So you want to get notified every time someone mentions your topic of interest online: That might be your own name; your company’s name (so you can keep an eye on what people think about it); your competitors (so you can stay up to date on their business strategy); topics relevant to your career or industry… The list is long.
The most obvious option to help you keep track, besides obsessively googling these topics every day, is setting up Google Alerts.
The problem? There are a lot of downsides to Google Alerts.
First, it’s notoriously unreliable: Considering the minuscule number of sources it does monitor, it doesn’t do a very good job of it, frequently missing relevant mentions.
Second, nowadays the biggest news happens not on blogs and websites (that’s where it gets reported a couple of hours later) but on social media. Google Alerts doesn’t monitor social media. It won’t send you a tweet criticizing your product or an Instagram post from an influencer praising it. It simply doesn’t access those platforms.
And, third, if you’re considering Google Alerts for business purposes, you need something more powerful that will let you see who is talking about your brand, what feelings they express, what opinions they share. How those feelings and opinions add up to make up your reach, brand awareness, share of voice, and other important marketing KPIs.
Basically, something that will let you analyze your target audience, understand your brand reputation, do marketing research…
Now that we understand why Google Alerts is not enough, let’s see what alternatives are there on the market.
Head of user operations Noorie Malik wrote in a blog post, “Have you ever seen a Consumer Alert banner over a business’ reviews while browsing around Yelp? These warnings appear when we see brazen attempts to manipulate ratings and reviews. The Consumer Alerts program (part of Yelp’s broader Consumer Protection Initiative) launched in 2012. In 2019, we issued more than 1,300 Consumer Alerts, which run the gamut from identifying attempts to purchase reviews, to informing consumers about businesses that may be getting attention more for their high profile in the media than their customer service.”
Yelp said that in total, more than 1,500 users reported cases to its user operations team in 2019.
Consumer alerts were placed on over 580 business pages when disproportionate numbers of positive reviews originated from the same IP address, and this was most common among restaurants (11.6% of all IP address alerts) and automotive businesses (11%).
Malik wrote, “Contrary to what some may believe, businesses do not receive this alert simply because they have reviews that came from the business’ Wi-Fi. Instead, we look for egregious instances where many positive reviews appear to come from a single IP address in a manner that indicates a concerted effort to improve a business’s reputation on Yelp.”
More than 300 business pages received Consumer Alerts after Yelp received evidence or tips that people were being incentivized for new or updated reviews, or offered compensation in return for removing critical reviews.
Malik said offers of this type are typically made via social media posts, email, text message or in-store signage, adding that this type of Consumer Alert was more prevalent in home services (17%) and restaurants (13%).
Yelp added Consumer Alerts to over 35 pages after determining that someone associated with those businesses tried to stifle free speech.
Malik wrote, “Reviewers have a First Amendment right to express their honest opinions on Yelp, and we regularly promote and defend their ability to do so. More than one-third (37.7%) of our Questionable Legal Threat alerts were placed on pages of home services businesses. Often, businesses receive this alert because they have included a gag clause in their contracts with consumers—something that’s illegal under the Consumer Review Fairness Act, a federal law Yelp helped pass in 2016.”
Yelp’s user operations team helped clean up the pages of over 450 businesses who saw influxes of reviews that were motivated by news events, rather than by actual customer experiences.
Malik shared the following examples:
Yelp removed over 2,000 reviews last year that were not based on first-hand experiences, but on headlines created, either deliberately or accidentally, for things related to President Donald Trump or his administration.
When former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was confronted at a restaurant in Lexington, Va., in 2018, an Unusual Activity Alert was triggered on that restaurant’s page, and it reappeared last summer after the owner of the business published an op-ed in The Washington Post.
Allegations of bedbugs flooded the page for the Trump National Doral golf club in Miami after Trump said he wanted to host the 2020 G7 summit there.
Hotel properties owned by former U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland were affected after his impeachment testimony, with Unusual Activity Alerts being placed on 21 Provenance Hotels pages.