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How to Set Up and Optimize Google Alerts: The Ultimate Guide

How to Set Up and Optimize Google Alerts: The Ultimate Guide

Home Blog Media Monitoring How to Set Up and Optimize Google Alerts: The Ultimate Guide

For those of you who have never heard of Google Alerts: you’re missing out. Google Alerts is one of the most popular free digital marketing tools available for media monitoring.

In this guide, we’ll be going through what exactly a Google Alert is, including how to set one up, and how to take it to the next level. Whether you’re a complete beginner to Google Alerts, or an experienced Googler – there is something for everyone to learn.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents:

What is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts launched in 2003. The service allows you to monitor the web, and notifies you via an email alert when a new result matching your search query appears.

Google Alerts allows you to monitor any keyword or keyword phrase you like. If it appears in Google’s search engine results, you’ll get an email alert. You can use the service to track news sources, blog posts, the web, videos, books, discussion forums and finance trackers in any language and region of your choice.

There are a few different options available to help customize your results, including Search Settings and Advanced Operators.

What Can You Use Google Alerts For?

One of the joys of using Google Alerts is that they are extremely flexible: you can literally monitor anything you want.

However, for marketers and small business owners, there are a few essential use cases for Google Alerts that everyone should be doing at a minimum. Here are some of them:

1. Monitor Your Brand

Keeping on top of your brand mentions and reputation is essential for even the smallest of businesses. Often, your customers will not come directly to you to complain about something unless you’ve asked – but they will talk about it online.

Knowing how positively or negatively your brand is being perceived can help you to take the right steps to continuously improve. Knowledge is the first step to success!

Key tips: When monitoring your brand, make sure to include common misspellings and colloquialisms of your business name in your query. For example, if you’re McDonalds, you might want to also monitor “MacDonalds”, “Micky D’s”, “Maccies” or “Maccas”.

2. Keep An Eye on the Competition

Competitor Analysis helps you to keep on top of what others in your industry are getting up to. Whether it’s to help you to understand their products, services and features better so you can adapt your sales conversations, or simply get inspiration from their marketing campaigns.

It can never hurt to know what your competitors are doing well. Or perhaps they’ve been mentioned in a news story where they’ve been subject to a scandal.

Key tips: Just like with brand monitoring, don’t forget about common misspellings for your competitors! We recommend starting with 3-5 core competitors who are most closely aligned with your brand.

3. Monitor Relevant Topics

Monitoring topics related to your brand and your audience can help you to get a better understanding of the space you’re operating in. It can also help you to craft relevant content and related posts on social media for your audience. All you have to do is set up an alert for a specific word or specific keyword related to that topic.

By knowing ASAP about key changes in your industry, you can react and communicate much quicker. It’s also a great way to find new content to inspire your content marketing strategy.

Nobody wants to be that person who missed an important trend and ended up posting about it 3 months later!

Key tips: topic monitoring can get extremely broad. Make sure you’re filtering irrelevant keywords out of your query with Advanced Operators so that you’re not overwhelmed with notifications!

4. Follow Your Press Release Activity

Anyone working in Press Relations knows that keeping on top of press releases can be a complete pain. Journalists rarely notify you when they write up an article based on your press release, and nobody has time to manually check multiple news sites every day.

By taking advantage of Google’s “News” filter, you can be the first to know if a journalist has published an article based on your press release.

How to Set-up Google Alerts

Google Alerts Setup is just as simple as searching on Google.

  1. Go to Google Alerts @ https://www.google.com/alerts
  2. Type in the keywords you want to monitor
Google Alerts type keywords to monitor
  1. If you are not already signed in to your Google Account, enter the email where you’d like to receive the Google Notifications

If you are already signed into Google, it will automatically fill this in with your Google email address. If you would like to send the notifications to a different email address, you will need to sign out from your Google Account first.

However, be aware that you will need a Google Account to set up an alert. If you put a non-Google email address into this field, you will be prompted to either sign-in or create a new Google account once you are finished creating the alert.

Google Alerts email address notifications
  1. Optional: Toggle search and notification settings

By clicking on “Show Options”, you will be presented with a few different settings for your Google Alert.

Google Alerts show options

How often:

You can decide between receiving a notification:

  • “As it happens” – As soon as Google finds a result matching your search query, you will receive an email. Be aware – for very broad topics, you will receive a lot of emails!
  • “At most once a day” – if there are multiple results received in one day, they will be grouped into one daily email notification. If there are no results, you will receive no email.
  • “At most once a week” – similarly to the previous setting, you will receive all of your results found during the week grouped into one weekly email notification. Again, if no results are found, you will not receive an email

Sources:

You can select all or some sources from the following list:

  • “Automatic”: this is the default option and includes only “News”, “Blogs” and “Web”
  • “News”: includes only News sites, such as the New York Times, CNN, Reuters…
  • “Blogs”: includes only Blogs
  • “Web”: includes other websites that are not News or Blogs
  • “Video”: includes sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion. The alerts match only the text descriptions of the videos, and not the video content itself.
  • “Books”: includes authored books that appear on Google Books
  • “Discussions”: includes public online forums such as Reddit, Quora and IGN Boards
  • “Finance”: includes stock trackers and financial news

Language:

Allows you to monitor all languages, or a specific language. Currently it’s not possible to select multiple specific languages.

Region:

Allows you to monitor all countries, or a specific country. Similar to language, you can only select one or all.

How many:

  • “Only the best results”: Google picks and selects the results it deems to be most relevant, however it’s unclear how this is decided
  • “All results”: this shows you everything that has been indexed
  1. Click Create Alert button to launch your Free Google Alert!

Why Should You Use Google Alerts?

Even though we firmly believe that Google Alerts aren’t enough anymore, there are still three pretty good reasons to use the tool.

1. Google Alerts is Free

Google Alerts is a 100% free service – with no catches or hidden costs. It has always been free, and Google does not seem to have any plans to start charging for this service.

This is great news for startups, small businesses or marketers who are new to media monitoring. It allows you to get a feel for monitoring and start off without any initial investment.

And just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean that it’s ineffective. On the contrary, Google Alerts work quite effectively considering they don’t cost a single penny. But that being said, there are still some limitations compared to paid monitoring services.

2. Google Alerts are Effortlessly Easy to Set Up

Another barrier to adopting a new tool or practice is the learning curve. With Google Alerts, the setup is so simple that it’s impossible to get wrong.

Of course, there are a few techniques you’ll need to know in order to set up your Google Alert in the most effective way for your needs. But you’ll rest easy knowing you will not have to follow a 12-page knowledge base tutorial to get started.

3. Google Alerts are Flexible and Modulable

As long as people are posting on the web about it, you can monitor it.

Google Alerts is extremely flexible and has no restrictions on the keywords you can monitor. You can take this even further with Advanced Operators to really refine your Google Alert and make it your own.

What are the Limitations of Google Alerts

While Google Alerts seems to be too good to be true for a free tool, there are unfortunately a few core features that are missing for digital marketers.

1. No Social Media Mentions

This is one of the biggest drawbacks of Google Alerts. While it monitors the web pretty well, Google Alerts does not allow you to monitor popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.

These days, with over 58% of the global population using social media, relying solely on a monitoring tool that doesn’t cover social media can be a massive blind spot.

Monitoring social media platforms, also known as social listening, is key to understanding the honest feelings of your audience, customers and critics – as well as those belonging to your competitors. In 2022, do you think your customers will write a blog post to complain about your customer service, or a tweet?

Tools such as Mention can help to bridge the gap – allowing you to monitor both web and social media sources at the same time.

2. Only Gives Results from Indexed Pages

Google crawls the web in order to index web pages – which then appear in the search results when you’re using Google Search. These pages are known as “Indexed Pages”.

However, many millions of webpages don’t end up getting indexed, for many reasons. They may not have much traffic, or they have been requested to be removed by someone, or they are show offensive material.

While these may not be of interest to the average person using Google, if you are using Google Alerts to keep on top of your brand, every mention of your brand counts – even ones from low-traffic sites.

3. No Reporting Features

Getting notified when a search results matching your query appears is great. However, most people need more than that.

Unfortunately, Google Alerts does not come with any reporting or data visualization features. This is crucial if you are keeping on top of your brand reputation or notoriety. You want to be able to measure over time how many people have talked about your brand, and in which regions of the world. Not only for your own knowledge, but to help to report to your managers, or investors.

Of course, you can always create these reports and graphs manually using a spreadsheet tool. You can also combine this with data from Google Analytics. But honestly, who has time for that?

4. You Need a Google Account to Create Google Alerts

This seems logical, and probably isn’t a limitation for most people – Google is the most popular email provider in the Western world. Fortunately, creating a Google Account is just as easy as creating the Alert.

However, for those who are loyal to their Outlook, Yahoo or Proton email addresses and don’t wish to create another, this could be a blocker.

How to Optimize Your Google Alerts

Since Google Alerts are so simple to set-up, it’s very easy to accidentally go wrong. So here are a few things to think about as you create your next alert.

1. Avoid generic, or common keywords

If you haven’t done this before, you might think that the more alerts you receive, the better. After all, you can’t do much until you have some mentions to look at.

Even if your brand name is unique, maybe you’d like to create a few broad alerts to monitor conversations in your industry – “footwear,” or “accounting,” for example.

Stop right there!

Having too many mentions is about as useful as having none at all. Your inbox will be flooded, and you’ll find yourself deleting them without even looking at them.

Stick to specific, precise keywords that you know will always be relevant to you. Even if it means you don’t get as many coming in.

2. Make more than one alert

Apparently, there’s a limit of 1,000 alerts per person, which you’ll probably never use. So why not make the most of them?

By creating tens, maybe hundreds of alerts, you can keep each incredibly precise, while still receiving a good number of alerts.

Suppose you want to monitor the negative comments made about your business. You could create individual alerts that include your brand name alongside certain keywords that are usually unkind:

  • “My Brand” + hate
  • “My Brand” + broken
  • “My Brand” + worst

You’ll get specific notifications about your company that help you identify problems you need to solve.

If you’re concerned about exploding your inbox with emails: don’t be. Google Alerts allows you to create a digest email with multiple alerts.

3. Combine keywords and get creative

Do you ever use more than just a basic Google search when looking for information? There are many commands you can use to make your searches more interesting and more precise.

For instance, use quotation marks to look for specific phrases, and then combine these with other keywords:

“Social media marketing” tips

“Content marketing” ideas

Your alert will now return results containing this exact keyword phrase, plus the other word(s) you’ve included outside of the quotation marks.

4. Use the filters where possible

While Google Alerts filters are far from perfect, they do offer you a little room to narrow down your search. So why not put this to good effect?

Let’s say you’re trying to get traffic to your site, and you’d like to find guest posting or link building opportunities.

Try creating alerts using phrases like “write for us” or “how to contribute,” and then limit your Alerts to blogs.

You’ll remove a lot of the noise, and will be notified when new guest post opportunities become available.

You can do the same for the specific languages you write in, or even in certain locations if your content has a local flavor.

5. Remember why you created them

This is just a quick reminder to keep your goals in mind as you set up your alerts. As long as you have a plan, you can’t go too wrong.

How to Edit or Delete Your Google Alert

So, you’ve just set up your Google Alert and realized that you’ve made all of the mistakes we’ve listed above.

Not to fear! Editing a Google Alert is just as easy as creating one. Here are the steps you need to take.

  1. Go back to Google Alerts @ https://www.google.com/alerts
  2. Your alerts will appear listed on the Google Alerts page. Click on the pencil icon to edit your alert.
Google Alerts edit your alert
  1. Edit your alert’s search term and options however you like. Once you’re done, click “Update Alert”.
  2. No longer need your alert? If you wish to delete your Google Alert, just click on the trash icon instead.
Google Alerts how delete alert

How to Change How Often I Receive Google Alert Notifications

By default, you will receive your email notifications at 12:00 midday, if you’ve chosen to receive your notifications daily or weekly.

However, you can change the time that you receive this email.

  1. Go back to Google Alerts @ https://www.google.com/alerts
  2. Click on the settings cog
Google Alerts click settings cog
  1. Check “Delivery Time” and select the time of day you wish to receive your alerts
Google Alerts Delivery Time
  1. If you have multiple alerts, you can also opt to combine them into one digest. You can opt to receive all of your Google Alert notifications once per day or once per week.
Google Alerts receive all alerts single email
  1. Hit “Save” then you’re good to go!

But are Google Alerts really enough?

As we’ve seen, Google Alerts are easy to set up, they let you experiment, and you can create as many as you like.

But they also miss a lot of data. Even for sources that you’d think Google would be great at tracking, like websites and blogs.

Plus, you really can’t afford to ignore social media. Especially if you’re a business with a thriving online community. 68% of Americans use Facebook, alone.

These are your buyers, your customers, and your prospects. If you don’t know what they’re saying about you, it’s so much harder to keep them happy with your brand.

That’s why so many businesses choose tools that combine Google Alerts sources with all the main social networks. Even better, the good ones give you in-depth analytics about demographics, sentiment around your brand, and a whole lot more.

There are dozens of Google Alerts alternatives available on the market. Of course, we’re biased and we think Mention is the best. But to help you choose the right tool for you, we’ve put together this media monitoring buyer’s guide.

It will walk you through what you need to look for in a good monitoring tool, especially for your brand. Then it offers suggestions to take the hard work out for you.

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Francesca

Francesca is a digital marketer, specialising in content creation and multichannel marketing strategies. Currently the Content Manager at Mention.

Content Manager @Mention