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How to Set up Google Alerts – The Step-by-Step Guide

So, you are here to learn how to setup Google Alerts.

Huh! Congratulations! Somehow, you have so far managed to keep yourself in the dark about one of the most powerful business tools that you can get on the Internet!

I was being sarcastic.

Anyway, it is never too late to join the party.

Today, you will get to learn the nitty-gritties using Google Alerts. It is going to be a short and sweet tutorial.

Let us start if you are ready!

A Word of Caution

Google Alerts is a powerful business tool, but you should not be using it as the only business tool. There are more powerful options available.

However, this tool is free. You do not need to spend a dime for using this tool. And it can always act as a supplement to your other tools. The information you get from it can be especially useful.

Just because others are using this tool does not mean that you can use it like a pro.

You need to have a proper business strategy in place. Do not forget! Monitoring the media is not as simple as typing in a few keywords and thinking that you will get a treasure trove of information.

If things were really that simple, every business in this world would have benefitted. The problem is that not every business does things right and hence, not every business succeeds.

A well-crafted strategy where you know why you are using a certain tool will bring you the success you want.

There is nothing different when it comes to using Google Alerts.

Google Alerts will track the things you want Google to track throughout the internet.

A brand-mention here and a brand-mention there is quite generic. You should have more specific goals. These goals will eventually define how you use Google Alerts.

Here are some examples of specific goals you may want to achieve using Google Alerts:

  • You may want to find new publications and blogs where you can contribute a guest post to get some recognition for your brand.
  • You may want to track how key terms are trending and changing in your industry.
  • You may want to know what popular blogs and publications have to say about your competitors. If they have positive things to say about your competitor, you may want those blogs and publications to say similar things for your business.
  • You may want to find negative brand mentions across the internet so that you can quickly respond and manage your reputation.

Essentially, Google Alerts works only as a tool that facilitate the fulfilment of your specific goals. It will never do anything more than that.

Understand the Limitations of Google Alerts

Google Alerts is not the same as Google Analytics even though you can refer to both as GA.

Google Alerts will not give you extensive data and information that Google Analytics will. There are limitations in place. You need to set your expectations right.

With wrong expectations, Google Alerts will be of no use to you. But if you know what you can get out of Google Alerts, you can use the garnered information in the right way.

First thing first, Google Alerts is a free tool. So, do not expect a plethora of features. There are only three features that Google Alerts offers. They are:

  1. Keyword Monitoring: You can monitor a keyword. You can learn how people are interacting with that specific keyword you are tracking or monitoring. Google will track and monitor the keyword on every platform like forums, news sites, blogs, etc. Yes, it will even track the keywords on YouTube.
  2. Inbox Delivery: If there is a mention of the keyword that you are tracking somewhere on the web, Google will inform that to you by sending an email. If you do not want to view them in your inbox, you can always visit the URL google.com/alerts anytime you want.
  3. Notification Frequency: Google can send you notification about the events in real-time, that is, you will receive an email as and when the keywords you are tracking are being mentioned somewhere online. Or you can set the frequency to be once a day or once a week.

That is all you get out of Google Alert!

Do not expect to get notifications about social media happenings. Google is not going to send you alerts for that. If you want a feature like that, you will need a social media listening tool, and almost all those tools are premium tools. You need to pay.

Unlike Google Analytics, there will be no data to read, no report to analyze. Google Alerts is not meant for all those things.

The tool will only do some basic stuff. You do not need to download and install any app. Just set the key terms you want to track, and you will get notified in your Gmail inbox.

Why did I specifically say Gmail inbox?

That is because it is a Google product. Did you expect that it will deliver the notifications to your Yahoo Mail? Not happening!

Google Alerts is tightly integrated with Google’s email service and that is where you get all the notification emails.

Well, you do have the option of receiving notifications through RSS feeds, but that is kind of obsolete. All the people I know are using Google Alerts invariably go for an inbox delivery.

Now, hoping that you are aware of the limitations of Google Alerts, it is time to learn how to setup alerts.

Let us begin.

Setup Google Alerts – Step-by-Step

Step 1: Visit https://www.google.com/alerts

Step 2: You will encounter a screen like this:

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Of course, the email ID will be your email ID. Clicking on the + sign next to that email ID will create an alert for that id. In simple words, if someone somewhere is mentioning that email ID, you will get a notification for that.

But that is not what you want.

Instead, you want to track key terms, or perhaps your brand name. So, type it in the field that reads “Create an alert about…”

It should look like this:

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As you type in something Google will show you some preview as you can see in the image above.

That is just a preview for now. They are not real alerts. They are search results from the web.

The alert will not be created unless you click on the Create Alert button you see. Yes, it is the blue button with white text.

But do not click on it yet.

Next to the button you can see a link with a downward arrow icon. It reads ‘Show options.’

You need to click on that.

Step 3: Click on “Show options” to get several additional settings. This is what you will see:

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Step 4: Set the frequency (“How often”) of alerts. There are three options available:

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You may want to have the information delivered to you immediately (as it happens) or you can choose to get information once a day or once a week.

I prefer setting it to “As-it-happens,” but depending on what you are searching, that frequency can flood your inbox with numerous emails. So, choose wisely. For most people “At most once a day” works great.

Step 5: Sources is the next field that you want to set. It simply refers to the locations where Google will look for.

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There are diverse options that include:

  • News
  • Blogs
  • Web
  • Video
  • Books
  • Discussions (forums)
  • Finance

Then there is an option called Automatic. When you set it to Automatic, Google will track your key term in all available sources. There is no harm in setting it to Automattic. Do that! You never know! Your brand may just get mentioned in a book.

Step 6: Set your preferred language. There is nothing to explain here. Google will search the internet for your set key term only in your set language. So, if you are selecting English, Google will conveniently ignore all other mentions in other languages. You are free to set your preferred language, or you can set “Any Language.”

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When you set “Any Language,” if there is a mention for your brand or your key term in any language, Google will notify you. Yes, Google is a polyglot. It knows almost all languages.

Step 7: Select a region. Just like language, if you select a specific region, Google will send alerts of mentions originating in that region only. That is not an ideal thing to do. So, select “Any Region” if your business or blog caters to the entire world.

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You can go for a specific region if that is more important for your business. It is a decision that you need to make.

Step 8: Select how many alerts you want. If you want results for every single mention of your key term, you can choose that. Alternatively, you can let Google determine which is the best fit for you and select the option “Only the best results.”

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I prefer “All results” because Google cannot always determine what works best for me. Eventually, everything about Google is mostly algorithm. The human factor matters. Do not expect a human – a Google employee – out there to sit and keep tracking our key terms. That is not possible.

Step 9: Select where you want the alerts to be delivered. The default will be set to your email, but you can always select the RSS feed. That again, is a matter of personal preference.

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Step 10: Finally, hit the “Create Alert” button to setup the alert.

That is all! Once you create the alert, you will see this screen:

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You can go ahead and create more alerts if you want, but do not forget that there is a limit if you are using Gmail. The number of allowed alerts is 1,000.

You really think that is all you can do with alerts? If you think so, you are wrong.

Keep reading!

Things You Can Do with Google Alerts

1. Use Filters

You can create filters using Google Alerts. You need to do that during the alert creation process.

For instance, if you want to find guest posting opportunities in blogs, you can create an alert for the terms like “write for us,” “guest post,” “contribute an article,” and so on.

Those will be the key terms you will be using. Then, in the sources field, use Blogs. This is what I mean:

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2. Monitor Negative Sentiments

Using Google Alerts, you can monitor negative sentiments towards your brand and perform reputation management. For example, if I want to know what people think about Cloudzat, I can set an alert with the brand name in combination with some negative sentiment words like “horrible,” “worst,” “terrible,” etc.

This is what I mean:

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In this case I will want only the best and most relevant results. So, I changed the “How many” parameter accordingly.

3. Look for Specific Phrases with Quotations

What to find out what your competing blogs are writing on a specific topic? You can get creative and use quotations along with specific words. For instance, if you are running a blog about search engine optimization, and you want to know what you competitors are writing, you can use terms like “SEO tips” 2021, or “Core Web Vitals,” and so on.

This is what I mean:

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Conclusion

Google Alerts is not the all-encompassing almighty business tool. There are more powerful tools that you can use. However, this free tool has quite a few tricks up its sleeves. You can convert it into a valuable research tool or a listening tool with some creative thinking and wise use of filters.

It is not a go-to tool for businesses that have millions to spare in marketing and brand reputation management. Not everyone has such money. Google Alerts can become a vital ally to your online business presence until you grow big enough to spend handsomely on other specialized tools.

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