Recently, I decided to explore using Google Alerts to come up with topics to write about (sorry, Zemanta, your suggestion email didn’t cut the mustard). As I was setting some simple alerts up (blogging, cycling, coding, etc.), I started thinking of other things I could use Google Alerts for – such as tracking certain website activities or competing businesses or sports teams or political issues – the list goes on and on.
I also couldn’t help but wonder if you could get really tricky and use Google’s advanced search to reduce the number of alerts created. In other words, what if I want to follow news items that are bizarre OR odd OR funny? A list of those would be fun to blog about. It would also be a great way to expand the topics I had already set up – like “cycling” could be expanded to include bicycles, mountain bikes, road bikes, commuter bikes, etc. – and reduce the volume of alert emails I received.
The first thing I wanted to check was how to do the OR logic. I knew there had to be a way to do it, but I was unsure of the proper syntax. So, did a search (on Google, of course) for “advanced search operators“, which lead me to http://www.googleguide.com. A very comprehensive and handy guide to bookmark!
In the site index, I noticed a section for “The OR and | operators”. Actually, that title told me all I really needed to know, but I clicked on it anyway. Examples like “Tahiti OR Hawaii” and “bicycle|cycle” confirmed for me that the syntax was easily implemented and would likely get me exactly what I want.
Reading through some of the other cool advanced operators gave me other ideas. Like:
1. See what people are saying about you.
Set up an alert for your name. If you’re mentioned anywhere Google adds to their index, you should see it. The search should be an exact match, like “Wally Day” (in quotes). Otherwise you’ll end up with results for only part of your name (I would get a gazillion hits for “day”). I would set this up for Only the Best Results, and Once a Week in the Alerts options.
2. See who is linking to you
Google is notorious for not showing all of the links to your site. But, they “might” notify you of new links recently added. Try link:wallyday.com, or for even better results: link:wallyday.com|link:www.wallyday.com (see how we used the OR logic?). Again, this is not going to happen often, so Only the Best Results, and Once a Week.
3. Get article ideas
As I stated at the beginning, I try to get content ideas from Google Alerts. Using some of the following advanced syntax codes, you can get really, really specific in your searches. Let’s say you you are runner and you want to get the latest results about your sport, but not all results. You could do something like this:
~run -twitter -facebook
What this should do is match “run” and synonyms like “runner’s”, “running”, and “marathon”, but should not be mentioned on Twitter and not be mentioned on Facebook. Like I say, it should do this – a bit of tweaking may be required. It uses a couple of advanced search operators
‘~’ is used for synonyms and ‘-‘ is used to exclude something
other available operators are ‘*’ , which is used as a wildcard, and ‘..’ which is used for ranges (like $10..$20).
4. Google Alert Basics
Here I am, talking about using advanced search in Google Alerts, assuming you know all there is to know about the basics of the service. Since that may not be so, here’s a quick primer to get you started.
Google Alerts can be found at www.google.com/alerts. To use the service you need to have a Google ID. If you use Gmail, then you have a Google ID, otherwise you’ll have to create one.
Once there, you’ll see this form.
The Result types include News, Blogs, Video, Discussions, and Books. I always leave it at Everything, which seems to work fine. If you start getting odd results, you might want to experiment with the other sources.
How often – As it Happens, Once a Day, or Once a Week. This depends on your needs, I guess. Once a Day keeps me pretty busy.
How many – Only the Best, or All Results. I always do Only the Best.
Deliver to – this will include any email address you’ve added to your Google account. It used to include an RSS feed option, but that option was abused by several auto-generated content providers who tried to sell their crap as “curated content” generators. What a joke.
- How to Use Google Alerts for Content Marketing: Collect & Store Content Ideas(zemanta.com)
- Google Alerts Drops RSS Delivery Option(searchengineland.com)
- Start Using Google Alerts to Keep Yourself Updated(bespectacledfreak.wordpress.com)
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