• How to Use Google Alerts

There is no shortage of companies asking small businesses to shell out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to promote themselves. But if you’re like most small business owners, you could really use some free tools to jumpstart your marketing. That’s why we’ve begun a weekly blog series featuring free tools for small business owners to help you with your various marketing needs.

How to Use Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a useful business tool when you’re working on your social media presence and online content. It’s  versatile – able to be used for everything from monitoring your brand to finding new content for your blog and social media channels – and quick to set up. Use this blog post as a guide to getting started using this powerful tool.

What are Google Alerts?

Google Alerts will alert you when words of relevance are published on the internet. This can include your name, your business name, your products, or industry news that you deem relevant. If something included in your Google Alert is published online, Google sends you an email to notify you.

How can you use Google Alerts for your business?

Google Alerts can be effectively used for your business in a few steps. But before walking you through how to set it up, here are some ways how Google Alerts can be used to improve your business marketing.

Business and Brand

Set alerts for your business name, products, and for any key personalities in your company – e.g. the owner, senior executives, and board members. Under “How Often,” set these alerts to report “As They Happen” – you want to hear about these ASAP. This will allow you to catch any coverage and reviews about your company as early as possible – so you can either share the good news or take action to address negative things posted online.

Aside from alerting you to any publications naming you or your business, Google Alerts can be used in other ways as well – check on industry news, local information,  source for content creation like blog ideas, and to monitor your competition.

Geographic Information

If you’re a local business serving a particular area (versus on online business) you should set alerts for your geographic location. For example, a business located in Charlotte would want to keep tabs on what’s going on in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and perhaps the entire state of North Carolina. This is important to keep up to date on current events to get involved in your community and to stay up to date on other local news and information..

Industry News

While there are other websites to do this as well, Google Alerts is a good way to keep up with industry news without having to use another channel. If you set your alerts to include relevant industry keywords or geographic information, you can use Google Alerts effectively for your business.

Set alerts for topics that are of interest to your customer base. For example, a real estate agent or broker would set alerts for “real estate trends,” “foreclosures,” “up and coming neighborhoods,” and other variations on the same theme – e.g. “real estate news.” Set these to provide you a summary of the best content every week – you don’t need these as they happen, but just want a periodic update.

Another way to do this is to set alerts for any affiliated organizations – e.g. charity organizations you sponsor, professional organizations – to find out what others in your industry are doing.

Content Creation

One of the biggest hurdles in content marketing and blogging is coming up with content. With Alerts, you have a constant stream of new topics flowing into your inbox every day or week. When it’s time to plan the next week or month’s posts or blog topics, sit down and go through your alerts. Pick the most promising topics and write posts and blogs about them.

Use these alerts to find content to share via Facebook and Twitter and topics to talk about on your blog. How do you know what topics will be of interest to your customers? Do a little research – knowing your customer is the first step to marketing to them.

A final word of caution – make sure to read any links you share carefully. Click through and read the whole thing. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes an article from Alerts that looks great in summary might not be up to your standards or might include something that doesn’t fit your brand. Blogger beware.

Monitor the Competition

Another effective business use for Google Alerts is to set alerts to monitor your business’ competitors. All businesses should be keeping tabs on their competition to see how they stack up. This is valuable information to use in marketing and a way to differentiate your business from others.

How to Set Up and Use Google Alerts

A few words on settings – these are important so you can balance staying up to date with avoiding a clogged inbox. When you set up a new alert, click “Show Options.”

  • How Often” determines how frequently you’ll get alerts on a topic – daily or weekly alerts will work fine for most topics, but urgent matters and alerts about your brand might warrant being set to come in “As-it-happens.” Just keep in mind that, the more frequently you set the alerts, the more emails you will receive.
  • Sources” is used to limit the type of media – if you only want, say, videos, select them. But in most cases you’ll leave it as “Automatic” and take whatever comes up.
  • Region” is used to limit your alerts to certain countries.
  • How many” sets how many bulletins will appear in each alert email. You can either set them for “Only the best results” to only get what Google thinks is most relevant or if  you want to open the firehose, use “All results.”

Finally, you can determine to which email the alerts will come.

how to use google alerts

Google Alerts Search Terms

Don’t forget that you can use the same search modifiers in Alerts that you can in the Google search engine – e.g. parentheses, minus marks, pluses, etc. So, for example, if you want to monitor “foot health” but don’t want to hear about the opening of a ‘six thousand foot health center,’ make your search for ‘“foot health” –“square foot.” You can also teach Alerts what you want by clicking “Flag as irrelevant” under any bad results. If you use the correct search terms and teach it, Google will learn what you need and Alerts will improve over time.

That’s the basics of how to use Google Alerts – stay on top of what people are saying about your brand, keep up to date on what’s going on in your area and industry, and set up a constant stream of new content for your social channels. It really is that easy!


  1. Donald York says:

    Must it not be said that Google alerts used to work better than nowadays? For a while, it seemed they were being discontinued. What’s actually happening? Anyone?

    • Emily Weisberg says:

      You’re right, Donald. Google Alerts don’t catch everything and there are other tools out there to use for alerts as well. Google Alerts are a good start for someone just getting starting using alerts for notifications and content creation. We have future plans to write about other alert tools so check back for those!

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