Back in April 2012 I wrote about how Google Alerts had pretty much stopped working  for me. Recently, they clearly tweaked something, because Google Alerts are working better, as Danny Sullivan noted at Search Engine Land recently . However, they’re definitely not back up to the level they were at when I first signed up for a Google Alert years ago. Why not? Apparently, Google only sends you new alerts under these circumstances:
Google Alerts only sends you email if new articles, webpages or blog posts make it into the top ten Google News results, the top twenty Google Web Search results or top ten Google Blog Search results for your query. If the top results remain the same for a while, you won't receive email on your topic.
Perhaps this reduces the processing power they have to devote to Google Alerts. But it means that you’re only going to get alerts for a fraction of the actual mentions of the keyword or phrase that you’re monitoring, because most mentions aren’t going to break into the top 10.
So what’s the alternative? I recently signed up for a free trial of Mention , another brand monitoring service, and I’m finding it to be a much more effective tool than Google Alerts. Let’s take a look at how Mention works.
How to Get Started with Mention
Go to the home page  and click the “Signup for free” button. You can sign up using your existing Facebook, Twitter, Google, or OpenID account, or just enter your name, email address, and a password to create a new account.
If you sign up using an existing account, you’ll be asked to enter an email address. Then you can choose how to use Mention:
You can download Mention for Windows, get the app for iPhone or Android, install a Chrome extension, or just use the web app. In this review, I’ll be focusing on the web app.
Creating a New Alert on Mention
Once you click through to the web app, you’ll a screen where you can create your alert (click the image to enlarge).
Then just fill out the form:
- Name your alert: I created a Mention alert for my name and called it “Selfie” because I’m cute like that. I also created a brand alert called “WordStream.”
- Include and exclude expressions: Type in the words or phrases that you want to get alerts for. You can include common misspellings or variations, and you can also exclude terms, i.e. tell Mention not to send you alerts for pages that include a given word or phrase.
- Choose your languages: English is the default, but you can choose to receive alerts in French, Spanish, German and a bunch of other languages too.
In the next step, you can manage and filter your sources. I chose to get alerts from all sources (the web, Facebook, Twitter, news, blogs, videos, forums and images) but you can exclude some of those sources if you want, or block a specific site.
On this screen you can also choose whether you want to use “Priority inbox” (a feature that flags mentions they identify as more important or influential) and “Anti-Noise Technology” (which removes mentions similar to those you have deleted).
Then click “Create my alert.” At this point, you can choose to share your alert other users. Anyone can then see the alerts, but you’ll be the owner with the ability to edit and manage settings, add or delete users as well as delete the alert.
Using the Mention Web App
Google Alerts are bare-bones emails with links to the pages that mention the word or phrase you’re monitoring. They look like this:
Mention also sends you an email when you have new results:
As you can see, the Mention email is a little more designed (with a look and feel somewhat similar to what you’d get from Pinterest , or the excellent Twitter emails ) and it also has more options: Click the blue button to go to the page, or click one of the links below the entry to react to the mention, mark as a favorite or delete the mention. Clicking any of these links opens up the Mention web app, which looks a lot like an email application (again, click the image to enlarge):
In the far left column, you have a list of views. The default view is Mentions, which you can see in the next column over, with the most recent mention at the top.
You can filter the mentions column by source and toggle the view between all, unread, and priority. (The “priority” mentions have red flags.)
On the right, in the main view, you get a preview of the page with your mention. This is really cool because you can see the context of the mention without having to actually visit the page – it’s obviously much more robust than the little search-style snippet you get in the Google Alert email. From this view you can choose to click through to the original URL or the source, and you can also favorite the mention, block the source or trash it using the little icons at the top.
There’s also a Statistics section where you can get some basic reporting on your mentions, like your average mentions per day and what sources those mentions are coming from.
Similar to Google Analytics, you can adjust the date range and export your reports.
What I Like About Mention
I think Mention works about a million times better than Google Alerts. Here’s why:
- Way, way, way more results – My Google Alert on my name is still active, but I get maybe one or two alerts per week, whereas Mention usually finds 5-10 new results per day. Because this is all Mention does, they’re able to devote all their resources to crawling the web for your brand mentions. Google obviously doesn’t consider brand monitoring to be a priority for the company.
- Social results – Google Alerts never really picked up on mentions from Twitter and Facebook. It’s cool that Mention finds these too and shows me a snippet of what's being said about me on Facebook (even if I can’t see the actual Facebook pages, because I’m not on Facebook !).
- Email-style layout – I also really like the way Mention’s web app is set up like an Outlook-style email program, so all my mentions are housed in one place and I can refer back to them.
- Stats – Plus, reporting! This isn’t something I’ll get a lot of use out of on my little “Selfie” alert, but I think brands and businesses will find this really useful. It’s cool to be able to see big spikes in brand mentions and where those spikes are coming from.
What I Don’t Like or Am Unsure About
I’m not sure about the “Priority Inbox” algorithm – Mention seems to be flagging some pages that aren’t really substantial mentions; for example some of them are just static blogroll links. However, this feature may be more valuable if you’re a huge brand getting hundreds or thousands of mentions a day, like Coca-Cola or Demi Lovato or whatever.
In addition, I really can’t speak to the quality or usability of the mobile apps, because I don’t own a smartphone. (I know, I know, I work in technology, blah blah, but I don’t cover gadgets and WordStream ain’t payin’ my mobile bill.) For what it’s worth, Larry found the mobile app “unusable,” so "try before you buy."
A Note on Pricing
OK, so Google Alerts is free, but that’s part of the problem with it – it doesn’t make money so Google isn’t putting any resources into maintaining quality.
Mention also has a free tier, which gets you three alerts, 500 mentions per month, and 1 month of history.
The next tier is the Pro Plan. This is the plan I reviewed, as Mention comped me a month when they saw me say I was trying it out on Twitter. The Pro Plan is $19.99 per month and gets you unlimited alerts, 50,000 mentions per month, unlimited history, and access to stats and data export tools.
The highest tier is Team Plan, which is $99.95 per month and gets you everything the Pro Plan does plus ability for multiple users on the same account. This doesn’t seem like a great deal; to get five users on the team plan, you’re paying five times the amount of the Pro Plan. You’d think there would be a bit of a discount. But this might be a worthwhile option for bigger businesses with bigger budgets.
Mention vs. Google Alerts: What Do You Think?
Have you been looking for an alternative to Google Alerts? Have you tried Mention? What do you use for brand monitoring? Let me know in the comments!