Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google search results for terms you specify. They are one of the best and cheapest (read: free) ways to keep up-to-date on news and topics you (and your customers) care about. For executives, managers and smart sales people, they’re an indispensable way to stay informed – and get the leg up on the competition.
While some folks have started to leverage social media to add value to customer conversations, the beauty of Google Alerts is that the tool is email-based – which means scanning the content is quick and familiar for everyone.
Creating Google Alerts is super easy. Visit www.google.com/alerts and fill out the short form. Google offers you a number of different content source and delivery options, which let you tune your various alerts based on your preferences. Their help section provides a clear breakdown of what all the options mean. And because this is a Google tool, many popular Google search tips & tricks work here too.
Here are five Google Alerts that I consistently recommend to business leaders. I’ve listed them in rank order, so you can prioritize your efforts accordingly. If you use other alerts, tips or tricks, please share them in the comments below. I’ll add them to this list.
1. Your own name
If you only create one Google Alert, this is it.This is a very easy way to manage your reputation online by monitoring what people are saying about you, and where your name is being used online. For folks who spend time in the public eye (like a CEO or VP) this can be very useful.
Tip: If you have a common name, use negative terms to remove useless results. For example, if you have the name Michael Bolton, add the negative terms -musician, -singer, -songs and -music to your search (which would now look like this: “michael bolton” -songs -music -musician -singer). Add as many negative terms as you can to get your results as focused as possible.
2. Customers and prospects
Second to your monitoring your own personal brand is monitoring your customers – both existing and those in a prospecting pipeline. Creating Google Alerts for these companies ensures that you know right away when something newsworthy is happening with those organizations.
Tip: To take this alert to the next level, create additional Google Alerts for the names of key contacts at these customer accounts. This is particularly useful if you’re dealing directly with senior executives who are prolific, and appear often in trade publications and other media sites.
3. Your own company
For all employees (especially for folks in remote branches) it can be tough keeping up with any news coming out of HQ. New product releases, key hires, coverage in the media, new marketing campaigns – the list keeps going. A Google Alert for your organization’s name is an easy way to stay up to speed on the noise your company is making in the marketplace.
Tip: In addition to company mentions, Create Google Alerts for key brands and products your company offers. Especially those you manage, or are involved with.
4. The competition
The best defence is a good offence. Keep tabs on the competition with this Google Alert. Things you can expect to find with a well-crafted Google alert: new marketing content (like videos), updates to their website and press releases announcing what they feel is newsworthy.
Tip: For people who cover a specific territory, add the name of your geographic area to your search query. For double bonus points – add the name of your adversarial rep so you can really keep an eye on what they’re doing.
5. Areas of professional interest
Google alerts are a great way to discover remarkable news, insights and resources in a particular industry or professional interest. Use the content you find to create relevant conversations within your organization and with customers. Search terms to consider: key/hot topics in your industry
A note about social:
At this point, realtime content from Twitter and other social networks isn’t included in Google alerts. For this kind of social media monitoring and management, a dashboard tool like Hootsuite is a good option.
Update: There’s a new service called Mention that I’ve been using. It positions itself as an alternative to Google Alerts. I’ve been impressed – check it out.