Google Alerts 101 - How to Set up Google Alerts Effectively

Sept 30th/2010

Google alerts is a service that scans the web for you looking for content that contains words you specify.

This means, you can be told whenever a webpage is made that contains your name, website name, or even when somebody is asking where to find products you sell.

This post is going to reveal some tricks and strategies to set up effective Google Alerts.

Phrases, Not Keywords

When I set up a Google Alert, I want to make sure I’m not getting spammed by irrelevant Alerts. If you use a single word, you’ll get flooded by results every time.

For example, for this website if I did a Google Alert for “marketing” I’m going to get thousands of e-mails a day. My next choice was “marketing ideas”, but again too many people type this, and most Alerts I would get are useless to me.

My goal was to get rid of alerts from people who are talking about marketing strategy, and to zero in on the people who are looking for marketing ideas.

I came up with the following:

(I included my terms in quotations because phrases in quotes take the exact phrase only, whereas typing your sentence without quotes finds pages with those words in any order on the page)

"anybody have any good marketing ideas for"
“anybody have good marketing ideas for"
"anyone have any good marketing ideas for"
"anyone have good marketing ideas for"
"how can i get more customers for my"
"i am looking for marketing ideas"

Finding Buyers, Not Sellers

Notice that the wording of each Google Alert above is the language people are using to find what I am selling. If you sell weight loss, you may try making a few Google Alerts like this:

“I just can’t seem to lose weight”
“why can’t I lose weight?”
“I am looking for a good weight loss program”
“I want to lose weight” “nothing is working” (This last one returns pages that contain both phrases on one page)

If you made a Google Alert for “weight loss” you would get Google Alerts for people who are selling weight loss, not buying weight loss. That’s probably not what you want.

Removing Results You Don’t Want

There was one phrase that gave me a lot of results I didn’t want, but I still wanted Alerts for that phrase because it had a lot of results I did want. So next I’ll teach you how to keep such a term while removing the garbage.

I wanted to include the phrase “where can I find marketing ideas”, but that came up with a lot of pages about the following:

Where Can I Find Marketing Ideas for the Number 4?

I don’t know what this is, but I know I don’t want alerts for it. So here’s how to create a Google Alert that solves such a problem:

"where can I find marketing ideas " -4 -four

This Google Alert will find webpages that contain the exact phrase “where can I find marketing ideas”, but it won’t send me any results that contain the number 4 or the word four.

I’ll lose a few good results from this modifier, but I’ll also keep my e-mail inbox more manageable, which is very important to me because I don’t have to time to follow up on all of them.

You can easily remove irrelevant results from your alerts by placing a “-unwanted_keyword” command after your chosen Google Alert.

For weight loss, you could do the following:

“help me lose weight” –free –cheap

This will get rid of people who are looking for weight loss, but who don’t want to spend money on a program like yours. Getting rid of the word “free” or “cheap” makes sense a lot of the time.

Refining Your Results

If your name is Bob Smith, you’ll never get an alert that means anything because there are hundreds of people mentioning various people named Bob Smith each day. What you can do is add your city or state to the Google Alert to get it a bit more manageable. Your Google Alert would look something like this:

“Bob Smith” “Vancouver”

If this still returns a lot of junk, you could add your industry to it as well:

“Bob Smith” “Vancouver” “Doctor”

This works great for a business too. If you serve a limited geographic area, you’ll want to include that term after all of your alerts:

“help me lose weight” “Vancouver” Or “help me lose weight” “California” (if you want alerts from your entire state)

You’ll now get Google Alerts every time somebody in that city types your chosen keyphrase. This is a great way to find people in your area who are looking for what you are selling.

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