At times it seems that Google releases more new products and services than we can keep track of.
From Google Calendar and Google Video, to Google Base, Google Finance, and Google Trends, it can be overwhelming
just to remember what each one does. One of the oft overlooked hidden gems in Google’s enormous offering is Google Alerts.
Within minutes, one can be signed up for email alerts that can give them and their business a leg up on the competition.
Alerts can be used to spy on competitors, keep track of what people are saying about your business,
or follow an important news story.
How Does It Work
Google Alerts sends you an email each time a new page for your chosen term makes it in the top twenty results
on Google’s web search. You can also have the alert check Google News and/or Google Groups.
To sign up for a Google Alert, all that you need to do is visit the Google Alerts homepage
(http://www.google.com/alerts), enter the search term, type of alert (search Google News, Google Groups, or the web),
frequency of emails (daily, as it happens, or weekly), and your email address. You can set up alerts for as
many terms as you like using a Google Account. So why would you want an unlimited amount of alerts?
Because as a business owner, you have a lot to keep track of and very limited time to do it.
Spy on Your Competitors
Every business has a competitor. More likely, you have several direct competitors and several more
indirect competitors. While regularly checking out their websites is an important part of the process,
it doesn’t paint the whole picture. A competitor’s website is very much crafted to the image that they want
to portray to their customers. This is great if you want to know what their latest sale is or how much their
new product costs, but it isn’t likely to feature a negative review in last Sunday’s newspaper.
That’s where Google Alerts comes in. By simply setting up a News, Groups, and search alert for each of
your competitors, you will know what other people are saying about your competition – both the media and consumers,
both good and bad.
Keep Up To Date on Your Industry
Equally as important as what people are saying about your competition is what people are saying about your
industry in general. If there’s a negative PR swing against violent video games, and you just happen to run
a video game store, you will probably be affected. By receiving alerts on important key words related to your
industry, you can be on top of any sudden changes and react accordingly. By the time your competition realizes
what’s happening they will be scrambling to catch up to you.
Track Yourself and Your Business
It goes without saying, if it’s important to know what people are saying about your competitors and about
your industry, it would stand to reason that it’s important to know what people are saying about you.
I have Google Alerts on both my name and my businesses name. I know that they go hand in hand – if one is getting
slandered you better bet it will hurt the other. By receiving alerts, you can be on top of anything negative relating
to you or your business, and hopefully nip any problem in the bud before it grows too large. On the flip side,
there’s nothing better than receiving an alert where someone praises your business. Those are the types of things
that you want to make sure are on the PR page of your businesses website.
Get News Stories for Your Site or Blog
I own a site where I do weekly news updates about what’s going on in the industry. Some weeks, there are tons
of news items to choose from, other weeks it’s hard to find anything. In addition to the regular industry news
sites that I check to get information, I have Google Alerts set up for each of the key terms.
You’d be surprised how frequently a unique story from a local newspaper pops up in Google News. Many times these
stories haven’t been seen by my competitors and I am able to “break” the news to the online community.
This works well for blogs too – if you have a daily blog about being an entrepreneur, having an alert for
the word “entrepreneur” can fetch you several quality stories each day to help inspire fresh posts.
In this increasingly competitive business world, you need each and every leg up on your competition that
you can get. Used properly, Google Alerts can be an extremely efficient way to track what’s going on across the web.
The alternative would be to search each term every day for new updates. Who has time for that? Spending less time
researching enables you to spend more time on the things important to your business.