Google Alerts is a snap to use and delivers immediate value for anyone, especially authors. In the time it takes you to read this article you can setup and begin benefiting from one of the top “listening tools” available. All you need is a free Google account and who doesn’t have one of those?
Why authors need Google Alerts
The old school way to describe Alerts is that it is a clipping service. Years ago, before online was the center of our communications needs, people would manually monitor print and electronic media for the mention of keywords. Alerts does the same thing for free, and far more quickly and thoroughly, by listening for those keywords in the vast collection of information that Google indexes on the Internet. For example:
- Monitor personal information: references to your name, company, book title, characters, website, links to your blog posts, reviews of your book…
- Monitor competitive information: other authors and book titles, competitor names, reviews on books similar to yours…
- Monitor news, information, ideas: events, dates, specific news sources, topics central to your book’s message, subject or story…
Any search term you can imagine can be monitored, automatically, and you’ll be notified by email or RSS feed. (This Search Engine Journal post has lots more ideas about how you can use it.)
Visit Google.com/alerts and sign-in to get started (you may already be signed-in if you use Gmail or one of the many other Google tools). Now complete each field and click CREAE ALERT. My advice for the key fields is:
- Search query: this can be simple, like your last name, or complex. See below for my 3 most often used query tips.
- Result type: I suggest searching for ‘everything’ and then narrowing it if you get too many results.
- How often: adjust this depending on the sensitivity of your needs. You can always change it later.
- How many: I begin with ‘All results’ and limit it as needed.
A search query can include Boolean logic and Google hacks to help you narrow and refine results. Here are 3 I use most often. You can find more tips on this Google help page:
- Use quotes to find an exact phrase (“environmental sustainability”)
- Use OR (in caps, not or) to find variations on a term or when terms are related to each other (“david wogahn” OR “david woghan”)
- Use the minus sign to exclude terms, or websites, from results (you don’t need to monitor your own website so adding –yourdomain.com would exclude results from your website)
This entire exercise takes as little as 5 minutes but the benefits can be enormous and limited only by your creativity. Not only can you listen to what others are saying but you can put this information to use in your own marketing efforts. In addition to monitoring my AuthorImprints author-coaching clients, I use it to discover new places to market their books, new blog post topics and ideas for optimizing their book selling information.