As a blog owner, your online reputation is important. Keeping your blog current and on a regular update schedule is only part of the job; the rest takes place behind the scenes. When people have something to say about you or your blog, they may not always leave a comment. They can post their thoughts—positive or negative—anywhere online. That means it’s up to you to try to find out which sites are linking to you, offering support or voicing concerns. Sound impossible? It’s actually easier than it sounds, thanks to a free online tool called Google Alerts.
Once you setup Google Alerts, you’ll have access to a maximum of one thousand custom keyword searches. What does this mean for you? Google automatically searches for the keywords you enter into Google Alerts and then notifies you by email each time new results are found. There are a multitude of options to customize your results, such as seeing only results from a certain region or language; results from a certain source; or results that are filtered for quality.
For you as a blogger, this is an invaluable tool. You can monitor not only what’s being said about you and your blog, but also what your competitors are posting about. This way, you can expand on what is already being discussed, or you can rest assured knowing you are posting unique content. By utilizing the language and regional filters, you can also keep track of what’s important in your area, ensuring your blog stays relevant.
Setting up Google Alerts
Setting up Google Alerts is quick and easy. If you have a Google or Gmail account already, all you have to do is sign in and you’re ready to get started. If you don’t have an account yet, simply fill out the form located on the Google Alerts page.
Once you’re signed in, you can begin entering keywords. Start with your blog name, your own name, and a few specific topics you frequently blog about. If you want an idea of what kind of results you’ll get, enter a few of your keywords into a normal Google search. This way, you can tweak the keywords until you are satisfied with the results.
The keywords function the same as words entered into an ordinary Google search. Phrases that are meant to be searched for together can be placed in quotes; for instance, [“gardening tips”] Using a minus sign in front of certain words will exclude them from your search; for instance, [gardening tips -books]. Being as specific as possible will ensure that your results are relevant.
Keep in mind that you are free to edit, delete or add to your keywords at any time.
For each alert, you can choose where Google searches for your keyword. You can choose from all the standard Google search options, including News, Blogs, Web, Video, Books, Discussions and Finance. There is an additional Automatic option. Selecting a specific source such as Blogs or News will search only the top results within that particular category, while Automatic searches through everything and delivers the most relevant results across all categories.
There are three options for how often you receive your Google Alerts: as it happens, once a day, or once a week. Choose whichever option best suits the information you’re tracking. If you are trying to stay up to date on a news story or a competitor’s blog, as it happens may be the best option. If your alerts aren’t time sensitive, once a day or once a week may be more convenient for your lifestyle.
You can choose to receive “all results” or can opt for Google to filter out “only the best results,” depending on what you’d like to see. You can always change this later.
Your Google Alerts can be sent straight to your e-mail, or you can choose to receive them via RSS. Viewing your alerts through an RSS feed may be a good choice if you’re worried about overloading your e-mail inbox.
When you’re done, simply click the “Create Alert” button to finish setting up your Google Alert. You’ll automatically receive a confirmation e-mail. Click the link in the e-mail to activate your Alert, and then repeat the process to set up as many Alerts as you like.
Once you’ve setup Google Alerts for your blog, you’ll find it’s much easier to keep up-to-date with not only your competition, but also—most importantly—your readers. After all, listening is one of the most important things a blogger can do, and Google Alerts does it for you… for free!