Fun with Google Alerts

Jun 18, 2012 | Opinions

Google LogoAuthors need Google Alerts. It’s another one of those Google services that are just too useful not to have. I honestly have no idea why it is that Google provides this kind of nifty thing for free, but hey – let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. I do know that some authors are violently allergic to Alerts, but I really have to put that down to them not really knowing how to use them effectively, so here’s what you need to know about them and why they’re your best friend.

The Basics

Alerts are simple in theory: any time a particular set of keywords get recorded by Google’s massive search juggernaut, the system can notify you of them with links to where they show up in a nice, daily digest style email. The keywords can be anything at all you can think of that can be put into a Google search, and it returns the same results, broadly speaking. (Its determination of relevancy is somewhat different, as far as I can tell.)

You should have Alerts set up because:

  • You may have tracking set up on your website to keep an eye on who’s interested in you, BUT
  • You won’t know offhand that someone has reviewed your book, for example, unless you get a link in or a ping back or something, SO
  • You need a system to tell you when people are talking about you that doesn’t rely on your own site traffic.

You could just do a search every day and see what pops up, but who’s got the time for that?

The Usage

Okay, I’ll use myself as an example here. I have a very common name. Do a search for ‘Claire Ryan’ and I’m down at the bottom of the page, out of something like 54 million hits. Obviously I’m not interested in getting alerts about what all the other Claire Ryans of the world are doing, so I have to structure my alerts carefully to filter them out.

So let’s try this again – let’s search for ‘Claire Ryan author’. There we go, much better – that’s all me. Still, I may want to be absolutely sure that all I’ll get is stuff about me, so I use this for the alert itself:

“Claire Ryan” author

This specifies that I want to be alerted for a particular phrase, Claire Ryan, in conjunction with the word ‘author’. Unless there’s another Claire Ryan out there writing books, I’m probably safe with that.

This same reasoning can be applied to any author name or book title to filter the results down to just what you want. Here’s my list of alerts:

  • “Claire Ryan” author
  • “Claire Ryan” writer
  • “The Author’s Marketing Handbook”
  • Claire Ryan Author’s Marketing Handbook
  • Claire Ryan Raynfall
  • Raynfall Agency

You can see that I don’t have to be too specific when I’m using a combination of Claire Ryan and The Author’s Marketing Handbook. It’s highly unlikely that a page will be indexed with both my name and words from the book title without it having something to do with me.

How Do You Know if it’s Working?

You just need to blog on your site, and see if the index catches it. You can also see if known reviews or mentions of you come through. If you start getting too many irrelevant hits, you need to adjust the alerts to something more specific. If you don’t get alerts, you need to adjust them to widen the net, as it were. Whether you choose to get everything or just the best results is up to you – try out the settings and see what pops up.┬áJust a note on editing the alert settings – for some reason, this doesn’t always seem to stick. If you need to edit an alert, it may be better to just delete it and create a new one.

You need to use Alerts. More information about your online presence, and the impact of your book, is great.