How to set up Google Alerts for your business or company in 5 minutes!

by Mack Collier

If your company is looking for advice on getting started with social media, one of the first things you will likely hear is to start monitoring your company and brand.  And you’ll probably hear that you should ‘Set up Google Alerts for company and business mentions’.

But what if you have no idea what that means?  Then read on, as I’ll walk you through what is a very simple, but very beneficial process for your business.

First, you can set up Google Alerts through several different search sources, but for the purposes of this post, I wanted to focus on Google Blog Search.  If you click on that link, you’ll be taken to a page that looks very similar to this:

Now, I want to search just for mentions of my name, so I search for “Mack Collier”.  This is a very fundamental search tip, but by putting Mack Collier in quotation marks, Google Blog Search will give me results that include the exact phrase ‘Mack Collier’.  Where if I searched for simply Mack Collier, it would show me all results that included the words ‘Mack’ and ‘Collier’.  So if you know you want to search for an exact phrase, put the query in quotation marks, and you’ll get much better results.  Here’s what the screen looks like now:

That might be a bit hard to see, but notice that at the very top of the results, Google adds this site, as well as my other blog, The Viral Garden!  But if you scroll down to the end of the first page of results, you find this:

Ah ha!  Now we’re cookin’!  That gives me the option to take those results and create an email alert (This is normally what people mean by a ‘Google Alert’) for the results, or I can search Google News for the same term, add a blog search gadget to my Google homepage, or (and this is the one I like), subscribe to the results via Google Reader.

Let’s first look at creating an email alert for this term, when I click on Create an email alert for “Mack Collier”, I see this:

On the right, you see a box with 5 different input windows.

The first is for the term you want to create the alert for.

The second box is a dropdown menu where you select the source you want the results to come from.  The choices are ‘Everything’, ‘News’, ‘Blogs’, ‘Video’, and ‘Discussions’.

The third box is another dropdown menu where you tell Google how often you want it to email you results.  Your options are ‘As it happens’, ‘Once a day’, and ‘Once a week’.

The fourth box is where you set the length of the email, and your options are 10 or 50 results.  Keep in mind that if you are getting a decent amount of results for your search term, you may need to get more frequent email updates in order to catch all the results.  For example, if you want to set an email alert for the term ‘iPad’, and you only want to see 10 results per email AND you only want to get one email a week, well you are going to miss a LOT of results.

The fifth and final box is where you specify what email address you want the results set to, or if you want them set to a feed.  We’ll cover subbing to results via a feed in a moment.

Set the options you want, and you’ve just created your first Google email alert!  Piece of cake, right?  At first, you’ll probably start out by just searching for your company name.  But quickly, you’ll probably want to branch out and create email alerts for specific products you sell, or maybe key executives.  Then you might want to start getting alerts for your competitors as well.

Then one day you realize your inbox is under attack from all these freakin’ email alerts!!!

Is there a better way?  I think so, it’s called subscribing to these results via feed.

So how do you do that?  First, sign up for Google Reader (which is free, but you’ll need a gmail account, which is also free).

Now remember when we searched for “Mack Collier”, and one of the options at the bottom of the page was ‘Subscribe to a blog feed for “Mack Collier” in Google Reader’?  That’s what we want to do now, instead of creating an email alert.  What this will do is send the results for the term “Mack Collier” directly to my Google Reader, as they happen.

When I click on ‘Subscribe to a blog feed for “Mack Collier”‘, the search results then are shown in Google Reader, and reader asks me if I want to subscribe to these results:

That’s it!  Then as new results come in for that search terms, the feed results in Google Reader will show up in bold.  Here’s a screenshot of my Reader and some of the blogs I am subscribed to:

Note that some of the feeds are in bold, and these have a number after them. Such as Servant of Chaos (2).  That tells me that since Servant of Chaos is in bold, that there are new entries from that blog that I haven’t read yet.  And the (2) tells me that there are 2 posts that I haven’t read yet.

Once you become familiar with Reader you’ll really love it, I think.  You can not only have your alerts sent there, but of course you can subscribe to blogs and read them there as well.

Now as a monitoring tool for your company, what type of alerts should you set up?  I think your focus should be on three areas:

1 – Company-centric search terms.  Such as your company name, prominent products and brands, as well as key executives.

2 – Competitor-centric search terms.  Same as above, but for your top 2-3 direct competitors.

3 – Industry-specific terms.  Use this as a way to get a sense of trends in your industry.

Also keep in mind that with Reader, you can create separate folders for each of these areas, in order to better organize your efforts.

Does this post help?  I just know that so often we mention ‘oh just set up Google Alerts’, but to companies that are new to all this social media stuff, they may have no idea what a Google Alert is, or how to set one up.

So now you do ;)

BTW I am constantly writing Social Media How-To posts like this, so if you’d like to make sure you always get my updates, please consider subscribing!  Thank you!

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