Keeping up to date using Google Alerts

Here’s my tip of the week. How to get the news you want, delivered when you want in the format you want.

I have been usingĀ  ‘Google Alerts’ for many years now and find the tool invaluable. Google Alerts provides me with digests of new news stories on whichever topics I choose.

Once it is set up, if there is no news on that topic, I hear nothing. If a news story surfaces, Google emails or texts me a linked digest (again I get to decide which) either as it happens, once a day or once a week.

I can set up as many of these Alerts as I wish and by cleverly configuring them I can be sure to just get the news I want.

Suppose I want to know about events in my hometown of Windsor. All I need do (after logging in to Google) is to search for ‘Alerts’ and click the ‘Create a New Alert’ button.

google alerts set up screen

As you can see, In the example above I have added three negative keywords to the search. This allows me to exclude terms that I am not interested in (such as the Ontario based ‘Windsor Lancers’ ice hockey team).

I can go back and adjust the terms and exclusions whenever I want to refine the quality of the email digests I receive. In fact, ‘Windsor’ is much too broad a term to get the most out of this tool. The best way I have found of using Google Alerts effectively is to create lots alerts for a lot of very specific search terms. If you do this you will just get the stories you need.

I currently have more than 90 highly targeted alerts set up most of which stay silent from one week to the next. However, when they do get activated and a news story appears in my inbox, I almost always find it to be a story of interest.

Oneof the really obvious uses of this service is to put my own company name (and variations on it) into an alert to help monitor when customers or competitiors mention my company. I recently amended these feeds to exclude ‘’ just so I wouldn’t keep seeing my own posts appearing in the emails, although there is no harm in this and it does let you know that your own latest posts have been successfully indexed.

As well as excluding terms you can use asterisks to include wildcard searches and even use a “~” to let google know you want a particular alert to include synonyms.

The benefit of this approach over other instant information systems (such as Twitter) is that the ‘signal to noise’ ratio is so much better. I get to read the news I want, when I want, and as it was emailed to me I can further decide which emails to keep and which to throw away, giving me an instant and easily searchable record of important events.

Whatever business you are in, you will find that Google Alerts can be a great way of keeping in the loop on the stories you need to know about.