Posted on March 16th, 2009

An essential aspect of any reputation management job, is monitoring the never-ending flow of content germane to our client. Most often the keyword monitoring “Big List” includes brand, products, C-level executive names, intent phrases and competitors’ keyword permutations.

This post is a guerrilla tutorial for building a totally free reputation monitoring dashboard, suitable for personal/corporate use or reselling to an agency client. You’ll be able to easily build a tool where nobody can even whisper your business keywords, in a positive or negative light, without your awareness.

Just about everyone subscribes to Google Alerts, free & comprehensive (news, blogs, video, web, groups) alerts by email for newly indexed keyword instances. Things got exciting for reputation monitoring pros recently when big G rolled out SERPs notifications by RSS. Now any newly indexed Google keyword instance can be monitored from the comfort of your favorite feed reader.

Other significant channels offering keyword level subscriptions, include Twitter and other content indexing services. While this tutorial uses free Google products:

It’s the ethic of monitoring indexed keyword instances from multiple channels in an organized system of feeds, and delivering the results as actionable insights by feed reader dashboard, to quickly discover threats & opportunities.

This is what the end result will look like, a tabbed iGoogle dashboard, graphically customizable and suitable for professional monitoring.


While there are industry standard paid reputation monitoring tools sporting cool features, any person or business will made more powerful having someone in the shop able to wire this free puppy up. After constructing the dashboard outlined in this tutorial, use whatever feed reader you like. Again it’s the ethic of comprehensive monitoring by feed that matters here. Let’s get started:

Create a Google account
if you don’t already have one.


Open an Excel document and create tabs, segmented by the following reputation monitoring categories
: “Brand,” “Product,” “Personnel,” “Competition,” “Industry Phrases” & “Intent Words.” We’re going to make the Big List of keywords to monitor.


Paste “correct” (the way you say it) brand name permutations into the ‘Brand’ tab. This is the easiest step of all.


Open a web browser and navigate to MSN Keyword Mutation Detection Tool. Set a bookmark, you’ll be visiting this tool again.


Type in or paste the first brand name keyword on your list. Go


The returns common iterations of a keyword. Copy them.

Paste them into the brand tab on the Big List. Run the MSN Keyword Mutation Detection Tool again on the next correct brand word. Run them all. Paste them into the Big List.


Trellian Keyword Discovery
a paid service, has my favorite misspellings engine, which we sometimes use at this point.

However you can totally get by without paid tools. Finding hacks of your brand keywords is pretty obvious business. Try stream of consciousness brainstorming and don’t be afraid of being silly. I can nearly always duplicate KW discovery misspellings by just free-forming. Add these brand name keyword permutations to the Big List.


Another great place to find insight regarding brand permutations is the organic analytics from your site. Here we drill into ever-ubiquitous Google Analytics. (Of course you actually have to have been running analytics on the site prior) Click on Traffic Sources.


Click “Keywords”


View traffic from paid and non paid brand search keywords
. Select non-paid for organic. [Please note: PPC data on phrase or broad match keywords often yields useful permutations as well.]


any heretofore undiscovered permutations by copying.


Paste in any
brand keywords noted from analytics to the Big List. Now it’s safe to say that we have most brand permutations.


When done with brand keywords, repeat this process for every product
to populate the Products Tab of the Excel Big List. Sure it’s time consuming, but take the time and it will be well worth the effort.

Do the products tab of the Big List now…


Update on Progress!
There are 4 tabs on our big list remaining,“Competition,” “Personnel,” “Industry” & “Intent.”

“Personnel” Tab of Big List
“Personnel” refers to C-Level executives, public spokespeople or anyone else we’d like to monitor. Often times this includes competitors primaries. There’s no need to go crazy with misspellings unless someone’s name is complicated. Just be sure to call “Russ” “Russell” and other extremely obvious nicknames. In our experience, overdoing scan-width does not equal finding much more dirt.

“Competition” Tab of Big List
Monitoring your competition is useful for defending your own brands and products. We keep an eye on competitive brands by the same segments by which we monitor our own: “Brand,” “Product,” “Personnel,” etc…

  • Discover competitors’ promotional efforts as soon as possible
  • Find their weaknesses, liabilities and advise your marketing efforts to best exploit the information.
  • Learn about new important products and product categories.

Finding Industry phrases
is by classic keyword research process. Fire up the External Google Keyword Tool. We’ll this Google PPC inventory tool to find keywords SO commonly searched for, that they can be considered an “industry category” word. Short Short Short Tail = Industry

Finding Category Word


Type in as many categories as you know
about in regards to your business. When in doubt, use a thesaurus (for stemming). Make sure to check the “Use Synonyms” box, which will add Google’s stemming insight to the results.


“Get Keyword Ideas”
after confirming that you’re human.


Click on “Sort by average volume.”


Add the top 3-5 to the keyword bucket. They’re your industry category words for the Big List.


Export to spread a .CSV file.


Copy From Exported Spread Sheet and Add To Big List Under the Industry Tab.


The final tab for this dashboard build is for “Intent” phrases. Think about different ways customers say “you’re great,” “you suck” or ask for information with longer phrases. There’s no need to go crazy with variations on the same keywords (singular, plural, etc…). Intent phrases are very long tail in themselves.


Building the Dashboard
Now leave the Big List aside. Open your igoogle dashboard. (Make sure you’re logged into Google and go to If you already use iGoogle, you’ll see your iGoogle homepage. Don’t worry, you won’t lose it. This is as simple as adding new tabs in iGoogle, corresponding to the Big List tabs in the Excel doc.


Add a New iGoogle Tab


Name the Tab “Brand.”


Create New iGoogle Tabs to Match the Big List Excel Tabs


Now it’s time to set up our keyword feed subscriptions.
Set Up First Google Alert. Go to Google Alerts and click “New Alert.”



Type or paste in you first word.
Sorry you have to set these up 1 at a time for EVERY word on all tabs. 1 Word at a time, starting with you brand keywords, create alerts. Choose “comprehensive” meaning all Google channels. Choose the “feed” and “as it happens” options.



Right click and copy the link location of the of orange RSS button


To get around a Google bug in some browsers, “clean” the URL you just copied by opening new FireFox tab.40-google-bug

Paste in URL copied from RSS button and hit “return.” (This cleaning step is only needed, for some odd reason, when using Google.)


“Subscribe to this feed using “using Google” as feed reader. Check “Always use Google to subscribe to feeds” and click “Subscribe Now.”


Select “Add to Google homepage.” “Google Homepage” is another word for iGoogle.


Congratulations, you’ve created your first iGoogle reputation monitoring gadget. You’ll see the new gadget added to the iGoogle dashboard on whatever tab you have selected. Cool!


Create Alert for next word on the Big List.


We’ll review. Let’s go through the steps again to add a Google Alert to iGoogle for your second brand word. Click “New Alert.”


Paste your next word into Google Alerts. Note: Two or more words require quotations.



You know the drill!
The options are: Comprehensive, Feed, As it Happens, then click “Create Alert.”


Copy address of orange RSS button with right click.


Don’t forget that pesky Google Bug! Clean the URL, open new FireFox tab and paste the URL.


Paste in URL copied from RSS button. Hit “return” on your computer’s keyboard.


Add to Google homepage.


New reputation monitoring gadget in iGoogle.


FYI, There are cool gadget settings, available by clicking on any gadget’s little down facing triangle. Edit your settings.


Increase the number of feed Alerts displayed.


One by one, add all the words on the Big List to the appropriate iGoogle tab.

Other search services (other than Google) offer keyword level subscriptions. Twitter is quickly becoming an essential channel to monitor. Navigate to

It’s really easy to subscribe to twitter search feeds using iGoogle. While there’s standalone API applications like TweetDeck to watch feeds real-time. Many business folks want Twitter chatter included in their dashboard next to Google alerts.

Search for your keyword in Twitter Search.


No need to clean, just click on ‘Feed for this query’


Add to Google homepage (iGoogle)


The gadgets are beginning to add up.


Technorati is another blog search service, where posts are indexed that sometimes Google does not pick up. Not every blog is in Google blog search. Technorati offers keyword level subscriptions by RSS. Subscribe to the entire Big List in Technorati.


What you can’t see can hurt you. Hidden behind user names and passwords, some forums and message board communities don’t allow Google to index them. Some push to opt-in to board aggregation services making these walled Garden sites’ chatter searchaable and, you guessed it, subscribed by feed.

BoardReader is a useful search utility, forums opt in to, that picks up keyword mentions that Google does not see.

Search BoardReader for a keyword.


Once results are returned, sort SERPs by “Freshness.”


Click on RSS button


You know the rest!


The board reader results are on the iGoogle dashboard not too.

There you have it, your sweet reputation management dashboard is beginning to fill out.


Interpretation tips:

  • Skim the dashboard at pre-defined intervals.
  • Don’t click on every link.
  • Hover over to get text abstract, follow if relevant, use your brain and check it out!
  • Ignore spam as much as possible.
  • Set up mission critical keywords as email alerts for archiving and fast notification. Subscribe to any keyword twice, once by feed and once by Google Email Alert. Not every channel provides email alerts. Third party tools make it possible in some channels like TweetBeep does for Twitter.
  • Each search channel has a somewhat unique method to generate feed subscription links for keywords, including 3rd party tools to create RSS feeds for keyword level searches. Just figure out how to add new channels.
  • Remember, iGoogle is just one feed reader. Use the reader of your choice if you already have a comfort level.
  • iGoogle can be customized graphically with Artist Themes and Developers Tools. It’s actually pretty amazing to have tools like this totally for free.

The author wishes to thank @matt_peterson and @mannyrivas for their excellent help in authoring this tutorial.


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  • Joe Hall


    I love this, I really like your use of spread sheets. Creating a successful dashboard/interface for ORM is so important, given that there is SO MUCH data to monitor! These tips are awesome for anyone that wants to take their monitoring to the next level!

  • Froggy

    Fantastic post. Google alerts can be used for so much, its a brilliant tool.
    I tend to use netvibes as well as igoogle for feeds etc..

  • Karl Foxley

    This is brilliant. I just wrote a post about using Google Alerts to overcome writer’s block but this is taking the use of Google Alerts to whole new level.

    I’m certainly going to be putting something together for myself using the tips you outlined above.

    Thank you,


  • Manny Rivas

    No doubt the dashboard can be set up as exhaustive and nitty gritty as needed. After setting things up, keep a close eye, more than likely you’ll be able to filter unwanted Alerts using search operators. Start broad and hone in the Alerts from there.

  • Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    This. Is. Brilliant. ‘way excellent and above and beyond the call of blogging! Stumbled and tweeted.

    Thanks for your idea, Barbara

  • Mark Simon

    Great article and I really like your systematic approach. Next step is getting into the practice of logging in and actually checking the data on a regular basis.

  • Aleyda

    Excellent! 🙂 Thank you very much for your post .. I am going to build mine right now!

  • Milind Mody

    Awesome. Brilliant.

    This has to be one of the best posts on Reputation monitoring I have read in quite a long time !

    Keep up the good work.

  • Marty Weintraub

    Thanks to readers of this post, StumbleUpon, Twitter and feed readers. It’s really sweet to know the folks @aimClear who worked on this post with me are appreciated. Please grab our feed and follow @aimclear onTwitter. 🙂

  • Miguel

    Hi Marty,

    I thank you so much for you work, is really brilliant, fantastic open source intelligent. Bests regards and congratulations.


  • Yohanan Ouaknine

    Just excellent. I would like to have your permission to translate your article in Hebrew for my Information Specialists blog in Israel (with full credits of course). I really like your approach.

    Thank you,
    Yohanan Ouaknine

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Yohanan: Cool! If you would like to translate this post to Hebrew, we are happy to place the translation on aimClear Blog, and invite you to link to the post from the Information Specialists blog. Please send along the HTML, we’ll publish and send back the link.

    Thanks for your kind words and support. Please subscribe to our feed and stop back.

  • Ryan Carlton

    This is ace! Stumbled. Must have taken you ages to screenshot it all out 🙂

  • Wendy

    This is very in depth and well-thought out. Thanks! Always great to get new perspective. Monitoring is such a time-drain when done manually.
    Another great free tool to help you build feeds to help you ‘stock’ your dashboard is Feed My Search – It’s a one step search for either news, blogs, videos, patents. books, local, or general web and have the results turned into a feed.

  • Bret Borders


    Slam-dunk, grand-slam fabulous job on this monitoring technique – shows you are a giver and an innovator.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Winooski

    Amazing job with the detailed instructions. Good karma should follow.

  • michelle moore

    Excellent usage of one of the most powerful free tools that seems to be largely ignored (and unknown). There is also a gadget for Google Trends that you can add in to track activity on up to four terms over time, and there’s also a free gadget that lets you track three domains over time. There’s no reason not to gather a little intel about the competition while you’re watching your own back.

  • Jennifer Kelton

    Thank you! Brilliant!

  • Kashif

    Wow. That’s pretty detailed. I have achieved something similar using Yahoo Pipes to create a Union of Feeds and then published it on Twitter. Good for redistribution.

  • ReputationDR

    This was really an excellent post filled with valuable resources for reputation management and monitoring. Armed with this information, a potential victim of misinformation or negative publicity from fractured online conversations can better approach a professional ORM firm to clean things up with positive spin within the SERP’s. Nice job.


    Brilliant post Martin although I don’t seem to be able to find the Google alerts gadget in igoogle. Thanks though, great insight.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @OSCAR: The gadget shows up AFTER you “add to Google Homepage.” It’s a normal feed widget. Simply bookmark any feed in Google Homepage and it appears in iGoogle as a gadget.

  • Andrea Garman

    This article is excellent. Comprehensive monitoring is the first step toward successful online reputation management. However, I feel the one thing that would justify investing in a paid tool would be to have a monitoring solution that also allowed you to MANAGE and document your responses to the finds from one unified interface. That is why we developed

  • Aden Davies

    Exceptional work…thanks very much I now know what I am going to do this afternoon.

  • Mary Ann

    Hi – I’m trying to set this up but run into a snag when it comes to adding the feeds. I don’t get the option to use Google as my feed reader, thus nothing is showing up on my Google home page. Can you help?

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Mary Ann: Call our office on Monday & we’ll have someone give you a hand.


    Thanks for your answer Martin. However when I paste the rss url into the new tab google says something like that “This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.” and there are no options to add it to the homepage. A shame since it was a great tip.

    Thanks again anyways.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @OSCAR CARRERAS What browser/OS are you using please? Also, if you want to arrange it with us, I’ll be happy to have someone from our office connect with you to solve the issue. We’ve seen isolated incidents where certain browsers choking on the code. Let us know and we’ll be happy to help. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  • Chuck

    Marty… can’t wait to get this tool up and running. I’m having some of the same problems as others. I installed Firefox and am still having trouble posting alerts to the Google Home Page. Thoughts? It currently takes me to the Google Reader page. – Chuck

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Chuck: Using GoogleReader, or any other RSS reader, works just great. We suggest you build it in Google reader. Thanks for stopping by. Call our office if you need any help.

  • Cody

    This is great. I did a similar thing with my company using Yahoo Pipes, I think it’s a lot more efficient. I just need a way to categorize the content after it’s gathered, if you have any ideas let me know!

  • phillyharoer

    Instead of adding a google alert for every keyword variation and spelling mistake, couldn’t you use the query “blockbusters” OR “block buster” OR etc etc thus saving you time when building your reputation monitoring tool…

    There are some great search modifier tips at

  • John

    Fantastic tool, I had one problem which was that RSS feeds were opening in Outlook but I fixed that (although it took me an embarassingly long time…)
    Now I’m faced with a different issue: the feeds aren’t updating. At all. They seem to just take whatever’s out there and then not show any new information. Has anyone else had this problem? Better still, does anybody know how to solve this problem?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Massimo Burgio

    PS: I’m going to tweet and digg this! =)

  • Neal Wiser

    So, I’m following your directions until I get to the step, “Paste in URL copied from RSS button and hit “return.” (This cleaning step is only needed, for some odd reason, when using Google.)” Then I’m NOT seeing the page in the graphic. Working on it for an hour and I’m not doing anything wrong, unless it’s a Safari thing (using Firefox). Please help.

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Neal: Ping me on Monday in the office and we’ll help you solve this. my email is [myName] (at) aimClear (dot) c o m 🙂

  • Mati

    Still relevant and a a great tutorial to share. Google is extremely powerful, but sometimes learning the process and connecting the dots is not easy to decipher or explain to others. You’ve done a great job here. Google reader has some great sharing options as well that allows you to disperse (“send to”) information to almost any platform including Google Bookmarks. I haven’t had a chance to surf your site, but I’d love to see a tutorial about assigning, saving and tagging the information found. Thanks!

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Mati: Awesome. Yep’, Google tools sure broke ground in monitoring reputation. I’ll knock around your idea of a tutorial about assigning, saving and tagging the information found. Cool. Thanks. Will you be at SearchEngineStrategies SFO next week?

  • Mati

    @Marty a delayed response on my part so you’re at the conference and enjoying Chinatown already. I didn’t attend, but if you ever need this users perspective feel free to connect. Enjoy the conference.

  • Marty Weintraub

    Here’s even more feeds, from aimClear Blog, to wire into your dashboard 🙂 “36 Reputation Monitoring Feeds You Can’t Afford to Ignore”

  • Sam ‘Newbie’ Riksfjord

    Hi, would this work with google doc spreads too? I’m a newbie to this type of stuff, thanks for your patience.


  • Belle

    Maybe it is because some of these sites have changed since this was originally written, but setting up feeds doesn’t quite work this way any longer.

    For example, I can’t find on Twitter where to set up a feed after searching. Technorati says it is subscribing with the feed, but it doesn’t actually. And the RSS from BoardReader just gives me an entire page of code and content, but no way to add it to a feed.

    I feel like a total dunce.

  • Gina Gotthilf

    Marty this is so useful!! Thank you. : )

  • Ryan

    I wish google would improve there alerts. Right now it seems not refined!

  • Chad Hill

    This is an older post but just what I needed today for a client who seems to be taking heat from several online review sites. We have things under control on the big sites but there are tons of little local review sites that were slipping through the cracks. Great suggestions. I’d love to hear how you might update this now that iGoogle and encrypted search have rolled out.

  • Prabu Rajasekaran

    Is there an alternative to MSN Keyword Mutation Detection Tool?

  • Prabu Rajasekaran

    iGoogle is also gone. Is there a way to build the dashboard with the tools available today?

  • karen patrick

    It is surprising how much someone researches a brand before they make a purchase from them, so it is now more important than ever to ensure that you are managing your online reputation effectively.