Make Google work for you

Dee Dee Jacobs, SBJ Web EditorMuch good can be said about the assortment of free services that Google offers, and Google Alerts is no exception.

Google Alerts (sign up at google.com/alerts) is a free tool that sends you e-mail notifications when your specified keywords or phrases appear online. You can keep tabs on your favorite industries, sports teams or news topics. The service isn’t new, but new applications for businesses are emerging all the time.

I have about 10 Google Alerts set up, mostly for local companies that often make headlines nationally, such as Bass Pro Shops or Hammons Hotels. I like to stay informed on what they’re up to in case a story elsewhere has local implications.

Aside from keeping watch on other businesses of interest, I also have an alert set up for “Springfield Business Journal.” I initially set it up so I could know when other Web sites linked to sbj.net, so I could have some insight into where our Web traffic was coming from. Getting alerts on our company has offered much more, however. It has allowed us to keep tabs on what’s being said about us, how our reputation is holding up, and whether there are any customer service issues we can address.

We recently received an article submission from California-based small-business expert Stephanie Chandler, listing 10 Google Alerts you can set up for your business. Her tips were so useful – and simple – that I’ll share them with you here. For more from Chandler, visit her Web site at www.stephaniechandler.com, or her company’s Web site, www.authoritypublishing.com.

  1. Business name – Keep track of Web sites that mention your company. This is an opportunity to send a note of thanks or address an issue if something derogatory is posted like a complaint about customer service.
  2. Personal name – Find out where you’re mentioned online.
  3. Web site – Track where your Web site is mentioned by creating an alert for your domain. Leave off the leading “www.”
  4. Blog – If you host a blog, create an alert for your blog domain.
  5. Titles – If you distribute articles, create an alert for each article title so you can track where they appear. Authors can use this same strategy for tracking book titles.
  6. Industry research – To stay on top of industry news or get ideas for topics on your blog, create alerts for keywords and key phrases for your industry.
  7. Competitive research – If you want to find out who is talking about your competition or where they are being mentioned, create alerts for each competitor’s business name and/or Web site URL.
  8. Lead generation – If breaking news can produce leads for your company, use Google Alerts for related phrases.
  9. Lead research – If there is a company or client that you want to land, create alerts to stay on top of their most recent online activity.
  10. Top client research – Track activity for your top clients. This can give you valuable insight into what they’re up to, and also provide you with reasons to contact them.
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