Google Alerts is one of the most versatile online tools. It allows you to listen to conversations you may not be aware of. Conversations that involve you or your brand (and maybe even your competitors). As you manage your online presence, it’s important to listen to what people are saying and how they are saying it. You want to know if other sites are linking to you, quoting you, supporting you, or complaining about you. You want to know what your competition is up to and how they are faring. Enter Google Alerts, the free online tool that lets you track keywords and phrases effortlessly so you never miss another important conversation.
What is Google Alerts?
In Get Started with Google Alerts, Rebecca Leaman explains what Google Alerts is: “You can think of Google Alerts as a customized Google Search — on-going — that delivers the search results to you automatically. You can set up any number of Alerts (up to 1000 per email address) to help you monitor online activity for the search terms of your choice.”
How can I use Google Alerts?
As I mentioned earlier, you can use Google Alerts to keep tabs on who’s mentioning you, your product/service, or website. You can also use it as a sort of writing prompt. If you set up alerts for specific keyword phrases related to your niche, you’ll see results from others and can get a feel for what’s being talked about. You can build on those ideas or maybe see what’s missing and fill in that gap with your own article.
How do I set up Google Alerts?
Setting up Google Alerts is a simple process — you don’t even have to have a Gmail account to use Google Alerts.
- Go to http://www.google.com/alerts/ where you’ll see this page:
- Sign in if you have a Gmail account. If you don’t have a Gmail account, you can just start filling out the Google Alert form.
- Enter the search terms you want the Google Alert to track, separated by commas. You can edit this later if you find you have too many or too few terms. If you’re not sure what to track, start with your name and your blog’s name. You may also want to include keyword phrases related to your brand and your niche.
- Choose the Type of results you want Google Alerts to find and share with you.You can choose from the following:
— Everything (so you can track it all)
- Choose how often you’d like to receive your Google Alerts. I like to receive mine once a day or even once a week simply because I’m trying to cut down on the time I spend checking e-mail. However, if you’re tracking a timely project or news story, you may want to choose as-it-happens. Likewise, if you’re just keeping tabs on something that mildly interests you, but isn’t critical, you can choose once a week.
- Choose how many results you want to get. You can receive “only the best results” or “everything” depending on your needs.
- Choose where you’d like the Google Alerts delivered. If you have a Gmail account, you can receive them via gmail. If you’d rather, you can receive them via RSS or another e-mail account.
- Click the Create Alert button and finish.
That’s it. Easy and free. Honestly, does it get better than that?
A version of this article is cross-posted at BlogHer.com.