Before Google surreptitiously resurrected their much-loved and widely used alerts system, the hunt was on to find an adequate replacement in the face of the service’s demise.
Here at Browser Media, we chose the two most-talked about alternatives. Annie picked Mention, I picked Talkwalker Alerts, and the two were pitted against each other in the ultimate showdown of alert monitoring tools.
Ease of account set-up
Talkwalker – Very straightforward. After setting up an account with just an email address and a password, you can start creating alerts immediately. In fact, it’s suspiciously easy. I expected to have to do a little more, but it really is as simple (and free!) as it sounds.
Mention – A standard download process, however choosing which package to select was more difficult than expected (see image i). For a user who is new to the world of alerts and alert monitoring they would find it pretty easy to understand but as someone who has dabbled in this area before, my definitions of key words differed from those of Mention. It was a little confusing – what I would call an ‘account title’ they called an ‘alert’. So upon seeing the free package allowed 2 ‘alerts’ I thought it was pretty minimal. However, this transpired to be up to two account titles e.g. ‘Tesco’ and ‘Sainsbury’s’ and up to 5 keywords (or ‘alerts’ as described by Mention) within those accounts.
Once you have selected the package is it an easy form filling exercise and software download.
Ease of account use
Talkwalker – At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Talkwalker was Google Alerts. When setting up your alerts, you are greeted with six details to fill: ‘search query’, ‘result type’, ‘language’, ‘how often’, ‘how many’, and ‘your email’. This is nearly identical to the Google Alert creation form.
Once your alerts are created by entering the details in the relevant boxes, you can manage them by editing the details and viewing the RSS feeds. These can then be entered into an RSS reader such as Feedly, or be delivered to your email by selecting ‘Turn email delivery on’ at the bottom of the screen. Once again, the management form is the spitting image of Google’s, including the function to export the emails as a .CSV. You can also import .CSV files, so if you are migrating from Google Alerts there is an easy function to carry your alerts across. It’s all fairly self-explanatory, and if you are used to Google Alerts it is as if you never left home.
However the service falls down when the user decides to set up the account with an RSS reader. You can copy and paste an RSS feed into a reader which delivers the results of all of your alerts into the reader at once. Bizarrely, Talkwalker think that the best way to display this is to have one section which is labelled “Talkwalker” and show every single result for every single search query in one huge list.
If you want to actually organise your alerts by search query, you will need to import every single RSS feed individually and edit it yourself. If you are only working with four or five that’s no problem, but as soon as you start using 40-50 alerts this seems like a huge, unnecessary waste of time.
Mention – Visually, Mention is very similar to a Hootsuite monitoring system – so if you’ve had experience of this before, it is easy to navigate. Setting up the alerts and keywords was a simple step-by-step process. I particularly liked the source options i.e. forums, Twitter, Facebook – these sources could be turned on or off depending on which channels you want to track.
There is also an option to block sites which is helpful if you want to filter out your own site’s noise.
I was particularly impressed with the feed filter system as this is something I had often wanted and needed when using Feedly. The mentions feed can be filtered by source i.e. forums, twitter, facebook etc. or by type i.e. unread, spam etc. (see image ii).
The column feed sits left of the screen leaving a large reading pane for the selected mention, which is very easy to use. (see image iii).
Speed of alert delivery
Talkwalker – For about five days after I set up the alerts and imported the RSS feeds into Feedly, I was convinced I had done it wrong. But Talkwalker is so simple I couldn’t possibly have missed any instructions. Then one day I started receiving alerts sporadically – certainly not at the same rate at which Google gave them to me.
Switching to “email delivery” was slightly better – but only slightly. Around half an hour after I selected the option, I received 15 emails – one for each alert that had results – each with a varying number of options. These batches of emails seem to come totally at random, and often displaying news results two or three days old. The impracticality of receiving alerts to email notwithstanding, the emails came maybe once or twice or day – certainly not up to date.
Mention – Immediately after hitting the save button, the feed had filled with 100+ mentions. When you amend an alert, the feed will re-fill automatically. Even away from the tool I received a pop-up alerting me to new mentions – great if you are following a particular campaign. I selected to receive email alerts which came through every morning at just around the time I opened my emails. The email is just a brief overview of the alerts from the day and night before – a nice roundup. The only qualm I had with the speed is adding a filter to the feed and the viewing pane load time, as sometimes both took a couple of minutes to load.
Quantity of alerts
Talkwalker – Ignoring the incredibly slow speed at which Talkwalker alerts come through, when they do finally come there is a lot to sift through. Of course, you would expect the number of alerts to depend on the specificity (or lack thereof) of the search query, and how many people are actually talking about them. The specific terms received fewer results, and the more general terms received a lot more. There was plenty to look at, and only very rarely did search queries produce no results at all. In this case I went back to the management of the alerts and altered the search term slightly, which provided some more results.
Mention – This is dependent on the package chosen (see image i). Every package has a limit which increases along with the cost of the package, as expected. Nevertheless it took longer than expected to reach my quota. Again, this is probably dependent on the keywords you have set up.
Quality of alerts
Talkwalker – The alerts that Talkwalker send through are rubbish. While Talkwalker may send plenty of alerts to look through, the quality is extremely low. Results include poorly maintained websites that are almost totally irrelevant to the search query, and even setting the alerts specifically to English doesn’t stop the delivery of foreign, unreadable sites.
Alerts for terms that should be delivering huge news stories that are covered greatly in a number of sources are nowhere to be seen, while brief mentions of slightly related words on terrible websites are thrown into the reader with reckless abandon. Even setting the quality to “Best” results in total nonsense.
Mention – I think this applies in the most part to news and blog results. The results are generally good quality social media news sites as well as blogs.
Talkwalker – Support offers some minimal instructions including how to import alerts into an RSS reader, some FAQs and details of the company Trendiction. With an email address and a phone number available, the option to contact them is available but I didn’t need have any technical problems. Technically the alerts system worked fine, it just wasn’t very good.
Mention – I expected to receive the usual ‘welcome’ emails but I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly email from Edouard who was ‘checking in’ a few hours after I’d completed account set-up. The email was personal a not a canned response – a nice touch. From then on in I haven’t been bombarded with junk emails asking me to sign up to a package upgrade for X amount of money. I’ve just been left to get on with it – it’s refreshing!
When it comes to actually having a problem the software has a link straight to the Help Centre and FAQs. And if the answer still eludes you, at the bottom of the page is a ‘contact us’ link which – wait for it – sends you straight to an email address – not a list of phone numbers and emails only to be left still wondering who to contact and still no answer to your initial query. A general ‘contact us’ email if just fine for me, let Mention do all the work!
Talkwalker – None. Talkwalker is a bare bones alert delivery system, offering the same capabilities as Google Alerts. The option to export alerts as a .CSV, change the settings of the alerts and add new alerts are the only other things you can do – but this might be all you need.
Mention – The additional features can really only be accessed with a package upgrade. The free trial package is just the basics. An upgrade can include sentiment analysis, statistics, task lists, unlimited users and unlimited data archive to name just a few.
Ease of account set-up
Ease of account use
Speed of delivery
Quantity of alerts
Quality of alerts
Total score /70
Talkwalker – Marketed as “the best free and easy alternative to Google Alerts”, Talkwalker Alerts can easily lure a user into a false sense of security by offering a system with seemingly identical features to Google Alerts. Visually and mechanically there are hardly any differences between the two services. However the quality of the alerts that Talkwalker delivers are beyond useless. The easy setup doesn’t make up for the mostly foreign, usually irrelevant and always terrible results. Avoid Talkwalker Alerts at all costs.
Mention – Mention is great software packaged in a user friendly way with a bow on top. I have continued to use the software even after using it as a test account. What little functionality you get from a free trial is impressive enough to tempt onto a paid package. As frustrating as it was to choose a package at the start of the process I was entirely pleased with trial package’s capabilities. Would highly recommend.