Google is more than just a search engine. It offers a slew of other services and tools, and if you're only using it for searching online, you're missing out. In fact, Google provides just about everything you need to successfully run a business or hunt for a new job.
This is the first in a series of article that will introduce some of Google's lesser known offerings. There's more than google.com and Gmail.
With that in mind, allow me to introduce you to Google Alerts. This simple, free tool can help your business or job hunt in a myriad of ways. It's like having a virtual assistant scouring the internet for you. All day. Every day.
Hello! My Name is Google Alerts
At its most basic, Google Alerts is a service that will send you email updates about new online content for search terms and keywords that you specify. Anytime that someone publishes or uploads something containing those ideas, you'll know about it. Whether you're sitting at your desk, playing with your kids, riding the bus, or relaxing on a beach, you'll know.
Google Alerts can help with your marketing. It can assist you with building your reputation. It can facilitate making connections and networking. All for free!
The Skinny on Getting Started
Google Alerts is available at www.google.com/alerts. It's free to sign up and use, but you will need a Gmail account if you don't already have one.
Using your Gmail credentials, you sign in and create alerts.
The 4-1-1 on Setting Up Alerts
Once you're signed in, the Alerts homepage is ridiculously easy and straightforward.
You begin by entering your terms in the SEARCH QUERY field. What is it that you want alerts for? Broad keywords will return more results, but because you can set up multiple alerts, it's a good idea to experiment with broad vs. specific terms and compare results. That way, you'll be sure to miss nothing.
Below that field is the RESULT TYPE drop-down menu. You can select either Everything, News, Blogs, Video, Discussions, or Books. Choose whichever one applies to your requirements.
Next up is HOW OFTEN. The drop-down menu offers either As-it-happens (immediately), once a day, or once a week.
Up next is HOW MANY, as in how many results do you want. You have two options here – only the best results (recommended) or all results.
Finally, the last entry field asks for YOUR EMAIL. What address do you want your alerts sent to? Once you've filled in the search query and email, and made your drop-down menu selections, you simply click on the CREATE ALERT button at the bottom. Presto! You've created your first (of many) alerts. You are “limited” to 1000 alerts per account, but that should be way more than enough.
You'll notice a MANAGE YOUR ALERTS button. Once you have at least one alert created, you can use that link to check, edit, and erase existing alerts.
So, What Can I Use Alerts For?
In short, plenty. Whether you're looking for a job, or already working (for yourself or someone else), Google Alerts has plenty to offer.
Use It To Find Content and Ideas
Maybe you want to stay up-to-date on your industry. Maybe you want to find ideas to write about on your business blog. Either way, Alerts can, well, alert you every time someone is talking about your industry online. You'll never not know the latest news or trends again. Nothing will get past you and your virtual assistant. Be the person that always knows.
Use It To Help Generate Traffic
Finding useful content to post or write about on your business blog is very important, as we've discussed before. Google Alerts can help with that.
Additionally, you can create an alert connected to a specific website by including “site:example.com” (minus the quotation marks) after your search term. Using this feature will allow you to know the second something new is published on an industry-leading blog, and you can immediately read it, and comment on it (which links back to your website/blog). This gets your name out there, and provides the opportunity for others to see your name and website, and possibly to check it out.
Use It To Build Relationships
Likewise, you can use the “link:yourwebsite.com” command (minus the quotation marks) as a separate search query. With it, you'll be notified whenever someone links to your site, for any reason. Whenever you receive an alert regarding a new link, you should reach out and introduce yourself to that webmaster or blogger. Make a connection. Visit their site. Comment on posts.
The online world is very interconnected. Relationships are key, and as in the “real world”, you never know when a connection you make may prove tremendously useful. Not to mention the SEO (search engine optimization) boost that links provide your website.
Use It To Respond Quickly to Job Postings and Projects
If you're actively looking for a new or different job, Alerts can deliver possibilities to your digital doorway. You could scour the want ads and job boards yourself, or you could just set up a few specific alerts and wait for them to come to you. Use specific terms for exactly what position you want, such as “freelance copywriter” or “nighttime fast food manager”. You can even include a city or country name to make the alert geographically focused as well.
Get notified about new projects, gigs, and jobs. In the world of job hunting, the sooner you respond, the better your odds. Google Alerts can make you one of the first to see, and therefore apply, for virtually any job or position. New job. Internal openings. Whatever.
Use It To Monitor Your Personal Brand or Company
Google Alerts can let you know each and every time someone mentions you or your business online. You can effectively monitor what others are saying about you, giving you the chance to respond to negative feedback and complaints quickly (and that's excellent for your customer service reputation), and thank those leaving positive feedback.
Google Alerts can help you stay on top of your industry, and what others are saying about you. It can help you find jobs and promotions. It can generate content and ideas.