If your small business is like mine, it would be tough to go a day without touching a Google product. Whether or not employees are Google searching or monitoring an AdWords campaign, chances are good that someone on the payroll owns an Android phone, a Gmail account or a Google+ profile.
One of the most overlooked tools in the search giant’s toolbox is Google Alerts. This free service is like putting an all-points bulletin out on the Internet for specific words or phrases. After you fill in a couple fields and boxes, Google sends you an e-mail when your criteria appear in a new page on the Internet. It can deliver these results weekly, daily or in real time—all found results or just the top ones. You can specify whether you want to track mentions in news, blogs, books, videos, discussions or all of the above.
In the hands of a savvy entrepreneur, marketer or blogger, this superpower can be a force for good.
Monitor mentions of your company
The Internet is still the Wild West. Competitors, pundits and past clients have the freedom to post negative commentary. The first step to battling this potential is awareness. So, plug your name, your company’s name and maybe even an ad campaign slogan into Google Alerts to stay proactive. This is also a great resource to find new recommendations, positive reviews and loyal fans to mention in promotional materials and online social streams.
Follow industry trends
I keep tabs on new developments in my industry and my clientele’s industries so that I'm aware of them before they hit our respective trade magazines. It takes only a minute to assign some keywords to send breaking content to my inbox or RSS reader. When you’re trying to solve an IT, R&D, distribution or human resources issue, the Googleplex can do the research and e-mail the findings. It’s not a bad idea to keep an eye out for hirable talent through these alerts, either.
Track your marketing
There are multiple services that charge to track where press releases get picked up by media outlets. Rather than pay for these subscriptions, I take key terms, places, names and phrases from press releases to track them via Google Alerts. One of my auctioneer clients recently set up a Google Alert for his seller to track a press release I wrote for their auction; they were able to find the story popping up in multiple states surrounding the auction.
Want to discover if your new campaign is getting noticed or if your long-used campaign is still getting traction? Use Google Alerts to act as a homing device on your headlines, offers and slogans across print, broadcast and online media. If it sounds tedious to manage all of these alerts, let me assure you that it’s not. I turn them on and off with just a few clicks after a campaign has run its course.
Maintaining a company blog has just about become a necessity. According to a HubSpot study, commercial websites that contain blogs garner 55 percent more visitors and 97 percent more inbound links than sites without a blog. Even if you don’t blog, much of the text on your website is your proprietary work, and you don’t want people plagiarizing it. You can pay a monthly fee to companies like Copyscape to check the Internet and alert you to thieves publishing your content as their own, or you can just put key phrases from your work into Google Alerts to track them for free.
Find sources for blog posts and presentations
For my biweekly blog posts and other articles, I keep a to-write list and use Google Alerts to send me potential sources for weeks or months before I start writing on new topics. I do the same for upcoming conference presentations on my schedule. Google Alerts supplies new and current results, which often trump the top results from a standard Google search, and they collect non-traditional sources that will make you more deeply connected and knowledgeable.
Staying ahead of the curve is rarely easy. With Google Alerts, though, keeping yourself informed is free and saves you a lot of time.
OPEN Cardmember Ryan George is the president of Biplane Productions, an advertising agency for companies that market assets through live auctions.