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SEMrush Toolbox #15: Brand Monitoring Tool




Craig Campbell: Hi guys, and welcome to today's SEMrush webinar, and it's the 15th episode of the SEMrush Toolbox. Today we're going to be talking about the Brand Monitoring Tool. And I'm going to be joined by an old SEMrush favorite, Mr. Steptoe and son, Jason Barnard. Jason, how are you?

Jason Barnard: I'm fine. Doing very well, thank you, Craig. Thank you for having me on.

Craig Campbell: For anyone who hasn't ever seen you before Jason, do you want to give the audience just a bit about yourself, what you're currently doing and stuff like that?

Jason Barnard: I did an economics degree, which means that I know about economics. I did statistics in that, so I know enough about numbers. Moved to France, started to play the double bass, played music for 10 years. I was a professional musician for a while. 

Then I was a blue dog in a cartoon, doing the voiceover for another 10 years, and then moved from there into SEO digital marketing about 12 years ago. The cartoon side was the segue into digital marketing because we had a million visits a month from Google because we did really good SEO on Google. Now I'm a speaker, consultant and podcast host.

Craig Campbell: The podcast, so I've also appeared on that. Did I hear correctly you're going to do, you're aiming for, a hundred podcasts this year, or was that me just making that up?

Jason Barnard: No, no, no, you're not making it up. I was aiming at a hundred when I started. I've got to 56, I think, are released now. By the end of the year, I'll probably be about 120, maybe 140.

Craig Campbell: Good effort, good effort. 

What we'll do is just get started with the introduction to the tool. I'm going to give you a quick 10-minute overview of what the tool does and the functionality of it. Then Jason's going to give us a presentation on the reasons why we would use brand mentions, and kind of some of the techniques and strategies that Jason uses as a result of that. 

SEMrush Brand Monitoring Tool Overview

We will start showing where to, first of all, find the tool. You set up a project. So, Projects, and I go to my own website, which I've put in there. 

The Project allows you to set up the Site Audit and various other different tools here. You'll see in the middle, we've got the Brand Monitoring Tool there. If I just clink on Brand Monitoring it will ask you for your URL and some keywords and stuff like that, based on what mentions you want to be found for. 

You can stick in three main keywords, whatever they may be, like your name or your business name; you can put them in there. You can also add in another five keywords, like SEO tool, marketing or whatever you feel is important to your business. You can also exclude specific keywords, such as jobs or whatever mentions you don't really want to follow up on.

You can configure country or language here as well, and you can tick or untick whether you want a weekly report at whatever time. You can start tracking everything. 

Prior to coming on here, I just put in a small bit of data based on my own website, just for demonstration purposes. This is the Overview tab, so when you put the data that I previously showed you into the screen based on different keywords and stuff, it's going to show you this nice dashboard here. 

I've only put in a couple of keywords there based on the SEMrush Summer Jam that I was in Portugal last week, and there are 24 mentions. It's giving me the total mentions here, positive mentions with the highest traffic and a total estimated reach.

That's all nice data there... there are different areas where the data can come from. It can come from the web, forums, Instagram. You can use the dates filters here as well if you want to check specific dates for mentions as well. 

It gives you this kind of overview of information. It will also show you the top domains that mention your particular brand and keywords. And it will show you authority score, domain traffic, and it will also show you if there are backlinks pointing to your project. 

My project is craigcampbellseo.com, which is my website. Of the mentions that I see up there, no one actually went to my website. On the second level part here, there are no backlinks at all.

If there was, it would say two, three, four or five, or whatever it's going to be. Sadly, people online don't really talk about my website as such. They'll probably say, "oh it was good to see Craig at this event" or whatever it's going to be. That’s the Overview tab of the Brand Monitoring Tool.

The next tab along is the Mentions. This is basically going to allow me to look at...the web, forums, Twitter or Instagram. I'm just going to stick to web just now so it shows us the data from the web. 

As I say, there is the date filter here. You can filter it down further by using in domains, in titles, in mentions and everywhere, and you can put specific keywords in here. 

You can also use sentiment here as well: positive, negative and neutral. There are some advanced filters here as well, so you can also filter it down by domain traffic, estimated reach, authority score, link to URL, tracked domain sources and tags. I'll talk about tags later on. 

Now, this is what the Mentions tab looks like. I've got a mention on this particular domain name here, onmogul.com. It's got an authority score of 73 out of a 100, it's got high traffic. It gives you the estimated reach for that article, and it's saying it's negative. 

Now I'm not entirely sure why the tool is saying that's a negative mention of me because it's not, it's positive. You can actually change that if you click on it. It will help SEMrush's algorithm by making sure that we understand the difference between negative and positive and neutral.

Earlier I said about tags. You can add tags in here as well. You can add multiple tags if you like, which will then allow you to further filter things down. 

But for example, if I didn't get a backlink, which I didn't on that particular article, I may decide to send that to the Link Building Tool. Just tick that box there, send to Link Building Tool, and I can send that mention to my Link Building Tool, which would then allow me to reach out to Milosz and say, "Hey, you mentioned me here, but you didn't link to my website. How about it?"

That's just one of the reasons that you may want to monitor your mentions. But I'll let Jason talk about that shortly.

You can also export this data, so other than sending it to the Link Building Tool, you can export that to a CSV or XLS spreadsheet. You can send that off to a customer, send that off to someone to have a look at, or whatever your process may be. 

Statistics: it will show you mention volume trend, and you can compare campaigns, and different campaigns. I can compare data with other people. You can do that with your competition and stuff like that. You can export this as a png as well if you wanted to show someone that.

Resources is the next tab. Now you can also track other resources for mentions of your brand name or whatever it may be. If you wanted to track the BBC for example, you could put that in there, add that into your project, and that will obviously track the BBC for any mentions of your business. 

If you know of a resource where you're regularly mentioned, then you can put that into the resources there, and you'll be able to get notified when you're mentioned on any of those resources. Then obviously reach out and do whatever you're going to do to take advantage of that mention. 

Now the next tab along is the About Tool. You've obviously got me showing you briefly how the tool works. But there is a whole load of information on here about the tool, and what estimated reach means, what sentiment means, what tags mean, favorite and hidden, domain traffic, track domain, block domain. 

For example, if you wanted to block a domain from appearing in your mentions you may want to hide mentions that come from a spammy source, or your own domain name or whatever, just so you can filter your stuff out. 

That is pretty much what the tool does, I think. The tool is fairly basic, simple and easy to use, you can add other campaigns, you can go to the top right-hand side and edit the campaign if you wanted to change some of the keywords or whatever it may be.

If you go to email reports, you can go in there and change the email address that the report goes to; whether that's done daily, weekly or monthly; on specific days and specific times.

It's quite easy to forget some of these things. You'll maybe set that up to come to you first thing on a Monday morning, and then it may be the very first thing that you do of a week is then start to check out your brand mentions for the last week or whatever it may be. 

Jason is going to come on screen now, and he's going to give us more information in terms of what he uses the tool for, why you may want to monitor your brand mentions and everything else. I've tried not to go too in-depth in anything like that Jason to allow you to tell us what you do. 

Modern SEO: From Page Rank to E-A-T

Jason Barnard: Basically, the way you've explained it, you're saying you use it to organize your own work and also help SEMrush to help you. Now I'm going to look at why you might want to do it, why you might be interested in your brand mentions, and what you can do with this tool to actually improve your overall in linking and mentions on Google, especially with E-A-T which I will explain in a moment.

We need to set the scene with traditional SEO; what Google is looking for today; PR, which could mean several things; Brand Reputation; E-A-T.

Looking at it from today's point of view, all Google ever did was count words, count links, and try and estimate link value. That's where we're all coming from. We're saying, "Oh we want follow links, we want these links that have the follow attributes so that we get all this super juice, and that Google sees these links as being incredibly valuable and increases our page rank." 


We need these sites to have high domain authority, which is a measurement of how powerful a domain is. Page rank, we all know what it is. Or if you don't, it's the measurement of the popularity of a page, simply put. 

PR is still the cornerstone. But which PR? This is where I find it gets very interesting. PR in 1998 was not the same thing as PR in 2019. PR in 1998, in SEO, was page rank. But today it's public and press relations. 


This is a global overview of what Google is trying to do. It's trying to analyze the question of a user to be able to give them an answer. In order to be able to give them the best answer to the question they have asked, or the best solution to the problem they are expressing, it has three questions:

1) Have I understood what the answer is or what the solution is, i.e., what's on your site, your content? Has it understood what it is you're offering? 2) Is what you're offering a viable solution for the question the person has asked? 3) And is it the most credible? 


That last one is incredibly important. We have understanding, deliverability, i.e., has it understood? Can it deliver the content? But most importantly, is it credible? Are you the most credible content?

Today, we're looking at the brand reputation. Page rank still counts, links still count. But we're looking at the brand reputation. We're looking at a concept that is less based on links, and much more based on mentions. Brand reputation is credibility, and credibility is E-A-T.


If you don't know what E-A-T is, I'll explain. Expertise, authority, and trust. Google talk all about it in their guidelines. They want to send people to sites and answers that are expert, authoritative and trustworthy. 

How Google Evaluates Expertise, Authority, and Trust

How does Google evaluate expertise, authority, and trust? It finds and evaluates links. That's not changed since 1998. Craig's a big fan of links, I know that. They are still phenomenally important. 

But now it also finds and evaluates mentions. That's where the Brand Monitoring Tool comes in. You need to find and evaluate the mentions so that you understand what Google is seeing about you. What it is perceiving your E-A-T to be. 

In this case, context is king. We used to say, we need links from high domain authority sites, from powerful sites. Doesn't matter who they are. If I'm a double bass player, I can get a link from a restaurant site, it doesn't matter. Today it does. 


A restaurant site linking to me as a double bass player does not have context, it doesn't bring the expertise and the authority. It might bring a little bit of trust. But it doesn't indicate that I'm an expert and an authority in double bass playing. 

Why Are Brand Mentions Important?

We're looking at today in 2019, 21 years after we were just looking at links for page rank, 21 years later we're looking at links, mentions, and the context of both the links and the mentions.


Here we have a situation where the Brand Monitoring Tool from SEMrush finds and evaluates those mentions. All of the examples I've given here, these are not my clients. I've used Sendinblue, Mailjet, and Mailchimp, who are all in the mail, emailing industry. They're not my clients. I've just used them as examples, put them into the tool to have a quick look.

Now SEMrush has found, in this case, 179 mentions, 18 with backlinks. Craig's didn't have any backlink earlier on. The positive mentions, it's done pretty well, 54. 

Craig was talking about the fact that some of the mentions were being shown as being negative when in fact they were positive. That's because the tool is quite new. It's using machine learning to understand what positive and negative sentiment is within your industry. That's very important because positive and negative sentiment is not the same across every industry.

The more you can correct it like Craig did earlier on, the better SEMrush will get at evaluating the positive or negative nature of those mentions. You will find though with time that although it gets it wrong a little bit at the start, it will get it better and better for you, and for people within your industry very quickly.

If SEMrush can find this stuff, if SEMrush can analyze its quality, if SEMrush can see if there's a backlink or if there's a mention of your brand, and it can estimate the traffic, and it can estimate how important and how valuable this mention is, Google can certainly do it, and can certainly do it much better.

Don't imagine for a second that Google isn't doing this. Don't imagine for a second that only links matter. Mentions do matter in terms of what we would call linkless links. A mention is a linkless link. It's a mention, it brings value to your brand. It brings value to your SEO. It brings value to your SEO through E-A-T; expertise, authority, and trust. That's what we want to build today.

Now, a quick reminder that in August last year, in June this year, there were updates. Generally speaking, we are led to understand that it's based on E-A-T. Expertise, authority, and trust have become the cornerstone that replaces links. 

Links, of course, are part of E-A-T, they're part of the trust. You can build on top of your links, you don't forget about the links, you don't think links aren't important, they are still incredibly important. But they are not alone anymore. You now need mentions too. And positive mentions.

My experience has been about 10% of mentions end up, have these links. Which gives you a good idea of how much you're missing out on. If you're concentrating on links, you're missing 90% of people who are actually talking about you. 

What's Google interested in? It's not interested in physical links, it's interested in who's talking about you, and are they talking about you in a positive manner? Are they content, are they happy with what you're doing? Are they enthusiastic, are they saying you're an expert?. Are they saying you're an authority? Do they trust you? Google's looking for that information. If you're not looking at mentions, you're missing 90% of the game.

Combining Brand Mentions and Link Building

Mentions are incredibly important. A mention with a link is even better than just a mention. If you can get a link and push that 10%, or less than 10%, up to 20% or 30%, you're really going to be winning the game because links remain more powerful than mentions. Especially links within a positive context. 

You don't want for specific anchor text, you want to look for brand links, when they're talking about your brand, in general.

The other great advantage here is that you can ask for page-level links. Gary Liu is incredibly, incredibly enthusiastic about pushing across the idea that links, inbound links, don't operate at the domain level, they operate at the page level. 

What I need to do is ask the person who's written this article if they can add the link. If I can put myself in their position and see what adding a link to my site can bring to them, I've got much more chance of getting that link.

Don't just go in there and say, "Hey, you've mentioned me, give me a link." You say, "Hey, I've seen you've mentioned me. Thank you very much, that's really cool. It would be very useful for users to have a link and..." Or, "If you put a link to me, I'm going to put you in my press mentions page."

When I was working on the blue dog cartoon website, we linked out all the time. People linked out. Exchanging links or giving links was terribly popular. Then everyone suddenly said, "Oh, I won't give any links anymore because I'll lose my page rank." You don't. 

The nature of a bot is it crawls around the web, going from link to link, traveling remote. If you give it a dead end, if you don't link out to anything, Google will hate you. You've given it a dead end, it has to go around, turn around and go back again. That's not how a bot works. A bot wants to keep going through.

We want trust, relevancy, and context. We want sites that can be trusted. We want them to be relevant to what we're talking about, and we want them to be within the context of what we're talking about. 

If you look at trust, very quickly, if you think about domain authority, and you say, okay, a gossip site has incredible page rankings, got loads of domain authority. But is it trustworthy? No. It's not news, they make it all up. It's not a trustworthy source. 

Google is now looking at, and they explicitly say they are looking at, trust. Page rank is still there, but trust is becoming increasingly important. 

Brand mentions and user sentiment. We haven't talked about users yet. But if you look at this, we can look at Twitter, forums, and Instagram. SEMrush managed to find all of these links in a minute. It took them a minute to find all 533 mentions of MailChimp. If SEMrush could it in a minute, Google could probably do it in a second. 

If we look at this, it does a brilliant job of sorting out the tweets, so you can actually pull them up. Here we don't see Mailchimp at all. But when you look, and you click through, it's actually a conversation that's been going on.

Instagram's really interesting, because they find this text, and in fact, when you look at it, you don't see the text. If you weren't using SEMrush, you wouldn't actually see the context of what's going on in this Instagram post. 

All of this both boosts your E-A-T, which is very good for your SEO in general. But it also convinces real people. Because if I see a positive Twitter feed, or a positive Instagram feed, or a positive forum thread, I'm much more likely to trust you and want to buy from you.

This is what Craig pointed out to me earlier on before we came on air, they're all sales opportunities. Somebody who's saying, is there an alternative to MailChimp, is a great opportunity for Mailchimp to go in there and say, actually Mailchimp's a wonderful solution anyway, here are the advantages. 


Sometimes you come across new ideas that you never would have thought of otherwise. This is just from sorting through all these mentions.

Quick warning: there's lots of spam out there. Use the tool as Craig said, get rid of the stuff that's spammy. Ignore it, throw it to one side. Google is now sufficiently intelligent to be able to figure out what's spam and junk. 

You can put it to one side in the tool, so it doesn't get in your way while you're doing the important work, which is building up the positive stuff, rather than worrying about the negative stuff. If the negative stuff is true, do worry about it. Do something about it.

Networking and Brand Mentions

As I said earlier on, you can improve the existing mentions. The idea that journalists or bloggers or people who write websites won't change what they've written, is completely false. People are very open to the idea of writing better. They're open to the idea of expressing themselves better. They're open to the idea of putting in backlinks.

Reach out to people who have written about you, who are mentioning you. And try and get them to add links, improve what they're saying about you, or even write an extra article. You could get new mentions, new links. 

You can push, build a relationship, and that brings me to networking. What's really cool today is that instead of just going out trying to build links, and trying to bully people into giving you a link, and saying, "Ooh, I've written this great piece, give me a link." It's actually going and talking to people, building relationships.

I go round all these conferences, I meet people, and the number of links and mentions I'm getting from that, from talking to people within my industry is incredible, it's phenomenal. People talk about me because I'm there. People talk about me because I have a relationship with them. It takes time, but it's well worth it.

I would say we're not link building anymore, we're mention building. If you can get positive mentions, you're already a big step up. Links are a bonus. That's two steps up and that's brilliant. 


You're proving to Google that you're expert, authority, and trustworthy, as long as the mentions are from expert, authority, and trustworthy sources. 

Talk to people. See how you can help them. Build up relationships and make it real. One thing I did say, a year ago, that struck me was we're all networking constantly on social media. Doesn't have to be physically, we're on social media, and Google sees this.

It can see that I have relationships with these people. If they're in my industry, and they're important, and they're trustworthy, and they're knowledgeable, brilliant for everybody. 

Which brands and people should you be targeting? We want them to be in context. I want them to be trustworthy, I don't want one (a link) from a gossip site. 

The last thing; track and organize. That's what this tool is for. The idea is, you go back to this, as Craig said, every week. You get your email to remind yourself to do it, I love that idea.

Using this tool, I have found that if I do it religiously every Monday morning, or Tuesday morning or whatever, it never goes down. You see yourself progressing every week. So, back to Craig. What next Craig?

Craig Campbell: Thank you, Jason. Excellent presentation. What we'll do guys, if you've got questions that you want to put to Jason or myself, we've got 13 minutes to be able to answer your questions. Whether it's about E-A-Ts or how Jason goes about doing his networking. 

Jason Barnard: You actually just almost asked me a question: how do I go about networking. I was thinking about it the other day, and it's very natural. I'm not doing it because I want all the mentions, I'm doing it because I actually enjoy it. I enjoy talking to people. 

But what I've found is personality. Whatever your personality might be, if you have a personality, people can relate to that. If you're pretending to be something you're not, you're never going to succeed. If you turn up, and you are who you are, and you're honest about who you are within your industry, people will see that it's genuine, and that's brilliant. 

LinkedIn Mentions

Craig Campbell: We've got a few questions that have rolled in here. The first one I'm going to go with is from Angie, who's saying, any idea on LinkedIn mentions? No platform is capturing them yet, but they do influence the search engines, right? 

My take on that, Angie, is LinkedIn mentions may or may not affect the search engines. It's what you do with those mentions, to then follow up and get your links on websites or whatever it may be, and building that relationship with that person is where the benefit lies, rather than you'll get someone to tag in a LinkedIn post or whatever. I'm not sure how much benefit that would actually have. What're your thoughts on that Jason?

Jason Barnard: Well, in fact, I bumped into two of the top people from LinkedIn at SMX London. I had kind of assumed that Google was crawling it, no problem, but in fact, Brad was saying, in America, it can't even crawl the first page at the moment. In Europe, it can crawl one page but can't go beyond that. 

Whereas Twitter, it can. If I were to recommend a platform to build relationships to show to Google, I would say Twitter.

Craig Campbell: Yeah, I would tend to agree that. But keep an eye on your LinkedIn notifications, and if someone mentions you, tags you, or whatever, try and do something about that. But I think as Jason says, reach... Work on Twitter, I think I would say, it's the best that's there.

Can Google Monitor Mentions on Private Facebook Groups?

Craig Campbell: Cool, and the next question which came but follows on from what we've just discussed is from Hydro-Chem Systems. Do you know if Google can see private Facebook groups on Facebook? The guy's saying, their brand is mentioned very often but within private industry-based groups. 

Jason Barnard: As far as I am aware, they can't. The thing about private groups is you can't get in without being invited, and the same thing with LinkedIn. Google can't crawl if it hasn't got that access. If it hasn't been invited, it can't be in there. My assumption is no, not at all. 

But the other thing that's important to know, I read it a couple of years ago, so it might not still be true, Google is incapable of crawling more than 30% of Facebook. 

Craig Campbell: I think, obviously, if people are looking at that, LinkedIn, Facebook groups and stuff, they're probably looking at it from the wrong perspective. The reason you use Facebook is to drive traffic to your website. 

If you're in a private Facebook group and people are mentioning you, try and drive them to your website. But, I don't think that Facebook private groups or LinkedIn are something that any SEO really does any kind of link reclamation from or whatever. 

Plenty of opportunities there before you start worrying too much about private Facebook groups. I would see them as a bonus if I'm being honest. But, each to their own. 

The Reciprocal Benefit of Linking to People

We've got another question from Lisa Graves, who I know very well. “When you say reach out, after seeing a mention, to request that they give a link, what's in it for them? What's the benefit to them?”

Jason Barnard: Okay, well if you're an expert on a specific point, an expert, let's say on an SEO, or link building. The value of linking through to somebody to prove a point, linking through to somebody who is an expert, who's authoritative and is trusted in that field, like you are with link building or SEO, indicates that you are saying something that is true. 

If Google believes Craig Campbell, and you say the same thing as Craig Campbell and you're linking through to him, by association it will then believe you.

I mean Milosz would link to you, in the hope that you would then mention him, and link back to him at a future date, on something useful. It's like in human relationships: you do stuff for people because you want to do it because you like them, but also because at some point, there is this idea of what comes around, goes around, comes around.

Craig Campbell: Yeah. 100% agreed. Sadly, Jason though, we are out of time. Thanks again for coming on, it's been a pleasure doing another webinar with you. Thank you, everyone, who watched and anyone who asked any questions. Do feel free to check out Jason's podcast, and we will be back again in a couple of weeks' time with episode number 16 of the SEMrush Toolbox. 

Jason Barnard: Brilliant, thank you, Craig.

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