Google Alerts is one of the most powerful tools made available from our friends at Mountain View, but despite it’s huge potential it’s largely under-rated and doesn’t get the appreciation or the acknowledgement it deserves.
It’s been around for donkey’s years but is still in Beta, and the chances are you’re using it already in a simple way, perhaps to keep track of your own name to see whether there’s a Footballer in Spain with your name or a namesake who’s running for the local council.
You might even have it running for your companies brand name to keep tabs on any good or bad press you’re getting.
And if you aren’t doing either of those two things stop reading this article now (we’ll wait for you) and go and get that set up before you do anything else.
Seriously sort it out now…
But I wanted to share with you just a few of the cleverer ways it can be used that will surprise you and almost certainly make you life a bunch easier.
Using Google Alerts to Find Out If You’ve Been Hacked
With everyone switching to WordPress as a CMS there’s a very real danger of more sites getting hacked. It seems currently the main reason people are hacking WordPress sites is to fill them with links to websites in the less savoury corners of the web.
They’re even clever enough to cloak your website so only search engines can see the links and they are invisible to you.
So how do you find out if your website has been attacked bar waiting for your rankings to tank for linking to spam sites?
You can use a Google Alert, rather than entering a simple keyword set up your Google alert using site:yourdomain.com then add multiple keywords like viagria, cialis web cams, etc. If you add OR in caps lock between the words then it will look for any mentions of they keywords on your site.
Essentially you’re setting up a system which says email me whenever you find any of these dodgy words on my site, you might mention them innocently and get an alert but if something untoward is going on this should give you a early warning.
The only real downside is Google have already spotted the problem so it may already be too late.
This is a great little tip with a hat tip to Patrick.
Using Google Alerts to Find Out Who’s Linking to You
You no doubt know that search google with link:yourdomain.com will give you a rough approximation of some of the links pointing at your site. It’s no big secret that the data you get from this search is a little flawed, but setting up a Google Alert with this syntax is not a bad way to find out about some new links you’ve attracted.
Keep Track of Your Competitors Links
You can use exactly the method discussed above to keep track of new inbound links to your competitor sites, this method is arguably it’s even more valuable. If you discover they’ve had a series of infographics which have gone viral perhaps you should be exploring a similar approach, or maybe competitions are leading to high quality editorial links? Well then you should get your thinking cap on.
Find out Every-time Google Index a new Page of Your Site.
A real trend I’ve seen over recent months is websites suffering from decreasing number of indexed pages in Google, in most cases this hasn’t adversely influenced their search traffic or search entry pages but is still an issue of concern. Do you have a system in place to monitor whether your pages are getting indexed as you hope? or are you just submitting an XML site map and crossing your fingers? If you set up a Google alert for site:yourdomain.com you’ll get a notification every time a page is indexed, which will help spot any indexing issues you may be suffering from.
Use Google Alerts to Keep Track of Changing Content with RSS feeds
There’s certain areas to certain websites that you’d really like to keep track of but for what ever reason don’t have RSS feeds, I’ve found this a lot in press centre sections of company websites, for example.
It can be really helpful to get updated whenever a new page is added to this section of the site. Again a bit of clever Google Alerts syntax can help you. Setting one up for a query like site:theirdomain.com/press-centre/ would do the trick nicely.
See not bad for a free tool that’s been in beta for donkey’s years.