As you probably already know, SEOmoz recently released a new tool called Fresh Web Explorer. You can use it to track who’s mentioning you or your competitors online, and find up to date information about what’s popular on the web. It defines an entirely new category for SEO tools, and doesn’t have any real competitors at the moment. Rand recently explained some of the ways to take advantage of the tool, but I thought I’d weigh in with some of my own insights and a walkthrough. Let’s get started with how the tool works.

Using the Tool

The tool is remarkably self-explanatory. You’ve used a search bar before, right?

All you need to do is type a URL or keywords into the search bar and click “Find Mentions.” You can look for people that mentioned a specific keyword, a page on your site, or a page on your competitor’s site. To the right of the search bar is a toggle that will show you all the operators you can use to modify your search:

This brings up a menu that tells you all the ways you can get more specific with your search criteria. The operators should look pretty familiar:

After you type in a URL or keyword, with modifiers, and click “Find Mentions,” you’ll get a graph of mentions over time that appears below the search bar:

Just above the graph is a button that let’s you adjust the time span from one to four weeks:

And below the graph you get a list of the sites that mentioned the URL or the keyword:

From here, you can click the links to check out the pages. The mention data is coming from feeds, so you can sort the results by the authority of the feed. You can also sort by date, and what specifically was mentioned. If you find a sketchy page, you can also flag it to help SEOmoz keep their feeds clean.

If you need to do something more advanced, or build some reports, the tool also has an export button at the top right corner of the page. This will export your data as a CSV spreadsheet ready for Excel.

Using the Tool to Stomp Your Competitors

Much like Google Alerts and Topsy, the Fresh Web Explorer is a great way to discover link and exposure opportunities. It’s also useful as a way of analyzing keyword trends, similar to Google Insights. So let’s get into some more detailed ways to use the tool.

For Link Building

Let’s say one of our clients was a video game developer, and their latest game featured dragons. The following query might be of interest to us:

This would show us pages that mentioned “gamer,” pages that mentioned “dragon,” and pages that mentioned both on the same page. Our search gives us the following graph:

So we can see that there are far fewer pages mentioning both phrases than just one or the other. Still, we recognize that relevancy is huge. To get a clearer picture of the pages containing both, we can click on “gamer” and “dragon” down where it says “Show mentions for:” so we can focus on just the pages containing both.

Now we can clearly see that there are more than 50 pages mentioning both keywords created almost every day. We shouldn’t have any trouble finding people to contact every day for link building opportunities. Now all we would need to do is go to the list of pages, sort it to show the “gamer AND dragon” results first, visit the pages, and start looking for contact information.

Brand and Reputation Management

Obviously, any tool that allows you to monitor mentions of keywords will also allow you to monitor mentions of your brand. This can be a powerful way to stay in touch with what people are saying about you, seek out feedback, and maintain a positive reputation online. For example, if we were SEOmoz, we’d be very interested in the following query:

This will return the pages that mention SEOmoz, ignoring pages from SEOmoz itself.

SEOmoz could benefit from visiting these pages not just to build links, but to take their temperature on the web. They could rate the pages based on whether they were favorable or unfavorable mentions, weight that by Domain Authority and other important metrics, and use the information to estimate their online reputation. They may also want to respond to criticisms, provided Rand can keep a cool head (I’ve never seen otherwise). These pages may even be good inspiration for followup blog posts and new product ideas and upgrades.

They may even be able to track the success of some of their marketing campaigns using this data. Traffic and sales are great, but reputation is another key component of any marketing campaign. By combining data from Fresh Web Explorer with other internal metrics, and some statistical correlations from a piece of software like Minitab, they may actually be able to make some quantitative statements about how their campaigns are influencing their reputation.

Competitor Analysis

The great thing about tools like this is that they can be used to analyze competitors just as easily as they can analyze your own site. Here are just a few ways this could be done:

  • Find pages that mention your competitors
  • Find pages that say something negative about your competitors
  • Using the “site:” operator, find out how many pages your competitors are publishing each day to find out if it’s reasonable to compete on quantity
  • Use the “site:” operator and a keyword to see if your competitors have mentioned a specific keyword over the past four weeks, so that you can differentiate yourself from them
  • Compare your mentions with the mentions of your competitors, to find out if you could be growing faster than they are, even if they are still in the lead

The great thing about Fresh Web Explorer is that it gives you a snapshot of mentions and links in the immediate past, rather than a summary of everything that’s happened over all time. You can spot opportunities that would otherwise be invisible this way.

OpenSiteExplorer is great and still incredibly powerful, but Domain Authority doesn’t tell you how relevant a page is today. Tools like Fresh Web Explorer can help us discover opportunities associated with recency, something that most SEO tools don’t concern themselves with.

Is it Worth Signing Up For the Tool?

So, how does the tool stack up? In our opinion, the tool is certainly worth signing up for if you work in the SEO industry, or you’re a small business trying to do your own SEO. The only people who may not benefit would be one-person blogging operations with very limited resources.

Why?

First off, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic decline in the quality of Google Alerts over the past several years. The tool seems to miss a huge number of opportunities, and sends you to pages with no legitimate mentions far more often than it should. Topsy is great, and we highly recommend using it, but the social sphere just isn’t as inclusive as you need it to be when you’re trying to reach as many relevant influencers as possible.

I’m not aware of any tool that so perfectly combines mentions, links, and graphs in a single place. It’s useful as both a campaign tracker and a source of new opportunities. It allows you to compare present day performance of relevant keywords, so that the focus doesn’t have to be on the entire link profile anymore. As co-occurance and co-citation become more important ranking signals, I also expect this tool to become increasingly useful as time goes by.

The tool isn’t without it’s limitations, of course. One of the biggest concerns is the 8-hour refresh time. It’s almost real time, but not quite there yet. This means that if you really need up to the minute data, you’ll still need to consult Topsy and similar tools. Hopefully this refresh time will be reduced in the future.

I’d also like to see the tool incorporated with more social media data. Combining the RSS feeds with social network data would make this tool a serious powerhouse, especially if it brought with it sorting metrics other than “feed authority.”

Still, all in all, I’d say the tool is incredibly useful, and I’m not aware of any competing tools that offer a similar set of features. I’m sure they’ll be coming, of course, so SEOmoz would be wise to stay on the offensive with an expansion of its capabilities.

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