If you’re trying to grow your business, you’re probably on the lookout for internet trends. Who’s talking about your business? Your products? Your competition? That’s where Google Alerts comes into play.
Here’s how to use Google Alerts for your business. That way, you can stay on top of things, even as the internet continues to pump out at least 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day.
What are Google Alerts?
In a nutshell, Google Alerts is a stellar tool that alerts you to particular mentions across the web.
You can set these mentions yourself by typing in the terms, names or phrases that you want to keep track of.
It’s actually really easy and can make a big difference in your market analysis.
Google uses your email to alert you of these mentions.
The First Step: Align Google Alerts with Your Goals
The last thing you need is an inbox full of mumbo jumbo that you’re just going to delete or unsubscribe to.
Take it from me. Your Google Alerts should be meaningful and help you reach your business goals.
Before typing anything in that box, ask yourself some questions:
- What are my business goals?
- How can Google Alerts help me reach these goals?
- What kind of mentions should I set in order to achieve them?
If your goal is to beat the local competition, perhaps you’ll want to mark mentions of their name. This way, you can stay on top of their moves and get ahead.
If you’re hoping to build your personal brand, a mention of your own name may do. Or if you want to maintain brand reputation, mentions will keep you on the ball. Your product, brand name, or studies could also be helpful—depending on your goal.
Here’s How to Set Up Google Alerts
Whatever goal you’re after, knowing how to use Google Alerts for your business comes down to setting it up.
- Go to the Google Alerts URL: google.com/alerts
- Type in the term you want to get alerts for in the search box.
- Click the drop-down menu under “Show Options”.
- Now, you can choose your settings. Select how often you want alerts (as-it-happens, at most once a day or at most once a week).
- Choose your sources (news, blogs, web, video, books, discussion, finance or automatic).
- Choose your language (including the option of any language) and region (including the option of any region).
- Pick between all results or only the best results.
- Confirm your email delivery address and click “Create Alert”.
You may be thinking, phew, that was easy. That’s because it truly is simple.
Different Ways to Use Google Alert
It’s amazing how one simple tool can make such a big difference in companies of every shape and size.
Whatever your impetus, there are a variety of ways to use it. Take these as a starting line, and get creative. When all is said and done, I’d love to see what ideas come out of entrepreneurial minds.
1. Use Google Alerts to track your competition’s next move.
Knowing where your competition stands is key in getting ahead. That doesn’t have to be malicious, either. You’re simply staying in the loop of their conversation.
Look up competitor names and see who’s publishing their guest posts or linking to their site. You may be able to get an in here, too. You can also see what kind of content their posting and develop unique (perhaps better) ideas for your own web presence.
2. Keep tabs on unlinked mentions.
Got a mention but not a link? This is your way to track it. You can use Google Alerts to spot these mentions. Then, you can contact the site and respectively ask them to link to you.
While you’re at it, provide them with something useful. I’m talking about updated images, statistics or even infographics from your own studies. Give them something and they just might do you a favor in return.
3. Squash spam before it ever has a chance.
More specifically, there’s a type of spam called link injection spam. It’s actually quite common. Hackers will inject bad links into your own website’s site code to improve their own SEO. And if you’re wondering, it’s anything but white hat.
Make use of spam trigger words in your Google Alerts (some of these might be “insurance” or “urgent”, just to name a couple). Then, use the search operator “site:” to keep it within your website.
4. Monitor topics to find guest posting opportunities.
Find sites that look like they’d be great outlets for guest posting. If a platform publishes content surrounding a topic you just so happen to be an expert on, it only makes sense to reach out and develop a relationship.
Guest posting is one of the best ways to develop a robust backlink profile, so this is a nifty tactic regardless of which industry you operate in.
5. Where are your competitors listing their NAP?
You don’t have to use Google Alerts just to track your competitors’ blog posts. You can also use it to see if they’ve found any new sites to list their NAP (aka their name, address and phone number).
This part of the lesson on how to use Google Alerts for your business works best with local storefronts and brick-and-mortar facilities.
6. Leave no question unanswered.
Has someone asked a question on a web forum or comment section about a topic you know all about? Good thing you have Google Alerts set up for that topic.
Now, you can go into the question and respond authoritatively. Be sure your name and business affiliation is available (so basically, don’t answer anonymously or else you’re losing out on a major opportunity).
7. Use Google Alerts to de-index unwanted pages.
Sometimes, Google indexes pages we don’t want it to.
Good news is, you can easily block a page from being crawled. But in order to do that, you need to know the page is on a SERP to begin with.
If this is happening to you, find the commonality in the URLs that are being unfavorably indexed. Include the phrases in your term search within quotations. Then, you can know which pages to add a “no follow” tag to.
8. Report illegal sources for your downloadable products.
If you offer a digital product that requires downloading, you may encounter people trying to rip it off. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.
This works whether it’s a webinar, e-book or white paper. You can track your products using Google alerts and report the content as soon as you’re able.
9. Monitor keywords.
At its core, knowing how to use Google Alerts means monitoring keywords. Track your top, most specific keywords here. One thing: just be sure to change them up frequently.
No, it’s not the most efficient way of doing keyword research—but a list of primary keywords from a range of topics in your sub-industry will go a long way.
10. View mentions of your company’s executives via Google Alerts.
Anyone talking about the folks in the office? Keep track of published interviews, quotes (both direct and indirect) and general mentions.
See where your executives are holding space and delivering thought leadership on behalf of the company. Plus, see where there’s a gap that needs to be filled.
Tips on How to Use Google Alerts Most Effectively
Set numerous alerts to come in weekly. Make the most of the plentiful alerts you can set, but don’t set each one to come in as it happens. That would just bombard your inbox. Depending on how niche your terms are, it could be really annoying. Set the alerts to come in weekly at most and set aside some time to tend to the mentions each week. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a headache.
Use long-tail terms for a more precise alert. Similar to long-tail keywords, long-tail alerts can help you really hone in on the content you’re seeking.
Combine terms with filters. When you’re figuring out how to use Google Alerts, you’ll learn quickly that the filters aren’t much. But you can filter out certain types of content. Combine these with specific terms and you’ll be mega precise.
Dedicate a team member to monitoring alerts. Whether it’s you or someone else, give this quick duty a home.
Use similar search operators to ones you’d use in a Google search. That means using quotes for exact phrases, “OR” and “+”, site specifications and more. Try narrowing your search using filters.
Potential Drawbacks of Google Alerts
The clearest con for Google Alerts is this:
Knowing how to use Google Alerts doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll catch every single mention across the web. In fact, Google often misses hundreds or thousands of mentions for larger brands.
If you’re part of an SMB that’s still on the up and up, this likely won’t be a problem for you. But for enterprise-level businesses, you may be missing out on some opportunities because of missed mentions from Google Alerts.
Because of Google’s undoubtedly expansive data crawling capabilities, they probably keep a lot of these missing mentions on the DL for some reason or another. If you’re really bent on keeping tabs of all mentions, you might want to know how to use Google Alerts in tandem with another mention-tracking service.
Another downside is that Google Alerts only crawls web pages, not social media. Don’t use this tool as a replacement for social monitoring. You ought to maintain your presence across platforms and analyze the conversion on each one.
Learn how to use Google Alerts as an add-on to your social media monitoring—not a replacement for it.
Many SEO tools allow you to perform bulk uploads of keywords and other terms. Unfortunately, the tool doesn’t allow you to import Excel spreadsheets and upload a bulk size of terms at once. (Google, if you’re listening, that would be a really cool feature!) You have to do it manually, so make sure they’re all on the same schedule.
How to Combine Google Alerts with Other Tools
Google Alerts doesn’t provide users with reports or analytics. This is why people often choose to combine it with other tools that do these tasks.
There are a ton of software systems out there, and they all tout their greatness. Some popular monitoring tool options include:
- Ahrefs Alerts: You can get a seven-day trial for $7. After that, it could cost anywhere from $99–$999 per month, depending on the size of your business. Not everyone can or wants to spend that, but it’s an option.
- Awario: This is a self-proclaimed “social listening tool” that’s pretty robust. The starter package is $29 per month.
- Mention: This is, as some folks have called it, the “Google Alerts on steroids” monitoring tool. Pricing ranges from $25–$450+ per month.
- Talkwater Alerts: This one’s free! Plus, it combines web and social, unlike Google Alerts.
Is Google Alerts free?
You betcha. Google Alerts doesn’t cost a dime for businesses, so it’s a smart foray into the mention-tracking world. You can always supplement it with paid software if you’re looking for a more robust system.
How many alerts can you set?
You can set up to 1,000 alerts through your Gmail account. This is great because it allows you to get really thorough. You may not have a regular alert for your most specific terms, but it’ll be good to know when something comes through the waves.
Do you need a Gmail account to use Google alerts?
Nope! You can figure out how to use Google Alerts for your business without having to open up a Gmail account. Just link your personal or work email address with a Google account, no Gmail required. Check out this explanation page from Google for more information.
Can you delete alerts?
Yes! If you want to trim your list of alerts, visit the Google Alerts URL, click the term you want to delete, then delete it. Alternatively, you can click “Unsubscribe” in your alerts email and you’ll be redirected to a page that lets you adjust your terms.