How to: use free tools to track your organisation's coverage on the internet

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There’s an interesting discussion happening on my CIPR Diploma students’ discussion group about social media. One of the posts there mentioned that there are so many blogs/websites/discussion forums that it’s impossible to keep track of all of them.

I’ve been using a bunch of free tools to track keywords on the web for several years now – but I’m amazed how many people don’t do this. So I thought it’d be useful to show just how easy it is to keep a good eye on keywords being used on the web using regular search engines, RSS and a couple of other free web services.

In this post you’ll find five steps to set up automatic notifications of the keywords you choose – so you’re notified automatically as soon as any of the search sources you choose picks up a mention of your keyword anywhere on the web:

Step 1: Choose your keywords

To keep things simple, I’m going to just use a single keyword – the name of my home town: “Whitstable”. In real life you’ll probably want to set up many different keywords or phrases using the tools in step 2 below.

Step 2: Find your sources and create your feeds

You need to use web search engines of one sort or another to do the searching for you. And to make the later steps possible you’ll need to use search engines that allow you to subscribe to feeds for your keywords.

These feeds are sometimes referred to as RSS feeds or XML feeds – the BBC has a good primer on feeds here. Usually they’ll be accompanied by one of the icons below:

image  or image

The good news is that there are many different search tools that offer feeds. The information below is a good summary of some you may want to use – it’s adapted from a good list on the FeedForAll website and was produced by Sharon Housley (via Judy Gombita). Check out the FeedForAll site for detailed instructions for how to set up particular search engines and find the RSS feed you need (http://www.feedforall.com/ego-searches.htm).

News search engines

Blog search engines

So, for this example I’m using “Whitstable” as a keyword, which means that I now have a number of RSS feed addresses for this keyword on a selection of the sites listed above:

Step 3: Get a feed reader

At this point you should have a list of feed addresses like mine above. It might have just a few addresses, or it may have many addresses if you’re tracking many different keywords or sources.

To keep an eye on these feeds you’ll need to use an RSS reader – these are usually small software packages installed on your computer or web-based readers that you use in your internet browser (there’s a good list here). Either way they allow you to subscribe to and keep track of RSS feeds and newly published content (you could even subscribe to my feed at feeds.feedburner.com/simonwakeman too!).

You could stop here and subscribe to your list of feed addresses individually in your chosen reader, but there’s more you can do to make it even easier from day to day.

Step 4: Combine your feeds (optional)

If you don’t want to have to check lots of different feeds each day, why not merge them into a single feed?

You can use the RSS Mix website to merge together any number of existing feeds into a single one. It’s free – all you have to do is paste your feed addresses into the box on the homepage.

The site then gives you a single RSS feed to which you can subscribe – with the content from all your existing feeds.

For my “Whitstable” keyword the merged feed address is http://www.rssmix.com/u/24273/rss.xml.

The RSS Mix website also provides a useful web page featuring content from your merged feeds – the page for the “Whitstable” keyword is at http://www.rssmix.com/u/24273/.

You could keep checking this page regularly to see where your keyword is mentioned on the web. Why not pass it to your friends or colleagues who might find it useful?

Step 5: Turn your feed into a regular email (optional)

Some people don’t want to or can’t keep an eye on RSS feeds, so why not turn your combined keyword feed into a regular email that your colleagues can subscribe to? Each day they’ll then get an update on the mentions of your keyword that your searches pick up.

You can do this for free by signing up with Google’s Feedburner service at www.feedburner.com. Once you’ve registered, select the option to burn a new feed and use your RSS Mix merged feed.

Once you’ve got the feed set up in Feedburner, enable the email subscription option under the “Publicise” tab. Once you’ve done this, scroll down the Publicise: Email Subscriptions page to the section called “Subscription Link Code”.

There you’ll find a link to a webpage where people can subscribe to your monitoring – here’s mine: http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/emailverifySubmit?feedId=1102791&loc=en_US. Send that link to your friends, colleagues, indeed anyone you want to receive your search results.

All your colleagues or friends have to do is enter their email address and follow the confirmation instructions from there.

And that’s it – a completely free way to keep an eye on mentions of your organisation on webpages, blogs, web news services.

There are of course plenty of other ways to achieve this, including paid-for services, but my aim for this post is to show how simple it is to use free services to keep an eye on your organisation’s coverage on the internet.

I have set up simple and advanced monitoring services for clients, so if you’d like to know more about how I could do this for you, please do drop me a line.

4 Comments on “How to: use free tools to track your organisation's coverage on the internet”

  1. Pingback: RSS or do you have time for a chat? « Heather Yaxley - Greenbanana views of public relations and more

  2. Pingback: How to: use even more free tools to track coverage on the internet | Simon Wakeman - Marketing, public relations and digital communications

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