Use Google Alerts to Find Out What People Are Saying About You on the Web

There’s an easy way to find out anytime somebody writes about you or your business on the Web. Just set up a Google Alert and you’ll be emailed whenever your name turns up. And while you’re at it, you should set up a Google Alert for keywords such as your competitors’ names, trends you’re interested in, and your Web address. Adding all these things together, you can get a full digest of what’s going on in your world without having to visit separate Websites and wade through a lot of extraneous content.

Here’s how to set up a Google Alert:

1. Go to http://google.com/alerts

2. Fill in the relevant information. In the example below, we’ve set up an alert for CMIT Solutions, so we’ll know when our company name is mentioned online.

Google Alerts image

3. Selecting Comprehensive will let you monitor News, Blogs, Web, Groups, and Video. You can decide how often you want to be notified, and the maximum number of results you want in each notification.

Instead of getting Alerts delivered to email, you can have them go straight into Google Reader if that’s your preferred RSS feed.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Sign in to your Google account.

2. At the top of the left hand of the page, go to the more drop-down menu and then select even more.

3. You’ll see a long list of Google Products with Alerts at the top. Select Alerts, and you’ll see that same “Create a Google Alert” form. You’ll be able to select whether you want the alert delivered to your email inbox or Google Reader.

Want to learn more about other handy free tools from Google? Join us for a free informational Webinar on Thursday, March 25 from noon-1pm Central Standard Time. We’ll cover all the ways you can harness the power of Google to promote your small business – without spending a dime. Click here to register.

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Use the Power of Google to Raise Your Local Profile

You know the old saying, “All politics is local”? Well, now it’s not just politics. All business is local – and if you’re not using Google to reach out to prospects in your immediate local area, you’re missing out on a huge (and free) opportunity to expand your customer base.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a few convergent trends emerge. First, people are more interested in what’s going on in their specific city, town, or neighborhood. So-called “hyperlocal” blogs are proliferating even as national media struggle. Second, more folks are using their mobile phones to connect to the Internet and find local businesses and service providers.  As a small business owner, you’ve got to make yourself visible to anybody searching in your area – whether they’re on a fully equipped desktop computer with a 20-inch flat screen display or whether they’re peering at a 2.4-inch BlackBerry screen.

If you take five minutes to set up a Place Page through Google Local Business Center, you can raise the visibility of your company to anybody searching for relevant businesses in your area. You can even create coupons that can either be printed on paper or displayed on mobile phones.

1. Go to http://google.com/lbc.

2. Either create a Google account or use your existing sign-in.

3. You’ll be taken to the Dashboard. Under Locations, click Add new listing.

4. You’ll be taken to a page where you fill out preliminary information such as address, email, website address, and description. As you fill out the information, you’ll see your listing appear in the map to the right.  Here’s an example for the fictitious business “Ray’s Pies” in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Local Business Center example

5. When you’re finished filling out that information, click Next. You’ll then be taken to a page that asks for more detailed info, such as hours and payment methods. You can even post a picture of your products or storefront. When you’re finished, click Submit.

6. And it’s that easy! Google will contact you to verify your information, and then your full profile will be publicly available on what’s called a “Place Page.” A Place Page includes not only all the information you just supplied, but also ratings for your business, reviews, related maps, nearby transit options, and the Street View preview of your location. You can get to your Place Page by searching on your business in Google and then clicking on “more info” in your Google Maps search results or “more info” in the info bubble on the map.

To learn more about Google Local Business Center, including how to create custom coupons, join us on our free live Webinar covering Google tools, to be held on Thursday, March 25 at noon Central Standard Time.  Click here to register.

What The Google Case in China Means For Your Small Business

One week ago, Google announced that its company and at least 20 others were victims of a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack” originating in China in mid-December, evidently to gain access to the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Until now, Google has run a “censored version” of its search engine in China to comply with local laws and government stipulations. As a result of the attack, Google stated its plans to operate a completely uncensored version of its search engine in China “within the law, if at all”, and acknowledged that if this is not possible it may leave China and close its Chinese offices.

Although the Google/China case has blown to such proportions because of external factors and difficult international relations, the vulnerability of some of the most leading-edge technology companies has definite implications for business owners around the world.  New, more targeted spying and malware attacks are making the computer-security game one that is no longer safe to play alone.

First, the purpose of the malware is different.  The goals are no longer to simply disable a computer or network or to steal single files of information.  The goals of malware now are to sit, undetected on a server and spy on a network for long periods of time, giving cyber criminals access to large parts (if not all) of a business’ most important information.

Second, the method of gaining access to networks is more targeted and constantly evolving.  From individually sent e-mails from a “friend” or “colleague,” to notifications from a person’s bank or the IRS, to USB drives left in parking lots or work spaces, the roads to accessing a network are numerous and growing each day.  Other techniques for getting inside company’s infrastructure involve exploiting weaknesses in Web-site or network-routing software and using those openings as gateways for malware.  Think your cellphone is safe from malware?  Think again.  New viruses can turn on a phone’s camera, microphone, GPS and more.

While large companies are definitely at risk for attacks, its the small business owner with the real target on his back.  Why? According to a Yankee Group study, 40% of small businesses rank computer security breaches as an important issue, but nearly half defer security upgrades due to cost concerns.  Why would a criminal spend months or years trying to infiltrate Google’s network, when there are probably five businesses within walking distance of his home with unsecured networks?

While most medium and large organizations have Information Technology departments many small businesses don’t even have one person dedicated to IT tasks. In these situations there are often vulnerabilities related to un-patched systems or improperly configured equipment. Since these companies don’t have IT staff it is highly probably they don’t have anyone thinking about information security. These companies probably don’t have defined policies relating to system use or configuration.  They’re the low-hanging fruit cyber criminals are looking for and they may not even know it.

Unfortunately, many of those unsuspecting small business owners will be affected by an incident directly related to their network security.  Many small business owners, having never experienced the impact of a security breach, are complacent and have a passive response to the technological threat to their computer infrastructure. They have the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude and aren’t stirred to action until it is too late. They don’t plan or budget for solutions to the possibility of trouble and, have nowhere to turn when it happens.  Does your business have a disaster recovery plan?

The attack on Google was just a hiccup in operations for the massive company, but the stakes are much higher for a small business. The US Department of Labor estimates that over 40% of small businesses never reopen following a disaster.

Password-protecting your small business network  just isn’t enough anymore.  As technology rapidly advances, so do the threats to that technology and ultimately your business.  Fortunately, keeping your business safe doesn’t have to break the bank.  CMIT Solutions is an industry-leader in small business technology who understands the needs of the sbusiness owner.  Let us keep your technology running so you can run your business.


Thanks to Armando D’Accordo, owner of CMIT Solutions of South Nassau for collaborating on this article.  You can visit Armando’s blog here for other great articles.  You can also and find him on Linkedin and Facebook.