Google Alerts are a free Google tool launched over 14 years ago that are still being used to this day. Since their arrival, hundreds of similar tools – like Crowdfire and Feedly – have landed on the scene. So do Google Alerts deserve to hold such a special place in a social media marketer’s toolbox?
What are Google Alerts?
Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your keyword search terms. You can use Google Alerts to monitor your chosen keywords on the web.
Why should you use Google Alerts?
There are all sorts of ways to use Google Alerts. You can:
● Find content, such as articles and blog posts. Using your keywords, Google Alerts finds relevant content and sends it straight to your inbox. This can be to read, share or even gain inspiration from for your own writing.
● Keeping a tab on your industry and competitors. You can set your keywords to bring you results related to these saving you time.
● Monitoring news stories or events – set keywords related to subjects you are interested in and set your email alerts to ‘as it happens’ to have an automated feed of content as it happens.
● Keep an eye on what is being said about you or your business – set your name or business' name as keywords and Google will scour the web for results mentioning you.
What sort of things should you set up Google Alerts for?
Really, this is completely up to you and is dependent upon your business and industry and what you are trying to achieve. However here are a few recommendations:
● Your business name (and all variations) – this is to keep updated with what people are saying about your business and also if anybody links back to your website or blog posts on their social media or website.
● Industry specific topics – for example at By This River we could have alerts for marketing, public relations and video production.
● Your key clients – so that you can interact with them and keep up to speed on what they are doing.
● Your competitors – listen and learn from your business rivals.
How do you create Google Alerts?
1) Go to https://www.google.com/alerts
2) Sign in if you have a Gmail account – not to worry if you don’t, it isn’t necessary, as emails can be sent to any address.
3) Type in the search box what you would like to create an alert about, or choose from the alert suggestions below. For example, if you run a travel agency you may want to use keywords such as airports or popular holiday destinations.
4) Enter the email address you would like your alert to be delivered to – if you signed in with a Gmail account then Google will deliver your alerts here.
5) Click on the drop down box that says ‘show options’ to customize how often you would like to receive alerts, the sources you would like them to come from, language, region and how many articles you would like.
6) Create alert!
Here's a step by step video of how to set up a Google Alert and what an alert looks like when it arrives in your inbox:
The great thing about Google Alerts is that they are free to use – so can be a great cost effective solution if you are on a tight budget. I definitely think that Google Alerts can be useful for finding content, however I wouldn’t rely on just Google Alerts alone to curate content for me. I think using a mixture of software is the best idea – but what do others think? We asked other social media practitioners about Google Alerts to see what they thought and if they are useful or not in their organisation. They had mixed views.
The Socii Project use alerts to keep a tab on the companies they represent and the industry news surrounding those companies. Although they are useful, The Socii Project think that other tools such as SocialPilot, are much more powerful for curating content.
We do use them! For instance, we represent a horror movie company...so we set up alerts not just for their name, but also for "horror movies", "horror news", stuff like that. I don't think it's as useful as a more powerful curated content platform, but it is helpful.— The Socii Project (@TheSociiProject) December 1, 2017
We used BuzzSumo for a hot second, but honestly, it was too expensive. We recently moved from SocialBee to SocialPilot and are big fans. They have a great curated content search option that really pulls up great stuff.— The Socii Project (@TheSociiProject) December 1, 2017
O yea...but Google alerts is free. So just set up some alerts regarding the brand specifically and then check the sentiment of articles or any press posts regarding the brand. It's more of a emergency blanket to make sure you know what's going on with the company you are repping— The Socii Project (@TheSociiProject) December 1, 2017
Freelance Account manager Warwick Brown isn’t too keen on Google Alerts because he feels he experiences a lot of extra noise. He suggests using Feedly and the Twitter’s lists feature to find content.
Definitely. Plus there's no algorithms with RSS readers. They're way more agnostic - so feel like I get great and more relevant content faster (once I've set things up of course)— Warwick Brown (@warwickabrown) December 4, 2017
Unlike Warwick, JT White is a big fan of Google Alerts! Although setting them up can be time-consuming and fiddly, it’s worth it for following subjects and events you’re interested in.
I love google alerts! I do use them often, but curating them was not the easiest. I use them to follow topics/companies/practices I am interested in ie Blockchain— JT White (@Receptiv_JT) December 1, 2017
Thank you to everybody who responded to us, it was great chatting to you!
So, as you can see from some of these tweets, there are many different options available for you if you want to find content from various sources easily. Here are a few examples:
● Google Alerts
● Buffer (Content Inbox)
● Twitter lists
So what’s your opinion? Are Google Alerts useful or useless? Are they useful in some contexts, or purely just worth setting up because they are free? Comment your thoughts below or tweet us @ByThisRiverUK to carry on the conversation.
About the author: Katie Clarke
Katie Clarke joins us fresh from college as a digital marketing apprentice.