The Ninja’s Guide to Google Alerts

Google Alerts is one of the most powerful free tools available, but it is often overlooked. It monitors the Web for words and phrases and even sends you an email or updates an RSS feed every time it finds a new result.

Sounds pretty simple right? You will be amazed at how powerful a simple tool like Google Alerts can be. It has a huge range of uses which are only limited by your imagination.

I’m going to reveal how I use Google Alerts to leverage brand, authority, traffic and sales, as well as share the exact alerts I have setup for my personal SEO blog.

Monitoring Brand

Just like John Chow, my name (Matthew Woodward) is my brand. Any time my website or name is mentioned, I get an email direct to my inbox to alert me of that. This offers a great range of opportunities: I can get alerted to new discussions about my brand or if I have been mentioned somewhere without a link back to my site.

You can then take action by addressing the feedback and getting links added. These are the alerts I have set up to monitor my brand online:
matthew woodward

Monitoring Competitors

In addition to monitoring your brand, you should also be looking at what your competition is doing. You could receive alerts of positive and/or negative feedback about your competitors or even alerts of new links that they have acquired. You can use Google Alerts to keep a close eye on their activity online and then leverage it to your advantage. I’m not going to publicly reveal who I monitor. :) Just setup brand based alerts for all of your competitors.

Monitoring Questions in Your Niche

This is great for driving traffic and building authority and loyal subscribers. You can monitor your niche for a range of question-based terms and then jump in and provide an expert answer with a link back to your site. Here are the alerts I use to monitor link building-related questions (but you can swap the phrase link building for anything you want):

How * link building
Is * link building
Can * link building
When * link building
Why * link building
Will * link building

I have alerts like that set up for Link Building, SEO, Google Penalty, and so forth.

Every time I create a new piece of content that answers questions about a certain topic, I set up corresponding alerts so I can direct people to the answer.

Monitoring Content Distribution

If you have a cornerstone piece of content, then you can use Google Alerts to monitor mentions of the article across the Web. You can get an alert if someone talks about it on a forum or shares it in a blog comment somewhere. Again, this provides you with multiple opportunities to get involved and add to the discussion.

My”>Ultimate Guide To Tiered Link Building video tutorial series has proved to be very popular, and I have alerts to monitor for mentions of it around the Web:

"ultimate guide to tiered link building"
"ultimate guide to link building"
"tiered link building part"

Finding New Guest Post Opportunities

Most blogs that accept guest posts have a page telling you how to get in touch and submit a guest post. You can use Google Alerts to monitor a range of common footprints used on those blogs to let you know about new guest posting opportunities in your niche. Here’s what I have set up:

"write for us" SEO
"submit guest post" SEO
"bloggers wanted" SEO
"become a contributor" SEO
"this guest post" SEO
"become an author" SEO

Monitoring Link Building Footprints

There are a lot of platforms out there that you can use to get links from. Commenting on WordPress blogs is a great way to establish traffic, authority, and relevant backlinks, but we can take this a step further. WordPress plugins, such as KeywordLuv and CommentLuv, will let us drop keyword-based anchor texts with links back to our most recent posts. This offers a lot more benefit than a regular blog comment, but how do we use Google Alerts to find these opportunities automatically? Here are my alerts:

SEO +"CommentLuv enabled"
SEO +"enter yourname@yourkeywords" -intitle:"enter yourname@yourkeywords"
link building +"CommentLuv enabled"
link building +"enter yourname@yourkeywords" -intitle:"enter yourname@yourkeywords"

That’s just an example of monitoring the KeywordLuv and CommentLuv WordPress plugins for the keywords SEO and Link Building. There are lots of different platforms you can target this way, just find a common footprint and set up an alert.

Monitoring Site Security

I have had sites hacked on a few occasions in the past. Some hackers chose to inject hidden links in footers, while others go all out creating thousands of junk pages. Usually, the first time you notice this is when your site completely disappears out of the SERPs. You can use Google Alerts to monitor for any suspicious activity on your site, so you can take action before you get penalized. Set up an alert like this to monitor your site: acne OR botox OR casino OR dating OR debt OR insurance OR mortgage OR paxil OR pharmacy OR phentamine OR pherimones OR poker OR porn OR OR roulette sex OR viagara OR viagra OR xxx

Obviously, if your site is about getting into debt buying viagra in an online casino, then you need to tweak the keywords in my alert above.

Monitoring Shoppers

If you run an e-commerce store, you can set up a series of alerts that will drop you an email every time a shopper is ready to buy a product in your niche. With the right alerts, you can target people who have made the decision of buying a product but haven’t actually bought it yet. Zing! Here are some laptop-based examples:

laptop * under *
* laptop under *
laptop under *
cheapest laptop *
cheap laptop *
buy laptop * cheap
best price * laptop
* laptop * price

Regional Based Monitoring

If your a local business, then you can use a range of search terms to monitor for shoppers in your immediate local area who are looking to buy. You can get in touch with them and convert them into a sale without having to move! Here are some examples to find people looking for laptops in London:

london laptop *
laptop * london
london * laptop

Discovering New Niches

How would you like alerts of hot, new, and emerging niches landing in your inbox on a daily basis? Consider setting up alerts like:

new * this year
new * 2012
will * 2012
what will happen *

How to Setup Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts is very easy and takes seconds to do. This is what the form looks like:

In the Search Query box, you can enter the term you want be alerted for. Have a look at my examples above and see which ones you can utilize for your site.

In the Result Type box, I always select to receive alerts for everything.

The How Often box allows you to choose between once a week, once a day, or as it happens. I change this based on what I want to achieve. For example, I want alerts about site security as it happens, but only want new guest post opportunities every week.

In the How Many box, I always choose All Results to make sure I don’t miss anything.

The Deliver To box, lets you choose to have the alerts delivered via email or RSS. I tend to have things like brand-related alerts delivered by email and have link building opportunities delivered via RSS in Google Reader.

Once you have set everything up, you will get new alerts forever! It might take an hour or so to set up, but it is worth every minute of your time, and you can set up as many alerts as you want.

Think Out of the Box

Now that you understand the true power of Google Alerts, take a step back and think about unique ways you could apply them to your business or website. There are thousands of different ways you could use it over and above what I have discussed in this post. Think out of the box and be creative with your alerts! It is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, so make sure you take full advantage of it.

How Do You Use Google Alerts?

So now you know how I use Google Alerts to build authority, brand, traffic, and sales to my SEO blog & video tutorials. Do you have a Google Alerts strategy that I haven’t discussed? Will you be integrating Google Alerts into your online strategy?

Matthew Woodward
Matthew Woodward publishes a series of SEO video tutorials on his website that teach you how to rank websites over his shoulder step by step. With a wealth of experience he lives on the bleeding edge of SEO and gets strangely excited when Google releases an algorithm update ^^
Matthew Woodward

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96 thoughts on “The Ninja’s Guide to Google Alerts

  1. I am a huge fan of Google alerts. I just wish I alerts for my name weren’t so annoying. Having “May” as my last name I am always getting stuff like “Rebekah may go to the movies later” or “Posted by Rebecca. May, 1, 2012.”

    1. Hi Rebekah,

      Have you tried experimenting with the ‘only the most important’ option ?

      If a lot of the results are coming from the same domains/sites you could add to your querys to help filter some of the unwanted results.

  2. This is a real eye opener, I have been using Google Alerts for a few things, mainly monitoring mentions of the brand but there is some really clever uses here. I’m off to set up a load of alerts right now, particularly like the idea of using it to find guest posting opportunities.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, there are lots of ways to utilise the alerts. I’m sure your clients could use it to generate new accountancy leads by offering advice to local posters on the web.

  3. Great guide! Another example of just how powerful those boolean operators can be when you refine your search. Here’s an additional tip – does a web domain result keep showing up that you really don’t care about? Then exclude the whole site from the alerts by using

    Yes, use that (-) will save your inbox from exploding or your eyes from flipping through irrelevant sources.

    Victor from WordStream

  4. What if you have a common name, such as mine? I know there are probably a million Amanda Harpers in the world, and a lot involved with the media and would be incredibly frustrating to receive alerts about each and every one of them.

    Not that I am in a position to be receiving any alerts about me specifically..

    1. I would run the alerts for a while and then fine tune the alert with negative result commands.

      For example you could use to filter out some of the junk.

      If you kept getting alerts for ‘Amanda Harper’ the movie star for example you could add things like -movie -film -actress

      Or you could do the reverse of that for yourself

  5. Hi Matthew,

    I have been using Google Alerts for a long time now and have used it from keeping an eye on my Brand to watching what the competitors might be doing.

    Sometime having so many alerts might get overwhelming specially if you keep getting them in your inbox. What I do is set the ‘Deliver to’option as Feeds that way I get all these alerts in my Google Reader and I can setup different folders for different alerts. Hope this helps. :)

    Also, I loved your idea about ‘Monitoring Shoppers’ . Having such alerts will help someone find new websites/forums or Q&A they can use for connecting. Great Idea. :)

    Thanks for the post. Keep writing.

    1. Hi Yogi,

      I actually separate them out and have some delivered via RSS and some via E-mail.

      Anything brand related I want instant notification of via E-mail so I can respond quickly if needs be. You would also want alerts for finding shoppers delivering instantly as well.

      Where as monitoring for new guest post / link building opps you can tuck away nicely in Google Reader and review it as and when you need to. The great thing is you will have a huge library of oppertunitys built up each and everytime you login!

  6. Thanks for a great post! I didn’t think of some of these opportunities. Now I’m gonna try them. Thank you, Matthew!

  7. Great post. I sometimes get the feeling that Google Alerts is a little bit of an unsung hero when it comes to keeping one’s virtual ear to the ground.

    Some great tips here. I’ve already added a bunch of new alerts to my own list!

  8. Never thought about using Google alerts this way…..ready to put your ideas into action for our new business! Thanks!

      1. Thanks for the info…..I set up several alerts and found relevant topics. Now, what do I do with that?? Some of these are on social sites that don’t allow advertising or commercial solicitations. So…how do I solicit discreetly?? Thanks a bunch!

      2. Well it depends on the result – some times you might get a forum discussion and other times it may be an editorial piece and you can get in touch with the site to add your own comments.

        Each result will require a different approach.

  9. Brilliant post Matthew.

    I’ve already got Google Alerts set up for various types of content in my industry, mostly news.

    However, you’ve opened my eyes to all the possibilities!

    Can we combine these factors together?

    i.e. Can we search for Guest post Opportunities in a geographical area? Or can these variables only be applied one at a time?

    1. Thanks for your kind words

      It really is a great inbound marketing tool and you can use it how ever you want.

      If you can construct a query in Google Search to return the results you want then you can setup an alert for it.

      I’m not sure if you can use a search operator to define location at the moment though? Although you can view search results from different locations you can’t do that with an operator at the moment.

      What you could do is something like-

      “write for us” SEO +AREANAME

  10. Great ideas, hadn’t thought of all those uses you mentioned.

    Something I’ve noticed is that Google Alerts sometimes sends you content that hasn’t been indexed yet. In other cases, comparing the date the page was cached with the time your alert was sent can also teach you a lot about this search engine – especially this latency between the moment Google finds a document and proceeds to show it in its index, among others.

  11. I have never really bothered with GA but have heard many experts like yourself rave on about it. I have setup the odd one in the past without really following through on the results but if you say it can work then I will give it a go and try and put those results to use. I dont have a brand but Im interested in whats going on in the local areas and what competitors are up to so I have set up some alerts. I have also checked out your website for some other tips :)

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for checking out my site, hope you found some value in it – I bloody hope so given the amount of hours I put into it 😛

      I noticed you offer a number of services, I’m sure you can put Google Alerts to work for some of your clients for some free inbound marketing.

  12. I use GA a lot, but not to this extent. Thanks for the valuable info, and I wish you all the best for the future!

  13. I’m assuming that you could even use G.A. to monitor what someone may say in social media sites as well?

  14. Has anyone used “Result type” in Google Alert ? I am using it for majoring quality of content that I produce for my website. I have setup two alerts for my domain in one I have selected “Only Best Result” Option and in another I have selected “All result” option. You can rely on this measurement because it is coming from Google straight away.

    1. Hi Kaushal,

      Are you saying that you use Google Alerts as a way to differentiate between what Google values as high quality content and normal content on your own site?

      That is an absolutely fantastic example of an out of the box way to use Google Alerts.

      Hats off to you sir!

  15. This is some great stuff. The hack alerts are a brilliant idea. What;s your success rate in terms of finding good stuff with Google Alerts? I’d guess that the laptop example would bring back a lot of generic advertising for many products rather than people looking to buy a lot of this time? Although it’s not hard to tweak an alert and weed out the stuff you don’t want after a couple

    Google Alerts is also great for discovering where your news gets picked up when something big happens or you send out a press release (“company name” “relevant keyword relating to news”), Another thing to consider for self-branding name alerts is your office address and phone number too.

    1. Hi Dan, I outsource most of my content related for blogging and press release etc. By setting Google alert in two different account I can compare the quality of content. It helps me in finding the best content writer. Till date I have rejected many content writers.

    2. Hi Dan,

      Yeah if the alerts are picking up to much junk you can keep refining them over time.

      I hadn’t considered phone number as something to track but now you mention also things like customer support email addresses and so forth would be great things to monitor!

  16. Hi Mathew
    Love it – thanks for the tip off from the comment you left on my blog – I really enjoyed this post. I do use Google Alerts for link building and also use them to spot opportunities for business for both myself and my clients but to be honest i have not taken it nearly as far as you have so hats off – great ideas here.

      1. Thanks for appreciation Matthew ( which I really need). Mathew can please write blogpost on it, and share this idea with other webmasters also. My English is not that much good otherwise I have done that year before.

  17. Google alerts are my favorite way of automating my competition research. You want to know where the competitor is distributing the coupon code? Just put the coupon in the alerts. You want to see where the competitor is listing their local business? Put their telephone number/address in the alerts. There is so much to do with it. You can also setup filters in your email so that the emails get forwarded to your appropriate team member. And, you can do some advanced stuff with email piping.

  18. I have set-up some alerts. We are in the finance niche so will be attempting to find conversations that I can hopefully add to.

    I also added some alerts on some competitors. I tried to add alerts for commentluv within the niche but it seemed easier to just add one for it in general.

    On a side note I installed commentluv on our blog. We have always struggled with conversation. We’ll see if that helps. I moderate the comments heavily so spammers beware. :O)

    1. Good luck with the alerts – it might also be worth getting involved with active communitys about finance. For example in the UK we have a site called MoneySavingExpert

  19. I love Google Alerts too and always recommend it to my clients. However there is a famous Maggie Ryder Singer and I always receive alerts relate to her which can be annoying. I am sure she receives heaps related to me too!!!! lol

  20. i’m used google alerts when i had a payment processing website and was monitoring related content and competitors but this post and the comments are brilliant! crazy possiblities!! have to revisit this asap thanks for opening everyone’s eyes to this great free tool.

  21. Hi!

    Thank you for informing us about Google Alerts. I actually didn’t know that Google has come up with this tool and with the looks of it, I think it is something that I can use while blogging.

    Anyways, this was a very detailed list. Hope to see more.

  22. Matthew, thank you for your informative article. In regards to using Google Alerts to monitor your competition, is there a way that you could be notified every time your competitor updates their web page?

  23. Hi Matthew, great post! Until now I have been using just a small part of google alert’s potential. Thanks to your post I have set up much more useful alerts which I hope will help to monitor our site more effective. Hope to see more tips from you soon.


  24. A really useful information, Matthew! Until now we haven’t used Google alerts, but we realize this is a pretty useful tool which can help to prevent google ban and will help us monitor our site and related keywords on the web.


  25. Great article and tips, Matthew, thank you. I’m a writer, so in addition to the SEO/competitor monitoring benefits, I also use Google Alerts to monitor for plagiarized content (when I’ve not syndicated or otherwise given permission to reprint). In doing so, I’ve found that using quotes gets better results (for my purposes), and I set alerts for article title, and random sentences and phrases throughout the article, which brings me to a limitation I’ve found that might pertain to other GA users and they should be aware of…

    In the “Search Query” box, there is a word limit of 32 words. I found this out when I tried to set an alert for an entire paragraph. While most SEOs and non-writers won’t need that many words for an alert, someone like me does, and because of the limit, it doubles my work when setting them. Thanks :-)

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  27. I find that google alerts is frustrating at times because of the irrelevant alerts you get, but it is definitely worth your time to keep track of what alerts you do get because occasionally you will get a nice link out of it.

  28. Thanks for sharing this step by step Guide. Surely will help new bloggers to keep on track of their site! Will surely share this one.

  29. Matthew – great piece. I’m a speaker, and before a program for a specific company or industry, I set some Google Alerts to track what’s happening. It’s really useful – I’ve known things about a company that employees hadn’t heard – and it helps me to be informed about the major issues.

  30. Google Alerts is really an interesting tool. Every now and then, I set alerts for my freelancing job and get email alerts when someone posts a requirement. This really helps

  31. Hi Matthew. Nice post, lots of new ideas. I’ve been using google alerts in a simple way for a while but have found that their effectiveness has been falling recently. For example, I know that google has found many more pages referring to our brand, breatheHR, than get reported by alerts. I’ve got the volume set to all results but it still seems to be reporting a very narrow selection.

    Any ideas?

  32. This is really cool stuff. Didn’t know you can set the alerts to do do much stuff. The only limitation is that my gmail has been flooded with too much spam and I do require to create another gmail account and do a redirect which is a little troublesome.

  33. I am so totally annoyed these Casino hackers are on my site and I can’t find the link to get them off.

    Do you know of anything that can help me find it and get it off? I use Google Alerts but I’ll add some that you mentioned but both my sites LisaCashHanson (dot) com and MompreneurMogul ( dot ) com have these hackers in my header ( and when I look it’s not there.

  34. Great tips on how to use google alerts properly. I’ve been trying to figure out all the hype on them and kept getting irrelevant results. The tips you’ve provided here are a real eye opener. it’s amazing how things tend to make more sense when you know what each parameter is for. Thanks for the advice.

  35. Hey Matthew,

    Another great post once more. I have used google alerts in the past and without great results. Since reading this article I have learned that I was deinately going about it the wrong way so I will put it on my list to do for Monday and get things going the right way. I am certainly looking forward to what results it is going to bring.

    Best regards,

  36. I regularly receive notifications regarding new YouTube videos my competitors upload- yet I do not receive notifications of the YouTube videos I upload. What step am I missing in order to have my company’s videos be picked up by Google Alerts too?

  37. Hi Matthew,
    I want to track long list of alerts (@100). Is it possible to import alerts in Google alerts or any other way to handle it?


  38. Really, Good information about google alert use. It is really powerful tool for SEO. And I will also use it in better manner now as you explained the great work that can be done by it. Thank you

  39. it happened when I was working in the online business, and I see Google Alerts able to build authority, brand products. but I have a lot more work to it all.

    thank you Matthew Woodward

  40. Great content Matt, gotta love Google Alerts! I use it to track what’s being said about me around the web. I’m definitely going to implement what you went over in this post.

  41. Great post, Matt. I’ve used Google Alerts before but only really dipped my toe in the water. I didn’t realise they could be so useful.

  42. This is an excellent article on the use of google alerts. I picked up some great ideas and the brain was churning over with some good ones.

    You are now my official “Google Alerts” expert Matthew…haha.

  43. I love Google alerts, been using it as another tool for my marketing online method. It lets me know when my content has been indexed by Google and when others have have had there content indexed.

  44. Hi Matthews,
    This is the most comprehensive post about Google Alerts that I have yet seen. Thanks for this sum of information. Really helpful.

  45. I just started using Google Alerts and I know for sure it made a pretty good job making me aware that what I have posted have been indexed. I was still learning how to use it to its maximum. This article has lots of ideas that I was not aware of. Great job!