For any emerging or established business, staying on top of your competitors is a must. Any PR moves, announcements, offers, improved or altered services of a competitor could have a direct impact on your business operations, or even customer and client expectations. For this reason, it’s important that you are the first to know about any move your competitors make, or any changes in your overall industry. Similarly, any mentions of your brand, beyond official Web content and press releases, can clue you into the public’s dynamic perception, as well as any potential PR issues.
Google’s free “Google Alerts” service is an essential tool in staying up to speed. Essentially, Google will monitor the Web for any new content of specific interest to you, then email you an update of all the relevant sites, news and blog posts for your perusal. With regular Google Alerts updates, you can stay on top of all essential information.
Simply go to http://google.com/alerts to get started. In the box titled, “Search query,” type a word representative of the content you wish to be alerted about. This could be anything from your brand name or that of a competitor, or keywords specific to your industry. If you want to keep tabs on more than one query, don’t worry — you can create and manage up to 1000 alerts per email address.
Under “Result type,” choose the specific type of web content you’d like to monitor. This can include news, blogs, video, online discussions, books, or simply “everything.” Next, decide how often you’d like to be updated, ranging from “as-it-happens” to once every week. If your alerts query is something general enough to generate lots of results, you can change the number of items on every alert email by selecting “Only the best results” instead of “all.” Finally, enter your email address, click “Create Alert,” and you’ll be all set.
The toughest part of setting up a useful Google Alert is choosing your query.
For best results, you want to be as specific as possible. The more precise and fleshed-out your search terms, the more relevant results you’ll receive. Likewise, if your brand or keyword contains a unique spelling or turn of phrase, make sure to put quotes around the world or phrase so the alert content matches it exactly.
Hint: If you want to monitor a specific website, there’s an easy way to do that as well: type your keyword, then “site:” followed by the web address.