How To Get More From Google Alerts

As a small business owner, I prefer simple tools. I like having one tool that I can push to the limits over a slew of them that I have to manage. It makes my life a little easier and m processes more streamlined. Which is why I’m a huge fan of using Google Alerts.

You’re probably already very familiar with Google Alerts. Google lets you set up as many Alerts as you’d like on as many different topics as you’d like. You tell them what to track, what kinds of content to track (News, Blogs, Video, Groups, or Comprehensive ), how often you want it and they’ll create you a list every day and send it to you via email or RSS. Google Alerts have always been a super easy way to track brand mentions and listen in to conversations, but that’s not all they can be used for. I thought I’d break down a few of my favorite ways to use Google Alerts and see if maybe some of them could help you as well.

Here are six ways I use Google Alerts.

Track Keywords

This is how most of us start out using Google Alerts. By creating Alerts based around your most important keywords you’re able to find new information about topics you’ve told Google you’re interested in. Doing this can help give you food for blog entries, guest articles, newsletters and help you stay better informed overall. Keeping on top of what’s happening in your industry will help you make better decisions in your business and alert you to new products or strategies that can help you do things smarter. Using Google Alerts to track relevant information is great.

The problem with tracking broad keywords is that Google often finds information that’s not as relevant as you’d like. To help cure this a bit, you can use advanced search operators to help you filter out bad results. For example, last week if you were a florist interested in what flowers were hot for Valentine’s Day, you could have set up an alert for [Valentine’s Day + flowers]. This would make sure that you only received flower-themed Valentine’s Day articles, instead of everything being published about the holiday. In the same way, [Valentine’s Day -flowers] would omit any mention of Valentine’s Day where the term [flowers] was present, while [Valentine’s Day OR flowers] would show mentions where at least one term was included. It’s all about making your results more relevant.

Track Yourself

An obvious offshoot of tracking broad keywords is to use Google Alerts to also track your brand name, the names of all of your employees, the name of your blog, your domain name, any product names, etc. Anything that is associated with your company and is unique enough that it can be tracked, should be tracked. Being able to quickly spot conversations taking place about you on the Web allows you to become part of them. Whether the mention is someone giving you props, asking a question about your product, or even someone taking shots at your brand, knowing about it means you can respond. In the days where small miscommunications can become big online reputation management nightmares, the ‘knowing’ part has become increasingly more important.

Track Competitors

A few months ago I wrote an article offering up 11 Competitive Intelligence Tools for SMBs. The first tool I mentioned on that list was Google Alerts. Use Google Alerts to track mentions of your competitors, their products, and anything else you know about. The same way you’re tracking your own mentions, you should be tracking those of your competitors. It’s just good business. 😉

Track New Links

As a small business owner, it’s really important to pay attention to the links coming into your site. Sure, you want to find the conversations and the people talking about you, but links are important for lots of other reasons. They may help you identify new partnerships, new sites in your industry, places to guest post or promote content, or even the pages on your site that most connect with users. And of course, if you’re tracking links to your site, do I even need to tell you to track links to competitors’ sites as well? If people are linking to them, then there’s a good chance they may be up linking to you, as well. Find ways to duplicate their success.

Find Content Stealers

Another way I use Google Alerts is as a low maintenance way to find content stealers. I used to work for a company that had its entire Web site stolen on a daily basis. Someone would come, copy the whole thing, and then slap it on a new domain and change the contact information. Now as a blogger, I have folks who, sometimes well-intentioned, will take complete blog posts and repost them on their own blog. And then, of course, we all know about scrappers who will take whatever they can get in order to throw ads on it. If you know that you have a piece of content that gets stolen often or there’s a flagship piece on your site you really want to protect, take a unique selection of that post and create an Alert for it. If anyone posts it on their site, you’ll be notified and can go about getting them to remove it.

Find Customers

Another interesting way to use Google Alerts is to get Google to track down potential customers for you. If you run a local bakery, set up a Google Alert for the phrase “who sells a, Yahoo Answers, Flickr Groups, Google Groups, and other question/answer-types sites. If people are out on the Web talking about a need that your business fills, Google can help you find it.

Are you using Google Alerts in any cool or exciting ways?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

31 Reactions
  1. Most people outside of internet marketing will be ahead of the curve just by setting up some basic alerts and actually monitoring them regularly (don’t let it get like my reader with tons of unread stuff). Take the hint from Nike and Just Do It!

  2. Thank you for the great list. I think a lot of people forget to track their competitors? Got to love the vast number of good tools.

    A bit off topic: which of these social media tools is your favorite and why?

  3. check out…its google alerts in steroids….I am sure u will not regret..

  4. I’m not understanding how to use Google Alerts to “track new links” to your site. It’s a great idea, but just not sure how to do it.

    For those interested in setting up a listening station with Google Alerts where you can get all of the things you want to track all in one place read this:

  5. Lisa,

    I’m unclear on your Finding Customers point. You right:

    If you run a local bakery, set up a Google Alert for the phrase “who sells a, Yahoo Answers, Flickr Groups, Google Groups, and other question/answer-types sites.

    Exactly what is the Google Alert phrase you are suggesting? “who sells a”? or the whole sentence? Please clarify.


  6. I am also confused with your suggestion for finding clients using alerts.Exactly what are you saying for saying in terms of setting up the alert,for instance, in yahoo answers?

  7. I’ve been reading a lot of books on seo and Internet marketing an several have suggesting implementing Google Alerts into your marketing plan. This is definately a valuabe tool.

  8. I have been using Google Alerts to track online marketing jobs in Seattle & mentions of me on the socialspher, It works well for Jobs tracking, but it lacks when it comes to twitter & FB. For social media I recommend trackur. They just rolled out a free version of their paid service & it works well for me.

  9. Great post. I’ve used Google Alerts for simply tracking my brand name to see when my pages are indexed, or if anyone is talking about my business, but this has given me many more ideas for using Google Alerts.

  10. The Income From Home Network

    I read an e-book on Google Alerts yesterday. I just use it to alert me whenever someone asks a question.

  11. Hi,

    Is it possible to group Google Alerts? I mean I want to follow lots of things but I want to group them so that I can track and edit them easily.

  12. Hi,
    I have just read it.It is a great blog. Its also very informative.
    But I

  13. Great write-up. I have been using Google Alerts for quite some time, but this article gave me some very useful new tips.

  14. I prefer using Google adwords keyword tool for analyzing the keyword for a new site. There are many other tools that helps for the webmasters. I recommend Google analytic and Google webmaster tool. We get alert message like Malware, for site issues in google webmaster itself. If your site is also affected by the recent penguin update we can also get Google alert if we have a google webmaster account. There are many such tools which really helps people.

  15. I place small codes on pages as Reference Codes to represent the pages and track who uses the codes.

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