We bloggers are always on the lookout for free tools: free blogging tools, free SEO tools, free marketing tools, and it goes on and on!
Surprisingly, we have been ignoring the one tool which is not only free, but has been handed down to us by the search engine Lord, Google, and it’s called Google Alerts.
What is Google Alerts?
Google Alerts is a web content monitoring tool.
You enter a search keyword and the tool shows if the search keyword appears in Google results.
You can select the kind of results you wish to see, namely News, Blogs, Video, Discussion and Books.
From a bloggers’ perspective, this is a tool for blog marketing and analysis.
Why Should You Use Google Alerts?
A very relevant question and I will give you eight equally relevant and outside-the-box answers.
1) Check Content Indexing
You can use Google Alerts to check whether your blog posts are getting indexed.
Simply create an alert with your blog name.
Every time a blog post is published and indexed, you will get an alert.
If not, you need to check with Google Webmasters and submit a sitemap.
2) Find Blogs for Guest Blogging
If Google comes around to devaluing guest blogging links, we are doomed.
If not, Google Alerts is THE best place to discover blogs in any specific niche and pitch guest post ideas.
First, you need to select your targeted keywords.
Whenever anything is posted and indexed around the targeted keywords, Google will send you a notification.
I set up a Google alert for ‘guest posting’ and here’s a sample of notifications received.
Simply visit the source, check out the website, and pitch your idea.
3) Find Blogs for Commenting
Every blogger knows the value of commenting.
Similar to the second method, set up alerts and visit the source blog to comment.
It is a hassle-free method because you don’t have to spend hours searching for niche-relevant blogs or signing up with blog email lists to remain updated.
Just use Google Alerts!
4) Get News Updates
Bloggers often get traffic spikes when they write about trending topics.
By using Google Alerts and setting the frequency of notifications to “as it happens”, remaining updated on niche developments is much easier.
Here’s an example. Target keyword phrase is ‘Facebook’.
5) Monitor Brand Name
If you’re trying to build an authority and brand-able blog, Google Alerts will be a handy tool to track blog branding.
You will know if someone links to your blog or mentions it on their posts, and determine the value it adds.
For example, when I searched for Traffic Generation Café, this is the result I got:
You can see that the results show incoming backlinks.
This way, Ana gets to know where her blog is getting exposure and she can monitor traffic as well.
6) Track Backlinks
If you are into commenting, guest blogging, article marketing, presentations and video marketing to promote your blog, Google Alerts will help to track backlinks.
Whenever your blog link appears anywhere on the blogosphere, you get a notification from Google.
7) Find Content Ideas with * and OR Combination
When you track developments happening within your niche, you will come across topics and issues others are writing about and it could inspire you to present your thoughts on the topic.
You could also use the * and OR attributes to search for specific ideas.
For instance, you can add ‘how * blog’ [without quotes] and Google will replace the * mark with suitable phrases and show you the final output.
An example is given below.
Writer’s block is common for bloggers. Using Google Alerts will give you fresh perspective on niche developments.
8) Use ~ to Unravel Horizontally Relevant Synonyms & Niches
Suppose you have a blog on ‘pain relief’.
When you set up the Google Alerts adding “~ pain relief” search query [remove quotes], Google will show synonyms of the search query.
See the example below.
This is beneficial if you want to target more keywords.
These synonymous phrases could become the secondary keywords to incorporate on the blog.
Won’t Google Alerts Clutter Inbox?
Of course, it will.
You can easily avoid the clutter by setting a Gmail filter. Please follow the given steps to do so.
1. Log in to Gmail.
2. Create a New Label.
3. Go to Settings > Filters > Create a New Filter
4. On the new page, add the following:
To: [your email id]
Leave other fields blank.
5. Click ‘Create filter with this search’.
The filter is set up.
Filters won’t clutter the inbox. They are completely unobtrusive.
Whenever you wish to brainstorm ideas or monitor blog progress, go to the label and check the emails.
Google Alerts Alternatives
Some users complain that Google Alerts becomes slow or fails to deliver results after a few weeks.
I don’t know the reason for this, but in case you do experience the same, here is a list of 10 alternatives to Google Alerts.
Most of these tools are free. Some have paid versions as well.
Some are for Twitter and Facebook alerts.
I find Google Alerts to be a valuable tool, especially for bloggers.
Before you invest in other blogging and SEO tools, do try out Google Alerts.
Chitraparna Sinha is a 5-year veteran of the freelance content development industry, a social media enthusiast, a freelancing consultant, a thinker, a published editor and a professional blogger. She can be reached via her blog SocialVani.