A Digital PR’s Guide to Using Google Alerts

by Posted @ May 05 2020

Digital marketers are able to track an insane amount of keywords, mentions, rankings, and more with tools like MozBar, Ahrefs, and Buzzsumo. Many of these tools require a paid subscription in order to access the advanced functionality a marketer needs to monitor key metrics. 

Even though it’s sometimes quicker to use the tools we have than do certain things by hand, I don’t like to solely rely on paid subscriptions. I like to know how to use free, slightly more manual options just in case I don’t have those subscriptions, add-ons, or tools readily available. 

But Rebecca, I like using the paid options! 

I understand (I use them too!) but there are a ton of great tools that don’t require you to pay a single cent. Besides, if you’re looking to track your coverage and hunt for web content that may align with your campaigns and clients’ industries, why not learn how to monitor some of these key metrics for free?

Although it’s a free tool, Google Alerts is a powerful notification service that offers a variety of options to personalize your alerts. You can choose your inbox, or you can set up your Google alerts to deliver to an RSS feed. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

In this blog, we’ll go over: 

  • How to set up Google Alerts
  • Choosing use-cases for Google Alerts 
  • Making your alerts effective
  • Putting it into action

How to Set Up Google Alerts 

Creating an alert is simple, but let’s walk through it together. Head to https://www.google.com/alerts to get started.  

Step 1. Log in to Google with the Google account you want to associate the alerts with. For me, that’s my agency email.  

Step 2. Decide on the keywords or the content you would like to track. We’ll use the term “most popular takeout” in this example.

Step 3. Specify which alerts you’d like to receive and how you’d like to receive them. 

Step 4. Pick your sources. You can choose from news, blogs, video, and other types of content. 

Step 5. Input your chosen language (English), the region (United States) you’d like to monitor, and how many results you’d like to have (All of them). 

Congratulations! You’ve created your first alert. Now, let’s talk about the specifics of using these alerts to monitor your campaigns, clients, or media mentions.

How to Choose a Use-Case for Google Alerts 

Google Alerts is advertised as “a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research — that match the user’s search term”. 

When you’re tracking media mentions, you’re really tracking when someone publishes a piece of content that contains the keywords you chose when you were creating the alert. I use Google Alerts to monitor my clients’ brand names, keywords that are important to their industries, and any search terms that could be associated with one of my link building campaigns. 

You’ll notice I did not include social media monitoring within my use-cases of Google Alerts. That’s because unfortunately, Google Alerts doesn’t monitor social media content, such as Twitter or LinkedIn mentions. 

You could use Google Alerts for: 

  • Monitoring mentions of a brand, company, or client name
  • Monitoring what is being published about a keyword or topic
  • Monitoring link building efforts
  • Monitoring unlinked mentions of your brand or campaign
  • Monitoring creative content to inspire your next campaign 
  • Monitoring your company reputation
  • Monitoring your clients’ competition 
  • Watching what your competitors are doing
  • Watching what some of your favorite authors or journalists are publishing 
  • Tracking industry trends

How to Make Your Google Alerts Effective 

If you aren’t a search junkie, you might not have a strong understanding of Boolean search. This is a type of search that allows you to use modifiers, such as AND, OR, and NOT, to change the nature of your search. It also allows your searches to be more targeted. Better search terms inputted into your alerts will create more effective, targeted Google alerts. 

Here’s an example. 

“Most popular takeout AND GrubHub – delivery” 

This alert would show me content related to the most popular takeout specifically including GrubHub. They recently released a “year in food” report that’s generating a lot of links, so I thought this would be a good way to showcase how to use Boolean search terms in your Google Alerts. I also made sure to note that I didn’t want the results to focus on delivery, because that alert would have shown me which takeout locations were delivering via GrubHub. 

Putting It All Together

Here are some quick tips that will help you get the most out of Google Alerts:

  • Set up Google Alerts to monitor your link building campaigns for free 
  • Check on your advanced settings once a month to see if you need to adjust your alerts, especially if you’ve added a new campaign or wrapped up an old one 
  • Use as many alerts as you can – there is a 1,000 alert limit per Gmail account 
  • Create strings of search terms to generate better results 

Every morning at 8:00 am, I receive a “digest” of all my alerts so I can quickly get up to speed on everything that was published in the last 24 hours. I check for links, and then I check in on what’s going on related to beats I might want to pitch that day. I use this method to track media mentions without spending a dime.

But, now, I want to hear from you – how do you use Google Alerts? Let me know down in the comments!

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