How to set up Google Alerts and monitor the web for free!
Who doesn’t know Google Alerts? From using it in school in order to finish assignments to following your favorite topics online today - it’s a tool that all of us have used at some point or the other. But what you may not know is that Google Alerts can be used for online reputation management.
Yes, that’s right, it can help you keep track of what’s being said about your brand online - for free! But, before we go into that, let’s take a step back and start with:
What is Google Alerts?
Google Alerts is a free tool that monitors any topic/keyword across the internet and brings you email notifications for these topics straight to your inbox. Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it already, it’s a free tool and it looks something like this:
It’s an intuitive tool as you can guess. All you have to do in order to get started is enter the keyword/brand you’d like to monitor in the search bar on top. The current alert I have set up is for Talkwalker Alerts and it appears in the “My alerts” section.
How to set up Google Alerts
Setting up and using Google Alerts is easy as pie. Over the years Google has developed custom options to help you fine tune your alerts. You can choose how frequently you receive your alerts, where you get them from - e.g. blogs, videos, books, etc. - the language and country of your results, quality of results, and whether you want to receive them via email or RSS feed.
Just a quick note here about the importance of defining your alerts: make sure you think long and hard about the keyword that you enter. For example, if you want to follow “Apple”, simply setting up an alert for the term “Apple” would bring a lot of noise in the results.
After you’ve chosen the settings for your alert, all you need to do is click on the “create Alert” button and you’re all set!
Not sure about the results you’ll get? Google Alerts has you covered - you have the option to preview the results while setting up your alert so you already have an idea of what to expect in your inbox. Pretty neat, eh?
This means that you can tweak the settings of your alert set-up if the result preview is not exactly what you’re looking for.
So next time someone asks you how to set up Google Alerts, you can do a tutorial for them.
Note: It’s important to be signed in to your Google account while creating an alert since it is synced with your Google account. Unfortunately, at this time Google does not support receiving alerts to an email address that is different from your Google account.
How to use Google Alerts like a pro
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to move on to how you can make the most of Google Alerts.
- Set up specific queries: Just entering your brand name is great if you’re getting started, but if you’re on the lookout for how well your latest campaign has done - this is probably not the best move. Get specific. Here’s an example. Suppose I want to monitor “Talkwalker”, I won’t just set up an alert for my brand name. I’ll go into a bit more detail. For instance, I’d use a specific hashtag for a particular campaign or product and set up a different alert for this. I have an active alert for the query #TalkwalkerAlerts since our free product allows social sharing and the default message for this contains the hashtag.
Pro tip: While you’re at it, make sure you set up similar alerts for your competitors.
- Set up broad(er) queries: I know it sounds like a complete contradiction to my previous hack, but it’s always useful to set up queries/alerts to monitor your industry. For example, our industry is marketing. But obviously, setting up a query for marketing would bring us a huge amount of noise. What I generally like to do is set up an alert for “brand monitoring” + tools or “social media monitoring” + tools. This way I receive fewer but more relevant results that are actionable.
- Don’t forget the filters: Google Alerts offers a few filters and while they are limited in their ability to refine your search, they can be really useful in specific instances. Let’s say you’re looking for marketing or social media meet-ups in a particular city or region. You can set up an alert for (marketing OR social media) meetups and choose to see results only from your country. Granted, most meetups are spoken about on social media, which is a feature that Google Alerts doesn’t currently support, but you can always use it to find jobs or guest blogging opportunities (using “blogs” as a source for your results).
Pro tip: If you’re monitoring a particularly important campaign and have set up your alerts to receive Google email notifications as they happen, you can choose to receive your alerts via RSS feed. This is going to ensure that your inbox is not overcrowded and that you’re still on track with your alerts.
How to turn off Google Alerts
Let’s say you’re just about done with a marketing campaign and for whatever reason, want to stop tracking your hashtag(s). So, you’re probably looking to turn off your Google Alerts. This can be done quite easily.
All you have to do is sign in to your Google Alerts account and hit the delete icon next to the alerts that you no longer need - as shown in the image below.
If you want to unsubscribe from Google Alerts altogether, you just have to hit the unsubscribe button in the emails that you receive from Google Alerts - as shown below.
However, it’s probably not a good idea to unsubscribe entirely. If nothing else, it’s really useful to set up an alert for yourself to see what people are saying about you online. But unfortunately most of the conversation around you would be on social media and Google Alerts doesn’t offer the ability to monitor that.
What you’re missing with Google Alerts
We’ve established that Google Alerts is a super useful tool that is both versatile and easy-to-use. But, there are a few down-sides to it as well. For one, it doesn’t have the ability to bring you results from social media. And if we know anything about ORM , it’s that social media can make or break your reputation. Think Heineken’s controversial ad. Or the fact that in 2017, there were 2.46 billion people using social media according to Statista. These people make up your audience - and are the people you most definitely want to speak with. In short: what you most definitely want to do is track your social presence.
Talkwalker Alerts is our home-grown alternative to Google Alerts, and I may be biased (who am I kidding… I’m obviously biased!), but the fact that we include results from social media makes it much more useful.
Here’s a quick summary of what Talkwalker Alerts does that Google Alerts does not:
Brings results from the internet as well as Twitter so you never miss another conversation about your brand online again. You also receive results from discussion forums like Reddit.
Allows you to receive results at the email address of your choice - unlike Google, where you have to have a Gmail account to receive your alerts.
Allows you to bulk import all the alerts or results for your keyword so you can later use for a report or a point of reference.
Oh, and like Google Alerts, our tool is free too!
I’m sure you’re thinking - do I really need to monitor social media results? Apart from the obvious (keeping an eye on your overall brand health), you’d probably like to use social media as a means of customer service. Talkwalker Alerts is a free tool at your disposal that enables you to do just that.
So does that mean we shouldn’t use Google Alerts?
Nope. Absolutely not. I’ve grown up using Google Alerts for all my projects at school and university and even to find internships and jobs. It’s a very versatile tool and most importantly, it’s free.
In recent times, Google Alerts may have slipped a little bit, but it’s still an incredibly useful tool that brings you mentions of your brand from all across the internet. It’s a pretty basic tool which - while useful at an individual level (if you’re not an influencer), may not be enough to be the only tool that you use for reputation management. Mostly because you simply cannot afford to ignore social media results in 2018.
The best strategy is to use Google Alerts in conjunction with another tool that brings results from all the sources that Google Alerts doesn’t. That way you have multiple tools that help you keep track of your brand online and as we know - you can never be too careful!