How to use Google Alerts for your small business

A small business owner gets a notification from Google Alerts on her phone

Do you want to know what people are searching for online that could help your business become more successful? Google Alerts can monitor internet searches for specific words, topics or phrases including the name of your brand.

Google Alerts sends emails when new results for a topic show up in Google Search. It's a great tool for monitoring mentions of your business, the type of products or services you offer, sector news and anything your competitors are up to online. This free tool is available to anyone with a Gmail account.

The benefits of Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a simple tool that is easy to use. By getting notifications of searches and their results, you can monitor who is talking about your business across the internet. This knowledge can help you engage with prospects and customers and can also open up opportunities for brand building and collaborations.

Many online searches are questions. Discovering what people want to know about a business like yours can inform your website content strategy and provide inspiration for blogs and social media posts. Answering questions online is also a great way to share knowledge, demonstrate your expertise and build trust in your brand.

Another key advantage of Google Alerts is that you can keep an eye on your rivals. By setting up an alert for your competitor's name, you can find out how and where they are promoting their business online. It's also a good idea to monitor the type of content your rivals are publishing - not least because popular content can drive search engine rankings and you may find you are missing a trick.

Google Alerts can help you to keep up with developments in your sector. If you're planning to attend an industry event, for example, you can use Google Alerts to stay informed about what's happening and who is attending. Many small businesses rely on local customers so it's also a good idea to get alerts about what's going on in your area.

However, it's important to note that Google Alerts does not monitor social media sites. So you'll need to track social media mentions using specific tools such as Hootsuite , TweetDeck or Social Mention.

How to create a Google alert

Go to Google Alerts and enter a name or topic you want to follow in the box at the top. This can include your own name, your business name, the name of a competitor business or any terms that your prospective customers could be searching for.

Google Alerts allows you to customise your alert. This can ensure you're not overwhelmed by too many irrelevant notifications. Click on Show options and you can choose how often you want to get notifications and how many results you want to see. You can also select the location of searches and the language used to make sure you're getting the most relevant information for your business. You can opt to get notifications from all sources or specific ones such as blogs, news or videos.

Google Alerts also offers users the chance to select the quality of results – choose "only the best results" rather than "all results" to ensure you're seeing the most relevant mentions. Google allows you to set the time that you receive an email notification (in Settings) and you can bundle together all of your alerts into one email if you don't want your inbox to fill up with notifications. Once you have customised your alerts, click on Create Alert. You can edit or delete a Google Alert at any time.

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