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Google Alerts... Deploy Your Own Internet Spies

By: Brody Dorland at Allure New Media, LLC

Submitted on Thu, May 8th, 2008 12:55 pm

While this free Google tool is by no means new (launched in 2004), Im constantly surprised by how many people not only dont use it, but have never even heard of it. Lets take a closer look at this wonderful tool and examine how it can save you time, spark ideas and help you stay ahead of the curve (and your competition)

By definition, Google Alerts are simply e-mail notifications that list the latest and most relevant website pages, blog posts and videos that have been found by Googles search engine spiders related to a particular search term or topic. Note that I included most relevant. This is important because if Google sent you EVERYTHING they find on a particular topic, this list could get out of hand real quick. They actually only send you the most relevant website pages, blog posts or videos that make it into the coveted top 20 search results. You can also specify the frequency in which you want to receive these e-mails (one a day, once a week or once a month).

So Why Should I Use Google Alerts?
Lets get an example started so you can wrap your brains around the benefits. Say youre a consultant specializing in training clients in the art of underwater basket weaving. As a specialist in this niche field, you obviously want to stay on top of the latest underwater basket weaving techniques, industry happenings and competitors that may be offering new services. And dont forget that you will want to find out if your own internet marketing efforts are paying off in the form of other websites and blogs linking to you or using your name or company as an expert reference. All this is valuable information, but just imagine how many hours you\'d have to spend surfing the web to find it all?

Lets Get an Alert Started...Step By Step:

1. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts.
2. In the Create a Google Alert box on the right, insert your keyword in quotes, i.e. underwater basket weaving training. Using quotes will help ensure relevant results.
3. Select the Type of alert (news, web, blog, video, groups or comprehensive (all)).
4. Select your desired e-mail frequency.
5. Enter your e-mail address and youre done!
6. And repeatEnter your next keyword phrase, i.e. your company name, your name, a competitive company name, etc.

If you select daily notifications under the category of web, tomorrow you will start receiving the latest website pages that are being indexed by Google for your specific keywords/phrases. If you input very specific, niche terms, you may not get much on a normal basis. But if your keyword/phrase is more generic, you may find that you are getting too much and you need to refine your alert keywords.

Valuable Intel
After setting up a few alerts, here are some ways my small business clients have used the information to monitor their industry and improve their overall marketing efforts.

1. Keep Tabs On Your Own Internet Presence Besides the obvious egocentric notion of this, Google Alerts are very helpful for monitoring your online reputation, backlinks (other websites that link to you) and search engine optimization efforts. For example, as you develop new content for your website, sign up for a new social networking website, or another website references an underwater basket weaving article on your website, all this content will eventually be indexed by Google. Alerts will notify you the day that it happens.

2. Keep Tabs On Your Industry Whether you want the latest news and announcements related to your industry products/services, or youre looking for opportunities that might spark new business, Google Alerts does the work for you.

3. Keep Tabs On Your Competitors Spying on your competitors has never been easier. Creating alerts with their company name, products or services is a great way to find out what theyve been up to. You can also find out in which forums, blogs or industry websites they are participating.

4. Get New Content Ideas Do you provide industry news on your website or blog? Google Alerts brings you timely news and industry information that might just be the creative spark that you needed to write your next article.

5. Save Time Surfing As Ive already mentioned, Google Alerts e-mail notification functionality brings the most relevant content right to your inbox. No more long hours surfing the web looking for the latest happenings.

Stay Ahead of the Curve
As Ferris Bueller always said, the world moves pretty fast... Keeping up with your daily marketing and sales activities is hard enough, let alone trying to stay abreast of everything that is happening around you. Google Alerts is a wonderful tool that does a lot of the legwork for you and may just provide a piece of intel that lands you a big sale.

About the Author

Brody Dorland
Allure New Media, LLC
Since graduating from Kansas State University with a BA in Public Relations and a Minor in Marketing, Brody has worked on both the marketing-agency side and the corporate side creating integrated marketing programs for companies in a variety of industries (financial services, consulting, commercial real estate, water/wastewater, building products, automotive, food and information technology). As the president and creative director of Something Creative, Inc., Brody provides small and mid-sized businesses with high-quality, creative marketing services at very competitive rates. Something Creative's services include strategic planning, branding, graphic and web design, advertising campaign development, search engine optimization, internet marketing and copywriting.

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