Aristotle learned from Plato. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar learned from John Wooden. The ninja turtles learned from Master Splinter, you get the idea. In other words, greatness is built on the shoulders of giants. Like the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique being passed from Pai Mei to Beatrix Kiddo, a wealth of wisdom is passed from master to student. And while a college professor or professional mentor may have supplied your bedrock of expertise, hard data on your brand should fuel your practical decisions — like slices of pizza fuel Michelangelo — every day.
Your brand is one of your company’s most important assets. And while its value is often intangible, branding plays a vital role in shaping what consumers think of your products, and it can be one of the main factors that ultimately drives someone to buy from you.
Protecting your brand is crucial to your organization’s long-term success. And that’s where brand monitoring comes in.
Brand monitoring is the ongoing process of tracking everywhere your brand appears and ensuring that those appearances accurately represent your brand. It’s about being able to take the pulse of consumers’ perception of your brand and evaluating how well you and your partners are representing it. The more actively you monitor online and offline channels, the better equipped you’ll be to protect your brand integrity.
This process usually involves specialized tools like digital shelf analytics solutions, but there are also general principles you can use to focus your efforts on the places that have the greatest impact on your brand. The bigger your brand and the larger your catalog, the more there is to monitor. So it helps to know how you can actually be productive.
Here are 12 tips on what to monitor and how to monitor your brand more effectively.
1. Monitor your product page images and content
Your retailer product pages play several roles throughout the customer journey. Some people will discover and learn about your brand for the first time through these pages. They’ll decide if they can trust you based on what they see here, and they’ll make countless assessments of what you have to offer, how you measure up to your competitors, and what your brand signifies.
You have specific goals for your brand and particular qualities you want consumers to associate with your products. That all comes together in the assets you put on every product page. Inconsistent assets from one page to another result in inconsistent experiences with your brand. The assets you choose also impact how your brand will be positioned within your category.
As you compare your product pages from one retailer to another, identify any inconsistencies with your brand guidelines. Are the images all up to date? Does the copy make the most compelling case and present your products in a way that aligns with your brand values?
It also helps to look at product pages in light of each retailer’s requirements. You may not need all those images, videos, and specifications to list your product on their store, but if you don’t optimize your product pages to meet a retailer’s requirements, it could lower your share of search on a retailer or seller’s store.
Monitoring brand and product consistency across retailers used to be a painful process. Some people tried to do it manually, but for the most part they abandoned the mission and started using a service that does the work for them. Brand Monitor does the search for you and gathers information for you that you can use to work with retailers to improve your product descriptions.
2. Set up Google Alerts
Any time someone writes an article or publishes a video that talks about your brand, you need to know about it. And the sooner, the better. Engaging with this content (or reacting to it) early gives you a chance to help shape how it impacts people’s perception of your brand.
Thankfully, there’s a free way to get notified quickly when there’s a new mention of your brand online: Google Alerts. Set the terms you want to track mentions of, and Google will email you when it crawls a new page that mentions them. You can also set the frequency you’d like to get alerts, so if your brand is frequently in the news or being discussed online, you can create a weekly digest of relevant mentions.
If you’re monitoring your brand, you should set up Google Alerts for any branded terms and product names. You may also want to create alerts for your product category or relevant topics within your industry. Even if these don’t directly mention your brand, they shape the conversation around what you do and may require your brand to address something new.
3. Analyze your ratings and reviews
Ratings and reviews are one of the main channels customers have for sharing their experiences with your brand. A single rating is incredibly subjective and doesn’t tell you much. But looking at trends over time and consistent themes can reveal changes in perception, potential problems with a seller’s impact on your brand, or even business pain points that should get more attention in your copy and assets.
With every product category and every retailer, there’s a different threshold that establishes trust with consumers. It largely depends on the number of reviews and average ratings your competitors have. If you have far fewer reviews or a lower average rating, your brand won’t come across as the leader in your space, and consumers may not associate your brand with quality, reliability, or other qualities your brand values.
4. Use social listening tools
Ratings and reviews aren’t the only ways consumers make their opinions known. People are continually talking about brands on social media. Some of these conversations are like isolated reviews — they’re not all that valuable. But if someone posts about your brand and other people start piling on, that’s a good indicator that more people share their sentiment.
The problem is that people don’t always tag your brand when they talk about you or your products. You could periodically search each platform for the handful of terms that matter most to your brand. But that’s not very productive, and you’re going to miss a lot of conversations that way. Social listening tools (also called social monitoring tools) like Hootsuite let you select terms, then receive notifications whenever someone mentions those terms on social media.
It’s like Google Alerts, but for social media.
This not only allows you to see how people are talking about you publicly, but it also creates easy opportunities for your brand to engage with consumers in relevant ways. These are public conversations, so you can respond directly to the consumer. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding about your product that you need to address. Or someone shared a bad experience that you can ease with a timely, heartfelt response.
Social listening tools help you monitor what consumers think of your brand and make it easy to publicly reinforce your brand values. You can see what they think of you and respond in a way that steers them toward what you’d like them to think of you.
5. Examine new inbound links
Sometimes people link to your website without mentioning you. There could be a link buried in a blog post about your product category. Or maybe an article is referring to a case study or a survey you’ve done. Or someone is critiquing a thought leadership piece from one of your executives.
If these links are coming from high-profile websites or people who have some sort of following, you need to know how they’re positioning your brand. Are they highlighting your expertise, or criticizing your products or credibility? That context shapes what someone’s audience thinks of your brand.
Identifying new inbound links and following them to the source is a valuable part of brand monitoring. Search engine optimization tools like AHrefs, SEMrush, and Moz can help you explore where links to your website are coming from, even when a page doesn’t directly mention your brand.
6. Keep tabs on your stock availability
When most people go to a retailer’s website and search for your product category, they often associate the top results with the best results. We’ve been trained to use (and organize) search results that way. If your brand is on page two, most people won’t even know you exist. At the very least, you’ll be considered lower tier within your category.
That’s why you need to monitor your stock availability.
If your products are out of stock, it hurts your brand’s standing in a retailer’s search engine. Winning the digital shelf takes a lot of effort. And if your products stay out of stock for too long, you’ll lose the top spots you worked so hard to earn.
On the flip side, you may also want to pay attention to your competitor’s stock availability. If your main competitor runs out of stock, people will click their brand less, and their ranking will decline. This can be an opportune time to ramp up spending and climb the rankings, positioning your brand as the best available choice.
7. Are you losing share of search to your competitors
Consumers are constantly evaluating your brand in comparison to your competitors. If there are particular ways you want to position your brand in the market, then you need to pay attention to what’s happening in the market. How are your competitors talking about themselves and your category? Are they indirectly referring to you and creating comparisons?
If a competitor is outperforming you on a particular retailer’s site, it’s worth analyzing their product pages. They might be doing something the retailer favors or that makes their page more useful to consumers. It could be as simple as the number of images they’re using, or the types of content they have on their product pages. If they’re winning the digital shelf, you need to find out why because in the consumer’s eyes, that’s going to constantly position them as the top brand in your space, winning the share of search.
Are their ratings going in the opposite direction of yours or seeing more significant increases? Make sure you have the tools to investigate. (Like PriceSpider’s Brand Monitor.)
8. Remember that employees are part of your brand
When your leadership team looks good, it makes your brand look good. Any time your staff gets a major shoutout or faces public criticism, you want to be tuned in to that. How you treat your people and navigate their faults reflects on your brand. Whether you’re celebrating alongside an employee or taking disciplinary action, people will see how you handle those situations.
9. Protect your price
Your price has a big impact on how people see your brand. If your price is inconsistent from one seller to another, then so are consumers’ perceptions of your brand. Large variances in prices make it hard for consumers to spot counterfeit products. They don’t know if they’re getting the real deal.
They also come away with a different understanding of what a “good” deal looks like. When sellers violate your pricing policy, some consumers will associate your products with those ridiculously low price points, and the regular price (or even a reasonable sale price) looks too high.
You want consumers to see your price, examine your products, and feel confident that what they’re getting is worth the price. It’s much easier to convince consumers what your products are worth when the price is the same everywhere they look.
Price monitoring software lets you see everywhere your product appears, sends you alerts when a seller violates your pricing policy, and makes it easy to send violation notices. As you enforce your policy and penalize sellers, they’ll be less willing to play games with your prices, and consumers will start to feel more confident about the value of your products.
10. Keep up with industry news and thought leadership
In just about any industry and product category, experts and influencers help people solve their problems and reach their goals. If you want your brand to be the go-to choice in your category, you need to be familiar with how people talk about your niche and understand the problems you solve.
Even when industry-related publications and leaders aren’t talking about your brand, they’re often talking about what you do. If you’re not keeping up with the conversation, your brand could be in danger of falling behind. You don’t have to completely reposition your brand to reflect every new trend or perspective, but your messaging should at least be informed by the ideas that are shaping your industry. Ideally, you want to position your brand as one of the major voices in the discussion.
11. Focus on your most important products
Brand monitoring can take a lot of time, energy, and resources. And it often becomes incredibly granular. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ways you could monitor your brand, it may help to step back and ask, “What products are most important to our brand?” Then just focus on those.
Maybe you just worry about your top 10 or 20 SKUs — the ones that move the needle the most and represent the most common touchpoints consumers have with your brand. Or maybe you focus on a new suite of products you just launched because their success or failure has major implications for your overall brand.
You don’t have to actively monitor every representation of your brand in existence. And depending on how prolific your brand is or the size of your team, that may be an impossible task. If that’s the case for you, just identify the products and activities that have the most potential to shape how people see your brand.
12. React to what you learn
The goal of brand monitoring isn’t simply to pay attention to how your brand is coming across or what people say about you. It’s to pay attention so that you can take action. There will be times when brand monitoring will lead you to follow up conversations with a seller. Or to make changes to a product page. Or join a conversation on social media.
Whether it’s through your ratings and reviews, studying a competitor, reviewing a retailer’s product page requirements, or reading an article from an industry-related publication, react to what you learn. Respond to customer feedback. Interact with influencers. Do the things that are working well for your competitors.
It’s hard to gauge the return on investment in brand monitoring, but that’s only because the value of this process depends on what you do with the information you gather. How will you pivot based on what you discover? How will you improve people’s perception of your brand or adapt to changes in the industry?
It could make the difference between being considered a second-tier product and the leader in your category.
See what brand monitoring software can do for you
If you’re serious about brand monitoring, you’re going to want some serious tools to make this process more valuable. Our first-class brand monitoring software gives you a bird’s-eye view of your product landscape, making it easy to explore and compare your product pages across all your sellers.
It also gives you the tools you need to dive deep into each product and each retailer. You can explore ratings and reviews over time and analyze how past actions have impacted your brand, see how your product pages meet or fall short of a retailer’s recommendations or your competitor’s best-selling product pages.
Schedule a demo today, and see Brand Monitor in action.