How do you monitor your competitors? How do you keep an eye on trends in your industry, or keep track of the news in your home town? If your current efforts don't include Google Alerts, this story is for you.
Google is the world's most successful search engine, with more than 8 billion pages contained in its sprawling index. What many people don't know, however, is that Google also pays special attention to news websites, including online editions of traditional media outlets, and specialist online publishers.
In Australia, Google also publishes an automated news portal, http://news.google.com.au, but like all news websites, you have to remember to go to the site to check updates, and then browse through the options to find stories that interest you - a time consuming process, particularly if you get tempted to waste time read the story about some celebrity.
That is where Google Alerts come in.
In short, it is like having Google regularly search the internet and more specifically news archives looking for new information that contains the keywords you select. It then emails the alerts through to your inbox, either as they happen, or once a day, allowing you to click on a link and go straight to the source of the news story.
We first reported on this great system back in April, and since then Google has taken it forward even further.
Now, the Google Alerts system has an account management system, and while the Alerts are still free, it gives you more control over your alerts through a single interface.
Additionally, and probably more important, Google Alerts can also monitor the web for you. You can enter a search into the alerts system, and Google will notify you any time there is a change in the Top 20 listings for that search keyword - it is a great way to monitor your competitors and keep an eye on your site's place on the search index.
To access Google Alerts, do the following: