Any free tool that helps you to grow your blog should be something that you grab with both hands. When the tool is as powerful as Google Alerts then you would be even crazier to let it slip past you.
Strangely, not every blogger takes as much advantage of Google Alerts as they should do. Perhaps this is simply down to a lack of understanding of what it offers.
Certainly, once you see how it works you will realize that this is a relatively simple way of boosting your blog’s prospects of success.
If you are serious about putting your blog on the map then you need to know how to use this service. Thankfully, it is easy to get a grip of and use on a regular basis. So, let’s start with the basics and take it from there.
What Does It Do?
This service is described by Google as letting you “monitor the web for interesting content”. Wikipedia calls it a “content change detection and notification service”. What does all of this actually mean, though?
Google Alerts was launched in 2003. While it has been criticized in the past for performance issues and even Google said it wasn’t comprehensive enough, it can be a very useful tool when you understand how it works.
To put it very simply, Google Alerts lets you know when certain words or phrases pop up in the internet. Basically, you just let the system know what you want to keep an eye on. You then get sent an email or your RSS feed is updated when there are results for you to check out.
You can choose to get updates as they happen, once a day or once a week. It is also possible to choose only the best, most relevant results or to get advised of absolutely everything that matches your requests.
All in all, this is a very simple tool but the uses that a blogger can find for it make it essential for building up a brand and a site. If you haven’t yet tried it then here is everything that you need to know.
Who Should Use It?
Google Alerts is suitable for anyone who wants to see what is being said about them, their site or the industry they work in. It is perfect for bloggers as they can track many of the most important issues related to their blogging in one place.
After all, bloggers need to stay on top of what is being about them and their niche as much as any other person who runs their own business. In fact, since your blogging empire is online, it is even more important that you know exactly what the internet is saying about you and your niche at all times.
Firstly, you need to have a Google account to use this service. If you don’t already have one then now is as good a time as any to get it sorted.
You can still use these alerts even if you already have other methods of monitoring the market and seeing what is being said about you and your blog.
This service is especially useful for bloggers who want to discover more about their niche. Perhaps you are fairly new to it all and want to get a broader look at what it is all about. This is a starting point for feeling comfortable in the niche and understanding what is going on around you.
In addition, once you set it up it you will find that it saves you time. Provided that you choose the right alerts and set them up wisely you will be able to get hold of all of the information you need with very little work from now on.
How to Get Started
To get started you need to set up some alerts that are relevant to you. You can do this at https://www.google.com/alerts.
It is very easy to add in the details you are interested in to set up a new alert. The screenshot below shows you the basic details that you are asked for when you first go to set up some alerts.
In fact, perhaps the biggest risk is that you find it so easy to do that you set up more alerts than you really need. It is important to remember that you should only set up as many alerts as you can deal with each day or each week.
You start off by typing in the phrase you want to find out more about. You will find some suggestions in the sections below for the different areas you should be looking at.
Don’t forget that adding quote marks finds exact matches of that phrase rather than any result that simply has those words in any order. Adding a minus sign at the start of the phrase will exclude that phrase from your results.
With a bit of trial and error you will be able to find phrases that return the results you are interested in. Don’t be afraid to try out a few different things to see what you get back. As you get back results you can modify or delete existing alerts and add new ones as needed.
It is also worth putting some thought into how often you want to get results back. Do you want these once a day or perhaps as they happen?
If you are only going to work on the results on a certain day of the week then getting updates weekly probably makes sense.
The sources field lets you pick whether you want back results from news sources, blogs etc. Generally speaking, it is safer to choose everything here rather than risk missing out on anything that could be useful to you.
The choice between getting results sent to your email or on RSS is also down to personal preference. Some people will get certain alerts by email and others by RSS.
For instance, it might be worth adding the searches with highest volume to your RSS feed and letting the less popular ones trickle onto your email as they pop up.
You then need to choose whether to narrow down the results by region or by language. Choosing all of the different languages and regions cuts down the risk on missing out on anything, even if you are unlikely to get anything back regularly in other countries or in different languages.
You will see a preview below as you choose your options, meaning that it should be clear right away if you have done anything wrong or need to make any changes. You might like to take a moment to try a few different things at this point, before you fully set it up.
If you are going to be really thorough about it then it could take you some time to get fully set up. However, once you are up and running then you can just let it carry on while only making minor changes now and then.
You might find it a good idea to set up just a few alerts at the start and slowly add more to them, rather than diving straight in and setting up dozens of different alerts at once. The emails you receive can get out of hand if you have too many alerts. This can end up meaning that you ignore all of the emails you get back, even including the genuinely useful ones.
Keeping an Eye on Your Blog
Now that you have got the basics, it is time to see what you should actually be getting updates on. What should those alerts be based on and what can you do with the results once you have them in front of you?
The good news is that by following some simple tips you don’t need to spend too much time thinking about what to look for.
First of all, chances are that you want to know whenever anyone out there mentions the name of your blog. Equally, if your own name appears in what you write then you will want to keep an eye on what people are saying about you too.
By adding these names to your alert you will be told right away when they are mentioned online. Maybe there is an opportunity for you or perhaps you need to get in touch with the person who has mentioned you. Either way, you will feel more in control of your brand once you see every instance of it being discussed.
For instance, if your blog has been mentioned on someone else’s site then you can get in touch with the owner to add a link back to your blog. Or perhaps there is a discussion about your blog that you need to add your voice to in order to answer criticisms or give your point of view.
This is the kind of alert that you will probably want to set up on a daily basis. Whenever you or your blog are mentioned it’s likely to be a big deal and this probably won’t be a particularly regular occurrence anyway.
It is worth bearing in mind that people sometimes misspell names. If there are some obvious misspellings of your name or the name of the blog then it is a good idea to include them as well.
Equally, if there is another site or business with a similar name then use the hyphen followed by their name to exclude them from your results.
Are People Talking About Your Content?
You also want to be aware of people talking about your articles as well as your name and blog name. What if a discussion on a forum mentions an article you have written or someone includes commentary on it in their own blog? Well, you need a Google Alert for this too.
In this way, you can take part in the discussion if you want to. For example, if the comments show a positive opinion on what you have written then you can add a comment thanking them for their praise and maybe pointing them in the direction of something else you have written that they might like.
It also gives you the opportunity to find out what does and doesn’t go down well. Have they been unfairly harsh or missed the point you are making?
Don’t look on this as spying on people or looking for arguments. You are simply protecting your reputation by finding out what reactions your blogs provoke and then replying.
This sort of feedback on your content can prove to be invaluable when you are still trying to find your blogging voice or decide upon your future direction. Do people think that you should be taking a different approach or does it look as though you have found the perfect voice?
You will want to use your blog title or keywords from it as the name of the alert in this case. If you have a lot of content or a lot of posts with fairly generic titles then you might want to concentrate on your main pieces of content that you know get the most views.
Keep an Eye on What Other Blogs Are Doing
There are probably some blogs out there that deal with similar subjects to the ones you write about. You can look on them as rivals if you like but you can also learn from them at the same time.
Are they getting a lot of attention for doing things that you should be doing as well? Are they being praised or criticized for what they do? Are they tapping into a market that you should be getting into as well?
This kind of alert will let you see what new links other blogs are getting and could give you some good ideas for your own site. If you have a lot of competitors in your niche then you may need to choose which ones to monitor very carefully to avoid spending too much time on this.
You might like to vary this alert now and then by changing the blogs that you look for. Instead of always concentrating on the same blogs you can spread your net to see what is going on across the niche.
This could give you a broader and more interesting look at the market than you would get just by looking at a few rival blogs whenever you have some spare time.
What Questions Are People Asking?
A great way of adding new content to your blog is to see what people are asking about in your niche right now. You can then answer these questions, safe in the knowledge that this is useful information that is currently being searched for.
Are there a lot of similar questions starting to crop up or are there some basic issues that you haven’t yet covered and should really get to work on? It can be difficult to think of these questions on your own, especially if you are already an expert on the subject matter.
It could be that something in the news has caused a lot of people to think of something at the same time. Maybe a new law or some celebrity involvement has put your niche in the spotlight for a greater number of people right now.
This is the kind of opportunity that you should be seizing upon and making the most of. If your niche is enjoying a spell in the public eye then you need to know about it in order to drive visitors to your blog while you can.
Use phrases that include “how to”, how much”, and “how do I” in order to capture as many questions as possible. You can than sit down and work out how best to answer them in your upcoming blogs.
Discover Where to Offer Guest Posts
Guest post writing can open up a whole new world of opportunities for you. This lets you gain valuable links back to your site and also lets you gain access to a far wider audience who might be interested in what you have to say.
There are numerous blogs that are on the lookout for guest writers to beef up their content and add some variety to their site. Finding them can be especially rewarding if you have a lot you want to write about and are passionate about letting as many people as possible read your thoughts.
Most blogs that look for guest posts will tell their readers how to do this somewhere on their site. Therefore, finding this information can help you to find guest blogging opportunities a lot more easily.
To set up the alert you can look for phrases that are commonly used on sites that accept guest posts. These include the likes of “guest bloggers wanted”, “write a guest post”, and similar. This lets you find guest blogging opportunities that you might not have otherwise noticed.
This is a far more efficient approach then going through site after site to find out whether they currently accept guest blogs. In this way, you will have more time to actually write the guest blogs.
Find Out How to Get Better Links
Most bloggers dedicate a far bit of time to getting links back their sites. This is hard work and often it can feel like time wasted when you have very little to show for several hours of work.
One of the most common ways of getting some easy links is by commenting on other people’s blogs. However, not all sites are equal in this respect.
As well as finding blogs that are relevant to your niche, it also helps to find those that use plugins like KeywordLuv and CommentLuv to enhance the benefits that they give you.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense to set up some Google Alerts that let you find these blogs more easily. You can choose something like “KeywordLuv enabled” as the basis of your alerts here.
After this, you can head to the sites that have come back, confident in the knowledge that you can add your comments and backlinks there without any worries.
Have a Look for New Niches, Trends and Opportunities
Is there something fresh and new that you should be writing about? Blogging is an industry that doesn’t stand still and you shouldn’t be idly twiddling your thumbs while it moves all around you. Yet, staying up to date with trends can seem impossible in broad or fast-moving niches.
How can you possibly be expected to keep up to date with everything? At best, you might discover new trends once they go mainstream and appear in newspapers and everyone else’s blogs.
Let’s imagine that you are a travel blogger. Is the latest trend going to be related to sustainable travel, certain new hotspots or different ways of getting around?
Ideally, you will want to get in there early and start talking about it before it goes mainstream and everyone has already written a post on it.
To do this you can set up a Google Alert that looks for content mentioning new trends or predictions in your niche. This might give you something interesting to write a post about or it might even inspire you to move into a completely different niche.
If you are the type of blogger who struggles to find new ideas then this service can be a blessing. You don’t need to keep writing about the same old things or spend hours searching for new topics that interest you. Instead, you will find inspiration in your regular alert results.
By trying out these different approaches you should start to feel more in control of your blog. It might mean adding an hour or so to your weekly routine in order to check out the results. However, it will be worth it when you see how it helps you to save time in other ways.