Sometimes it seems like Google launches 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 to remember what each one does. One of the often overlooked hidden gems in Google’s massive offering is Google Alerts. Within minutes, one can sign up for email alerts that can give them and their business an edge over 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 every time a new page for your chosen term appears in the top twenty results in Google web search. You can also have the alert refer to Google News and/or Google Groups. To sign up for a Google Alert, all you need to do is visit the Google Alerts home page (http://www.google.com/alerts), enter your search term, alert type (search Google News, Google Groups, or the web), the frequency of emails (daily, as-it-happens, or weekly), and your email address. You can set alerts for as many terms as you want using one Google account. So why would you want an unlimited number of alerts? Because as a business owner, you have a lot to keep track of and a very limited time to do it.
Spy on your competitors
Every business has a competitor. Most likely, you will have several direct competitors and several more indirect competitors. While regularly checking your websites is an important part of the process, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. A competitor’s website is heavily designed for the image they want to present to their customers. This is great if you want to know what your latest sale is or how much your new product costs, but you’re not likely to have a negative review in last Sunday’s paper.
That’s where Google Alerts come in. Just by setting up a news, groups and search alert for each of your competitors, you’ll know what other people are saying about your competition, both the media and consumers, both the good and the bad.
Stay up to date on your industry
Just as important as what people say about your competition is what people say about your industry as a whole. If there’s a negative PR shift against violent video games, and you happen to own a video game store, you’ll probably be affected. By receiving alerts on important keywords related to your industry, you can be aware of any sudden changes and react accordingly. The minute your competition realizes what’s going on, they’ll rush to catch up with you.
Keep track of yourself and your business
It goes without saying that if it’s important to know what people are saying about your competitors and about your industry, it makes sense that knowing what people are saying about you is important. I have Google alerts on both my name and my business name. I know they go hand in hand: if one is being slandered, it is better to hurt the other. By receiving alerts, you can stay on top of anything negative related to you or your business, and hopefully nip any problems in the bud before they get too big. On the other hand, there is nothing better than receiving an alert where someone praises your business. Those are the kinds of things you want to make sure are on the PR page of your business website.
Get news for your site or blog
I own a site where I do weekly news updates on what’s going on in the industry. Some weeks there are tons of news to choose from, other weeks it’s hard to find anything. In addition to the usual industry news sites that I check for information, I have Google alerts set up for each of the key terms. You’d be surprised how often a single story from a local newspaper appears on Google News. Many times my competitors have not seen these stories and I can “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 bring you several quality stories each day to help inspire new posts.
In this increasingly competitive business world, you need any and all advantages you can get over your competition. Used correctly, Google Alerts can be an extremely efficient way to keep track of what’s happening on the web. The alternative would be to search each term every day for new updates. Who has time for that? Spending less time researching allows you to spend more time on the things that matter to your business.