If you have a business name, a product name or a name for yourself, you should check out a powerful, free tool: Google Alerts. You may have searched your name and/or the name of your business on Google. Chances are you don’t comb through Google Search results daily to find important mentions of you or your business on the Internet. With Google Alerts, you can be notified when your search terms appear on the Internet.
Google Alerts is a free service from Google that will send you email notifications when a search term is mentioned on the Internet. Google Alerts allows you to refine both the search terms and how often you are alerted about your terms. You can also choose to be alerted to every mention or just the most important mentions.
How It Works
Go to google.com/alerts and enter your search term in the Search query field. You can choose words, names, numbers, websites, keywords, etc. You can use single words, multiple words or phrases.
If you want to search a string of words, put quotes around the words to search them in order. If you don’t use quotation marks, Google will search for mentions of all of the words in an article. For example, setting an alert for ["Wonder of Tech"] will give you alerts for mentions of this blog. If you don’t use quotes around [Wonder of Tech], you will receive alerts from any articles mentioning both “wonder” and “tech”, giving you plenty of alerts about the Wonder Boys of Arkansas Tech.
You can also eliminate search terms by putting a minus sign before a search term you want to exclude. In the example above, you could avoid mentions of the Wonder Boys of Arkansas by searching [Wonder of Tech Arkansas].
More information on using search terms can be found on this Google page.
Under “Result type” you can specify which sources Google Alerts searches:
Unless you have a reason to eliminate certain sources, it’s best to start with “Everything” to make sure you don’t miss any alerts.
Next choose how often you want Google to notify you about an alert. Your choices are: as it happens, once a day, once a week. If you choose the first option, you could flood your inbox with Google Alerts if you are searching popular terms. Try starting with the once a day option to see if that frequency is manageable.
You can choose from the Best Results, allowing Google to filter mentions it deems unimportant, or Everything, which will give you many more results.
Finally, choose where to send the alerts. You can enter an email address (it doesn’t have to be a Gmail address) or, if you’re signed into your Google account, you can send the alerts to an RSS reader.
Google shows you a preview of your results when you’ve entered your information, giving you an idea of what to expect from your alerts.
You can set up to 1,000 alerts, but make sure you don’t overload your inbox with alerts. Manage your alerts, edit search terms, frequency of notices and information sources from the Google Alerts page or from your Manage My Alerts page on your Google account.
Ways You Can Use Google Alerts
You can use Google Alerts in many ways, such as searching for your name, your business, your website, your products, your competitors, and industry trends.
Keep an eye on trends in your industry by setting up Google Alerts for keywords relevant to your business. Your email could soon turn into a personal newsletter, giving you timely updates about important information, keeping you ahead of the curve.
Get the scoop on your competition. Set up alerts for your competitors’ businesses and products to find out what people are saying about them, both good and bad.
Set up a Google Alert for articles you’ve written. If you want to see where you’ve been cited or plagiarized, set up a Google Alert for a sentence or two of an article you have written. Google will notify you if someone else is using your writing so you can make sure you’ve been given proper credit.
If you’re embarking on a job hunt, Google Alerts can identify recently posted positions in your field. Use keywords to identify jobs that would be a good fit and have Google keep you updated automatically.
Set up Google Alerts for stock symbols to keep track of important news about your investments.
Watch for identity theft by setting a Google Alert for your name, address and telephone number. Some sites recommend setting a Google Alert for other identifying information, such as your date of birth, email address, driver’s license number, license plate number and social security number. Be careful though as Google sends these alerts to your email inbox so you must have a very secure email to make sure you’re not providing hackers with this personal information.
Enter the web address/url of your company’s website to monitor links and mentions of your website. Add [link:yourwebsitename.com] in the Search query field.
If you’re launching a new marketing campaign, use Google Alerts to see where your product is being mentioned on the web and find out whether your campaign is creating buzz.
If you want to be alerted when tickets go on sale for an upcoming event, set up a Google Alert for the name of the event and [tickets] to make sure you find out when to buy them.
How It Doesn’t Work
Google Alerts isn’t effective if you have a common name, such as John Jones, or the name of a famous person. If your name is Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift and you’re not a teen sensation, Google Alerts will not work well for you. Similarly, if you’re searching a term in the news a lot, such as [US Presidential Election], you may be overwhelmed by results, even if you choose “Only the best results.”
The good news is that Google Alerts is free and easy to edit. If you find that your search term is bringing too many results, or not enough results, you can refine your options to make sure that you’re getting the information you need.
Whether you want to keep up with industry news, monitor your name or Keep Up with Kim Kardashian, use Google Alerts as your powerful, free tool.
Have you used Google Alerts? What do you use as your search terms? Has Google Alerts ever notified you of an important mention on the Internet? Let us know in the Comments section below!