywords possible. Unless you are a celebrity or a politician, a relatively small (or even minuscule) number of those posts are going to be about you or anyone who shares your name. However, there is always that chance that a new piece of published content will negatively influence your online reputation. Google Alerts helps you to watch for these pieces of content so that you can be aware the moment the snapshot of your personal Google search starts to change.
How to Use Google Alerts
The basic idea behind Google Alerts is that Google will notify you when new search results appear for a certain keyword. These search results can come from just about anywhere, including newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other online posts. If you set a Google Alert for your name, and your name then appears in a newspaper or blog post somewhere on the web, Google will let you know. You can then review the new results, determine whether they are relevant to you, and plan a smart course forward based on that information.
Google Alerts have uses beyond just tracking your name. For instance, many business owners set up Google Alerts for their company names so that they can stay aware of what people are saying about them online. While the service is incredibly useful for online reputation management, it has other uses as well: a die-hard Apple user might set up a Google Alert for the keyword “iPhone” to stay up to date on the latest news about an upcoming release. The varied uses available to fans, brands and search-conscious content producers illustrate the power and universality of the Google Alerts service.
Setting up a Google Alert
The best thing about Google Alerts—even greater than their ability to be tailored to suit just about any need—is how easy they are to set up. If you have an existing Google account of some sort, such as a Gmail address or YouTube page, all you must do to set up a Google Alert to monitor your name is navigate to google.com/alerts.
Once on this page, you will see a list of “Alert Suggestions” that you can use to monitor topics that may or may not be of interest to you. Google breaks down its suggestions into different categories, such as sports, music, politics, companies, and finance. If you are interested in Google Alerts primarily as a tool for online reputation management, you can ignore this entire list of suggested alerts for now.
Instead, you will want to focus on the options at the very top of the page. If you are logged into a Google account when you visit the Alerts page, Google will include a “Me on the web” section at the top of the Alerts page. Here, you will see your name as well as your Gmail address, both with small “+” icons next to them. If you click either of the + icons, Google will automatically create alerts for your name, email address, or both.
If you click on your name or email address within the “Me on the web” section (instead of clicking one of the + icons), Google will show you what your alerts will look like for those specific keywords. As you will notice, these alerts show you recent search results for your keyword. If there are no recent results to show, Google will organize some of the top results for that keyword into different categories—such as “News,” “Blogs,” and “Web.” Everything from articles to social media profiles can appear in your alerts.
Once you’ve reviewed your Google Alert sample, you can scroll back up to the top of the page and click the “Create Alert” button. You can also go back to the main Google Alerts page and add any other alerts you want to use. There is a search bar at the top of the page where you can type any keyword and create an alert to monitor its search results. If you have a common nickname or go by a different name professionally than you do personally, consider setting up a Google Alert for each alias.
Managing Your Google Alerts
Once you’ve added alerts for all the keywords you want to monitor, you will be able to manage them at the top of the google.com/alerts page in the “My alerts” section.
By clicking the gear icon for the entire “My alerts” box, you can customize two Google Alerts settings. The first, “Delivery time,” allows you to decide when you will receive email alerts each day. The second, “Digest,” lets you choose whether or not you want all of your alerts to be compiled into one email. If you don’t check the box for “Digest,” you will receive separate emails for each Google Alert that you’ve set up.
You can also configure settings for your individual alert by clicking on the pencil icon that appears next to each one. Here, you can decide how often you want to receive your alerts, which sources you want to focus on, what region or country Google should monitor, and how many results you want to receive in each alert email. You can also change the email address where you receive reports.
The most important of these configurations is the “How often” option. Here, you can select once a day, once a week, or “As-it-happens.” For best results, choose “As-it-happens.” That way, you will be able to stay up to date with the latest search results about your name, alias, or email address instantly as changes occur. If and when any new results appear, you will know about them immediately and will be able to decide which course of action to take.
Of course, if you have a common name, you don’t want to get a hundred alerts a day that aren’t relevant to you. In such cases, you might be better off opting for a once a week or once a month option. The choice is yours.
About the Author: Michael Klazema has been developing products for criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.