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Reasons to Have a Vanity Folder in Your News Aggregator

VanityOne of the important features of my daily blogging routine is to check my ‘Vanity Folder’ in Google Reader (my news aggregator of choice).

The reason I call it my Vanity folder is that it’s a folder that is absolutely and completely dedicated to…. well me. The purpose of the folder is to track any mention of me or my blogs around the blogosphere (and in mainstream media). I’ll tell you how I do it below – but first a little on the WHY.

Why Having a Vanity Folder is Important

Having a Vanity Folder in your news aggregator sounds like a fairly egotistical thing to do (and I’ll admit that the reasons I started it were probably more ego driven than the reasons I continue to use it) – however there are actually a number of great reasons to have one that go beyond stroking your ego:

  • Engage in Conversation- Perhaps the best reason to track what others are writing about you is that it helps you to engage in the conversations that others are having that relate to you and the things you’ve written about. Some of these conversations will be positive and some will be negative – but all are opportunities – IF you’re aware of them and willing to participate.
  • Build Relationships – Engaging in conversations (which end in time) can lead to ongoing relationships. Some of the bloggers that I now engage with on a daily basis (and who I work with) I first ‘met’ as a result of finding something that they’d written that referred to me or my blog. It’s amazing to see what happens when someone writes about you and then suddenly you ‘appear’ (as if out of nowhere) to make a comment on what they’ve written. It really makes an impression and shows that you’re willing to engage with people. You never know what might come from things when you do this.
  • Track Success of Posts – One exercise that I do from time to time is to look back at the posts that I’ve written over a period of time and to think about which were the most ‘successful’. There are a number of ways of measuring success but one for bloggers is to see if the post actually caused anyone else to write about it on their blog. By having a vanity folder you to see how ‘successful’ a post has been at generating conversation on other blogs very quickly.
  • Correcting Errors and Damage Control – This is really important. Sometimes the things that people write about you are negative, attacking, damaging and even false. This is one of the parts of blogging that many of us don’t enjoy – but it’s something that a blogger shouldn’t ignore. If someone’s writing this type of stuff about me then I want to know it – because I want to be a part of that conversation. This might be to correct an error that the other blogger has made, to make an apology where I’ve messed up, to answer a question or to defend myself where I’ve been unfairly written about. While it’s sometimes tempting to leave such posts unanswered (in fact sometimes it’s wise not to respond) it’s good to at least be monitoring them.
  • Find Plagiarists – Another part of blogging that is increasingly frustrating for many bloggers is when others use your content for their own purposes without permission and without credit back to you as the source of the content. Not a day goes by when I don’t find someone scraping my RSS feeds in this way and it’s almost always through my vanity folder that I find them doing it. I’m always surprised by how many of these scrapers republish everything in my feed – including links to other posts that I’ve written and even my copyright notice (which contains the word ProBlogger). All of this triggers an item in my Vanity Folder and enables me to start the process of getting the other blog to stop republishing my content in this way.

How to Create a Vanity Folder

Creating a Vanity Folder in your News Aggregator of Choice isn’t difficult to do. Here’s how you do it:

1. Create a Folder in your feed reader and name it ‘Vanity Folder’ (or anything else you want to call it)
2. Fill it with ‘watch feeds’. These feeds might include:

  • Technorati Watchlists – a ‘watchlist’ is a tool that Technorati offers for you to watch different keywords or URLs. Simply login to Technorati and go to their Watchlist page (http://technorati.com/watchlist/) and enter the keyword or URL you want to monitor. It will then give you an RSS feed that you can subscribe to for each term or URL. Subscribe to it and add it to your Vanity Folder. Tip: make a watchlist for your name, your blog’s URL and even your blog’s name (if it’s unique).
  • Google News – Google News allows you to track different search terms via RSS also. Simply go to Google News and do a search for the term you want to track. You’ll get the latest appearance of that term in the results – but at the bottom of the left hand sidebar are some feed options including an ‘RSS’ link. This link is to a feed for the search term you’ve just entered. Subscribe to it and you’ll see any time that anyone’s mentioned that term in a mainstream news article.
  • Google Blog Search - the same service is available to you Google’s Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com/). The only difference is that Google Blog Search tracks blogs only whereas Goolge News tracks mainstream media (and some blogs). As a result if you use subscribe to the same terms in Google News and Google Blog Search you’ll get some double up – however you’ll see some results in each that are different from one another.
  • Bloglines Search – if you use Bloglines as your news reader it has a nifty little search feature that allows you to be notified of any mention of certain keywords. When I used Bloglines I used this. It would usually give similar results to the above methods – but occasionally picked up something that the other tools didn’t.

Other ways of Keeping Track of What Others Blog about You:

There are of course other non RSS related ways to keep track of what others are writing about you or your blogs. Here are a few:

Google News Alerts - Google News (http://www.google.com/news) allows you to set up ‘News Alerts’ which allow you to track keywords via either email or RSS. You can track words in a number of categories:

  • ‘news’ – which tracks mainstream media and some blogs
  • ‘blogs’ – which tracks blogs
  • ‘web’ – which tracks other web pages
  • ‘video’ – which tracks videos
  • ‘groups’ – tracking Google Groups
  • ‘comprehensive’ – which tracks News, Web and Blogs

Note: the ‘news’ and ‘blog’ options will give you the same results that you’ll get if you’re using the RSS methods outlined above – but the ‘web’, ‘video’ and ‘groups’ options are not available via RSS anywhere that I can see them.

Trackbacks – perhaps the easiest way to see when people have blogged about you is to keep an eye on ‘trackbacks’ to your posts (if you have them enabled). Read our introduction to Trackbacks for more on what they are http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/26/introduction-to-trackbacks/.

Metrics Referrals - most stats packages will have an option to view where people have arrived from when they get to your blog. This will reveal the URL of any site that has sent you traffic and is useful to keep an eye on.

A Final Warning

The title of this post encourages you to be more Vain. In actual fact I don’t really encourage any of us to be Vain – but instead to monitor what’s being written about you. In fact the main problem with Vanity Folders is that they can in fact lead to egos inflated and time being wasted on fairly self indulgent activities. As a result, my final piece of advice on vanity folders is to keep things balanced and to not get obsessed.

While I do see this as an important part of my blogging – I really only spend a few minutes each day monitoring these types of feeds. Like with any aspect of blogging – it’s when you get obsessed that your blogging gets out of balance and your blogging will begin to suffer.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Eric says:

    This is a very good post and a very good idea. I have email alerts setup for me, my company, and anything else I care about. Mainly for “Correcting Errors and Damage Control”.

    Nothing like a lot of bad publicity or wrong facts.

  2. Crazykinux says:

    Call me Mr. Vain, but I’m going to have to try some of these great tips!

    Thanx

  3. Yeah I do this myself but only on Google Alerts. I’m not nearly popular enough for all that other stuff! Though interestingly I totally managed to miss when somebody was slating my twitter guide as they referred to my username and not my full name, and I wasn’t tracking that.

  4. Jake says:

    I love it when I write about Darren or Jeremy Wright and they comment. It really makes me and my readers respect them even more than before.

    When I know another blogger will actually take the time to read my site even when it is about them, I appreciate it.

  5. Roberta says:

    Wow, great tips. I’ve never thought about this. I guess that’s why I’ve missed mentions of my site throughout the blogosphere….

    Thanks Darren, I’m going to try this today…. :)

  6. Sangesh says:

    Thanks Darren,

    These are great tips. I hardly look into who’s these kinda stuff. but i will certainly look into these stuffs as well.

    cheers.

  7. I use NetNewsWire and Google Alerts to monitor just what you are talking about. Just this morning, I also received a trackback from a site that had linked to a post I had done. Linkage was great, but they had some information incorrect. I sent an email to them and all is well. I don’t see how you can blog and/or have a web presence and not be a bit “vain”. You have to keep up on what is being said about you and your company.

  8. I didn’t have success with Technorati Watchlists. I subscribed to the RSS feeds of some queries, but they were broken: they kept issuing dozens of duplicate entries.

    I exchanged several mails with Technorati’s tech support, but this didn’t help. I solved the problem by dropping Technorati Watchlists and subscribing to Google Blog Search.

  9. nika says:

    Jake talks about the strongest aspect of this…

    its really a strong community-building activity to go and comment in blog posts that talk about you.

    In a subversive way, it also makes for a more civil internets because people realize that what they say IS being heard.

  10. CompuWorld says:

    completely new idea for me Darren

    that was huge and that was awesome..Will surely give it a try.. :)

    thanx as always..

  11. Dan Schawbel says:

    This is especially useful when it comes to protecting your personal brand.

  12. Deborah says:

    Vanity is my friend. I will figure out how to set up a folder this weekend. Not that folks are writting about me or anything but it will be exciting to see it when they are.

    Thanks for more great info.

  13. Mark says:

    Darren –

    Great tip! However, if you find people stealing or plagiarizing your content what can you do about it? Recently, I have been getting some trackbacks and when I go to the page all the person has done is essentially copy and paste my post on their site…

  14. “the main problem with Vanity Folders is that they can in fact lead to egos inflated”

    LOL Darren, in my case (nobody is talking about me) it would be quite the opposite effect. So there’s danger on both edges of that sword. :)

  15. Miriam says:

    You can also have google email you with mentions for your keywords – although if you have a lot of volume this could be not good. This sort of “Vanity” checking is not at all vanity. I think of it as self-preservation, and it has been very useful to me. It’s kind of like getting your credit report and making sure it’s right.

  16. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone packaged this up into a service that would give you an RSS feed for any given subject – not just vanity searching.

    I know I would definitely use it – I do a lot of this kind of thing (yes, including “vanity” searches) by hand and would love to just pop it into my RSS reader..

    OK, that’s my free million dollar idea for today. Whoever uses it and gets rich from it at least owes me a free subscription..

  17. This just happened to me a few days ago when someone posted a reply comment to a comment I left at another site. I was wrong about a fact and the person set me straight.

    He e-mailed me to let me know about his comment (which I appreciated) or I might not have ever known about it.

    Having a setup as you mentioned would have alerted me to this comment, which I’m happy I had a chance to reply to correct my mistake of fact.

    I am going to set this up after I leave your site, thanks.

  18. Steven Snell says:

    Very good and practical ideas. I’ll have to put this into practice. Thanks.

  19. Great idea to add a folder in google reader for this. Usually I just do some searching every now and then for this sort of stuff. Unfortunately there is not that much out there yet but i guess its growing gradually.

    My most effective “vanity” check is watching my referrals in google analytics. For me every now and then someone links to my site in a forum. When this happens I usually go and join the conversation and add the forum to my ever growing list of forums where I promote my site.

  20. “It’s amazing to see what happens when someone writes about you and then suddenly you ‘appear’ (as if out of nowhere) to make a comment on what they’ve written.”

    You did this to me one day, and it really made my day! I can see how this would generate loyal readers.

  21. WereBear says:

    I’ve done google searches to see how I’m coming up, but I didn’t think of starting a news alert type set up for it.

    But then, I’m new to getting RSS feeds, but the more I subscribe, the more addicting they are…

  22. Jaffer Maniar says:

    This is a great tip Darren !

    I am getting to it right away !

    Thanks !

  23. Maya Norton says:

    Keeping a vanity folder– although I don’t call it that :) — has helped me to become a better blogger.

    It makes blogging a conversation in which I can follow those in my niche, stay abreast of the topics most important to me, and keep updated on the blogging version of the word on the street.

    Also, my experience has been that the best relationships in the blogosphere come from those with whom you have spoken or commented with multiple times. If someone quotes you, gives you a trackback, or refers to something you say, it is a nice compliment and also gives you a starting point for a mutually beneficial relationship with that person.

    Maya Norton
    The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy

  24. Great post Darren!

    Cheers,
    Carlo

  25. Noel says:

    Anyone tried Allthat? (www.allth.at)? It seems to do the persistent search things that would be useful in keeping track of mentions on websites.

  26. Silky says:

    Although this is a great idea, one should also beware:

    There are few more crushing blows for a blogger when one sets up a vanity folder or similar only to find that no-one if talking about you!

    In fact, the only thing that is possibly worse on the ego than this is a Technorati Authority of zero,

  27. Prince John says:

    Narcissism kicks in
    But I think it is necessary for all bloggers, as long as they resolve to spend only 5 minutes a day at such a folder, especially for the new bloggers who find links from blogs or directories they didn’t know existed.

  28. Denzuko says:

    This is great, though it also applies to any kind of web presence from MySpace/Facebook/Livejourner, Twitter, Cafepress/Ebay, to your blog, wiki, and standard website.

    What it breaks down to is always know who’s viewing your site so you know your not an island out in the depths of cyberspace.

  29. Joanna Young says:

    Hi Darren

    I’m having trouble with technorati too (see Paolo’s comment above) – any idea what’s up with them at the moment?

    Joanna

  30. Kerri says:

    Technorati is great but am also having problems with it.

  31. blogsir says:

    I Have a Vanity Folder too.

    I have the problems with technorati too.

  32. Thank you, I just got all of this set up for the first time, and I am really looking forward to using it. I never even thought about tracking my own feeds / mention-ables this way :)

    I really appreciate the post and the clear instructions.

  33. Callum says:

    I think this post is missing a link, you have a url as text in the post (under the Trackbacks section). Otherwise, good post, useful to list the alert services.

  34. David Ward says:

    I’ve been putting this off for some time but finally decided to take your advice Darren, thank you!

  35. Jeff Finley says:

    Yeah great info. I set up a tab in my Netvibes to handle it.

  36. Sara Mariani says:

    I know I’m late to the party, but I just read this post after seeing it in Steven Snell’s Social Media article. In addition to being great advice for bloggers, it’s a useful practice for any company trying to manage its reputation online.

    I’ve set up Google alerts to track clients’ media hits before, but now I think I’ll ad their vanity folders to my Google Reader and recommend that each company does the same. Thanks for the tip!

  37. I’ve been doing this for quite some time to keep track of my posts.
    As a record producer and independent label owner it not only helps me keep track of where my music is played and what people think of it but also where my music is shared illegally.. I’ve found quite a few of my tracks this way and could contact rapidshare, megaupload and what else they’re all named to take the illegal links down.

  38. Dawn says:

    This is a very useful article. Thank you.

    In reply to Mark above

    Make comments moderated on your site.

    Then, you can delete or mark as spam those that simply steal your blog post in its entirety.

    Easy!

    //Darren –

    Great tip! However, if you find people stealing or plagiarizing your content what can you do about it? Recently, I have been getting some trackbacks and when I go to the page all the person has done is essentially copy and paste my post on their site…

  39. Ami says:

    I tend to use Google alerts and it keeps me busy enough. It realy is amazing the number of alerts that come through on a daily basis. Wouldn’t cal it my vanity folder. The complements and positives are great but it is the negative press that one actually creates these for. And of course scrapers

  40. Michael Hall says:

    you always give such great advise, i have used google alerts for a while, and just recently started using google reader for rss feeds, but i was mostly using them to track where my domain was mentioned and to track phrases that my ideal prospect would be posting usually in the form of ‘how to xxx’ or ‘how do i xxx’, as you suggested wherever persons are allowed to ask questions there is also usually a way to provide an answer.

    i just leave a well though out answer, and link back to my website which covers the subject in more details – great way to get a constant supply of free leads – i like to think of it as reverse blogging – posting content to other person’s sites to get their visitors to come to my site

    cheers