From price drop alerts to tracking movies, we have covered a few alert and notification services which help you stay on top of things. Alerts are just what they sound like – they are messages that are sent to you when the alert service comes across a new result. There are specialized alert services galore, but the Big Daddy of them all is Google Alerts which has existed for quite some time.
Think of Google Alerts as your own personal homing missile; or a Google Search robot on automatic mode. Your ‘missile’ is armed with a keyword (a search term you are looking for). When Google Alerts comes across the keyword in web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs, it sends you the results as an email. You can also subscribe to Google Alerts via Google Reader or any other feed reader.
As you can see, it’s easy to set up your keyword search with Google Alert. You can fine-tune it by choosing Result type (search everything or optionally search – news, blogs, videos, discussions, or books); How often; and How many (all results or only the best results). To make Google Alerts more powerful, you can also use Google’s basic search options and also advanced search operators. Google Alerts lets you see a preview of the results and that alone helps you carefully work on creating the perfect alert.
But as the proof of the pudding lies in its eating, let’s go over the uses we can put Google Alerts to:
Monitor your Favorite Topics
With just a keyword, you can let loose Google Alerts and allow it to pick up mentions of your favorite topic as they break on the web.
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Track What the Web is Saying About You
Reputation tracking is not only limited to companies and brands but also individuals. Google Alerts is a good enough tool for the job, as you can turn ‘ego-Googling’ on its head and monitor where and when your name appears.
You can watch out for identity theft by using personal data as keywords. Examples could include – your address, your phone number, your professional designation, your email address, your driver’s license number. But avoid using – social security numbers, credit card details, bank account numbers, and mother’s maiden name (as it is used for verifications too).
A Roving Plagiarism Checker
Insert a line of unique text from any of your published works (within double quotes) in the Search query field. Any mention of it on the web could catch the eye of Google and help you look into it further.
Track Updates and Software releases
With Google Alerts you don’t have to go out looking for product launches and update notifications. Set it up with the product name of your choice and watch your inbox.
Track Your Favorite Author
If you follow someone’s writing, the inpostauthor: operator can be a quick way to distill all the places where he is being talked and his latest writing.
Break Your Own Writer’s Block
Stumped for ideas? Maybe Google Alerts can help with a combo of your favorite keywords (could be the topics you like writing on) separated by the ‘OR’ operator.
As a Career Tool
Apart from monitoring your reputation online, or monitoring the company where you would like to work, Google Alert can also be set up to net you a job that’s just breaking. Let’s say you are interested in a Quality Analyst job in IBM and that too in your city. The above screenshot shows you how it would look like.
These seven points serve to illustrate the power of Google Search and Google Alerts which catches them while you go to take your nap. Experiment with Google Alerts and the entire range of Google search operators. Tell us about the use you would want to put it to.