Use Google Alerts to spy on your competition and more


I am pretty sure a lot of you heard of Google Alerts and are using it. But let’s tell those who don’t, what are Google Alerts, how to use them to spy on your competition and how to get a few more uses out of it.

On Google Alerts home page you can see they advertise it as a tool for monitoring news, keeping current on competitors, keeping up with celebrities or your favorite sport team.

You can find Google Alerts start page by clicking here. (Clicking on this link will open a new window so you can read this post and set up the alert following the instructions.)

When you open the window, you will see a page where you can set up your first alert.

On the left part of the window you will see this:

google alerts setup

The first field is “Search terms“. Type in a word (keyword) you are interested in. You can see a preview by clicking on the “Preview results” link.

Choose the type of alert. If you want to keep up with your favorite celebrity you will probably want to choose “news” or “realtime”. If you are searching for blogs to comment on in your niche, choose “blogs”.

For starters you should choose “everything” just to see what results will Google deliver to your e-mail. You can edit the settings any time.

How often” depends on how full you want your inbox to be. I usually choose “once a day” because it is the easiest way for me to keep up with everything I wanna know, without getting too many e-mails.

Choosing the volume, again, depends on how much info you need. Test it and see what works the best for you.

google alerts mail footerEnter your e-mail, where you want the results to be delivered, and hit “Create alert”.

Every e-mail you get from Google Alerts is going to have three links at the bottom (see the image on the right). They are pretty self-explanatory. You can use those to go directly to remove, create or manage alerts.

Clicking on Manage your alerts will take you to the manager. You will have a list of your alerts there. You can edit them by clicking the edit link on the far right hand side.

google alerts manager

Here are some settings I use, and explanation why I use them that way (to see how it looks click on the image on the right):

  • the keywords I am following related to this blog are set up to send one e-mail a day, with the best results, from blogs
    • I chose once a day because that way I can focus on them for half an hour or so. I didn’t choose as-it-happens because those keywords appear pretty often and my inbox would be filled all day long. I didn’t choose once a week because there would be too many results and I could not keep up.
    • I chose best results because I obviously want to focus on the best :)
    • I chose results from blogs because I want to see what my competition is doing. Also, if there is a great post on the keyword,  I sure wanna read it. This is also a chance of you running into a great post you want to comment on.
  • I have an alert set for my domain name. The settings include everything (not just blogs), as-it-happens, all results.
    • I want to know about every mention of my blog when ever it happens.
  • I have a niche website I hardly work on. It is ranked good in Google, it is making money, so I’ve put it aside until I build this blog to a certain level. I do have alerts for best keywords for that website as well. The settings for the website are blogs, once a week, all results.
    • I set it up to blogs cause I can comment on them and build an extra link or two for it. That is basically all I do for the site at this moment, build an occasional link.
    • Once a week because I don’t have time to go through that site’s keywords every day and getting a list of posts once a week is just enough for now.
    • All results because I want to keep up with the news in the niche.

You saw my “strategy” and I am sure you connected the dots between what I wanna learn through the alerts and how much time I have / info I need.

So  now you know how to set them up and you got a few ideas on how to use alerts. How about some extra tips :)

Google Alerts extra tips and ideas

What can Google Alerts do for you?

Find new blogs. I am always on the lookout for new blogs. Not necessarily new in the blogosphere, but new to me, the ones I haven’t heard of yet.

When you find new blogs in your niche, you found new source of ideas and learning material.

When you find new blogs, you found new places to comment on. That is also a new source of traffic and a new source of back links.

You will stay up to date with news in your niche.

You will stay up to date with what your competition is doing.

Spy and learn from competition

I talked to some of my friends about this post and was surprised that they are not using one really cool spy feature of the alerts.

When you go into your alerts e-mail, you will see titles and descriptions from all the posts.

Now, if you go blog hopping and reading posts, you will see some good titles, but how many blogs can you visit every day?

With alerts you get all of them in an e-mail. You get the titles and descriptions of your competition’s posts.

What can you learn from this? Learn how to write great titles and descriptions.

Which title did entice you to click on it? Copy it into a spreadsheet or a text file and collect all the great titles you see. You can always get ideas from a file like that and see what kind of title gets the click. If you wanted to click on it, others probably feel the same.

Same goes for descriptions. Copy the best of them into a file and read them when you are creating your own description. Don’t copy them to use them as your own, of course, but learn from them.

So instead looking at Google Alerts as a news update tool look at it as a great keyword research tool, competition spy tool, learning tool…

You can use Google+ Sparks in similar way with the option to share the stuff with your Google+ network.

Now it is your turn to give more ideas on how to use Google Alerts to make your blog better and rank it higher. Also, I would be grateful if you would share this post with your friends…

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  1. Great tip with titles and description. I used to have google alerts but I think I made a mistake of receiving them in real time. SO of course I found it very intrusive and distracting and I disabled the damn ting as a result.

    Following your suggestions of having an alert once a day seams much wiser than what I was doing….good one :-)

  2. Stacey Herbert says:

    Bang on the money as usual Brankica. I found out about alerts after going to a talk from Shaa Wasmund @smarta, which is a great start up business site. The info I get from this has been a great resource, especially for as you mention, keeping and eye on the competition. The alerts can get a bit heavy on your in-box though especially if you have tons going. I would recommend, having them redirected to a specific folder, which keeps them all in one place, and stops you from pulling your hair out when your email box is overloaded.

    • Brankica says:

      Yeah, inbox can get rather full, so choosing the right setting is the first thing to do. Redirecting sounds like a great idea too. Although, getting to many e-mails, even in a separate folder, won’t help much unless you follow up on them instead just leaving them in the folder.

      Thanks for the extra tip!

  3. First Google Analytics, and now this! Haven’t been using Google Alerts, although the setup looks really interesting. God knows I need to keep track of my favorite blogs and closest competition – Google tools are excellent when it comes to usability!

  4. Brankica, I must share with you my little secret about Google Alerts – they are really incomplete!!
    For example I get an alert for my first name. Maybe two or three times a week I would get email alerts. Most of them are for me and there are a handful of other hits on “Ileane” (mostly the dearly departed). Then I found that I can enhance Google Alerts with YoLink Labs and that changed everything. Now I get alerts when I’m mentioned by others and when I leave comments on blogs.

    It’s a much more comprehensive search tool and it will incorporate nicely with what you’ve demonstrated here in this tutorial. YoLink has some other awesome search tools too. Here’s a link for more info.

    I hope you find this helpful. Thanks Brankica!

    • Brankica,

      Great article! Google Alerts is one of the most helpful resources on the Internet!

      I work for TigerLogic and we have a powerful search technology called yolink. Ileane already covered how yolink technology is more comprehensive than regular alerts. yolink searches inside links and pulls out relevant content so you don’t have to blindly click each link, hoping to find the right information.

      I receive a lot of Google Alerts and yolink saves me a great deal of time because I can read which links are important to me.

      Besides Google Alerts, yolink technology can also be layered over existing blog search (for free). If you’re interest, please feel free to contact me :)

      Thank you!

      • Brankica says:

        I will definitely try it out today or in next few days! Thanks for chipping in :)

    • Brankica says:

      Thanks for the extra tip. Yes, I will get the alert for my domain name, but also when someone uses a similar contruction of words, which is really weird since I specifically wrote the domain name as a keyword.

      Will try the YoLink and see what it does for me :)

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Thanks Brankica for sharing this post – Google Alerts is something that I have been using for a while now – but even more so a big THANKS to Ileane for addingthat little snippet of info – something I too have found ist hat the alerts are not reliable at thebest of times.

      Thanks for sharing Brankica – and thanks for adding Ileane!

  5. I have heard about the Google Alerts before but never tried it out. Thanks for the review of it :)

  6. Hi Brankica,

    Great post and I’m a big believer in Google Alerts myself. I also use them for finding new blogs. Unfortunately, lately they have only been giving me links to articles although my search is for blogs. I have used them for getting new ideas for articles and posts myself and you are dead on about the titles and headline. Really helps me with the whole process of seeing which headlines catch my eye and which ones don’t.

    Great information when it comes to what is happening with the search engines in your niche.

    Thanks for the great post and will be back again to visit.


    • Brankica says:

      Adrienne, welcome to my blog and hope to see you here again.

      I see you are using them the same way I do which I found to be very useful. Thanks for the comment.

  7. Brankica, aloha. Like your expanded use ideas of Google alerts. You and Dino must be on the same wave length as his post today used pirates and you are using spies. Appreciate your comments and suggestions. Mahalo and aloha. Janet

    • Brankica says:

      I thought the same thing about Dino and me. I mean we never ever discuss our future posts and look what happens. It must be that we are from the same crazy country :)

  8. Brankica,
    I can’t keep up with all these tips :) !
    I’ve got like 4 of your posts open in tabs now lol.
    I know this is a short comment -but what else can I say except for Thank YOU!

    Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’ my dear! Seriously, you’re rockin’ it!

    • Brankica says:

      You can just say HI and I would still love the comment :) It is not the lenght but the way YOU say it! Thanks, Ingrid…

  9. GREAT tips. :)

    I use Google Alerts, but not the way you explained, although I will most likely try some of them very soon. :) I mostly use it to stay updated on news and stuff for related niche topics, and also had the feeds of some alerts set up on TwitterFeed to tweet news-related topics on other accounts. That’s about it, haha.

    But this is excellent, I love the point you made about titles and descriptions… what a great idea! Thanks Brankica!

    • Brankica says:

      I tried do diversify the tips so everyone can find something. I do try to keep alerts to the minimum cause I hardly keep us as is. But I guess we’ll have to become faster and more efficient, lol.

  10. Brankica:

    Superb tip! I use Google alerts for another side blog I have not related to Internet Marketing…but I like the way you use it here and believe I have to be off to set it up for TFB now!!! :)

    Thanks Shooter,

    • Brankica says:

      You know, I just can’t keep up setting everything up I read as a great tip. I did add a logo to my RSS as you suggested and love the looks of it now. But haven’t done what Ana posted today. Have no idea how will we keep up, lol.

      I just realized that there is no need to buy all those expensive tools and courses. If a person can actually implement all the things suggested in all those posts (free!) he would be a success. But lack of time is what holed us back :)

  11. Dennis Edell says:

    Timely once again, I’ve been meaning to set these up forever! Thanks. :)

  12. Pete Carr says:

    Hi Brankica,
    Great insight into Google alerts, I don’t use them, but having read this I will definitely take a look.
    I like the idea for getting titles, and post ideas. You are spot on, we can’t be everywhere all of the time.

    • Brankica says:

      You know, everything we use has so many uses that we not only can’t use all the tools, but can’t use the ones we do, to their full potential (have no idea if this in English means the way I had it in my head in my language, lol).

  13. I was also using it for post ideas in a particular niche, but now it’s time to get my SPY on.

    bwa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaa!! (maniacal laughter fades out….)

  14. Google Alerts is always a tool that I end up forgetting about! Thank you for the reminder. I would use it to keep tabs on how my own work is doing (and what people are saying about me) but I never would have thought about using it to keep tabs on my competition!

    Thanks again,

    • Brankica says:

      This is something you should not leave for later :) It will take you 10 minutes to set it up and then you will always have incoming mails to remind you.

  15. Hi Brankica,

    I really don’t have idea about this interesting aspect of Google Alerts. But now I know it so I don’t miss the opportunity to spy my competitors. Great post!!! :D

  16. I have been using Alerts for a long time now, but I have to admit that I never used it to build a list of “attention grabbing titles”. So to show you that we never stop learning. BTW, this just reminded me that I have to review all my alerts as they are just filling my inbox and not really giving much value. Have to create new ones. Thanks

    • Brankica says:

      Well, I guess I am trying to get the max out of stuff I use, since I am sure not using everything I should.

      I like that they are so easy to set up and manage.

  17. Name deleted per commenting policy says:

    Great tool Brankica. I have already set up a couple of alerts. I haven’t heard about this tool before. I love those kind of tools. Now I now what to do for this weekend :-)

  18. Very helpful tips Brankica. I am going to try it. There are a lot of things to do when blogging and it’s a bit confusing! LOL



  19. Hmm that’s a clever use of google alerts and a good to know post. guess what i have started using it. “Keep friends close and enemies closer” ;-)

  20. I use Google Alerts to watch my brands, and to keep an eye out for my clients. But it’s too much to spy on competitors. Frankly, I have never been one of those underdog competitors who needed to spy to succeed at my goals. But do you know how many emails I would get from Google if I tried?

    Focus should be more on your campaign and content rather than looking at what your competitors are doing. Chances are, they are keeping an eye on YOU.

    • Brankica says:

      I don’t think spying is a bad thing, at least that is not how I saw it when I wrote this post.

      It is more along the lines of getting some ideas and filling the blanks they leave.

      Here are two good examples how you can use spying to make a better blog:

      1. If you read their posts and know more than they do, you can fill in the blanks. You can do it either by commenting on their posts or writing a post that will be better and more helpful.

      2. I’ve seen people not wanting to write a post on the subject because they thought someone already wrote about it and don’t want to look stupid. But some of those people actually had a piece of info that was something like a news in their niche. If you spy and know the competition is not writing about it, wouldn’t you want to use the opportunity and post about it first.

      • I’m not saying it’s a bad thing really. I used to do “research”, and in more of a guerrilla marketing way. But if you focus more on the content you write, and just networking, you will get much further than you would by trying to “duplicate” the success of the competitor. As for seeing what they’re writing, you can do that just by blog hopping ;)

        I never allow things like that to change my mind about what I will be writing though. I might reference such a similar post, but I would definitely have someone unique and a major element to add to the subject.

        • Brankica says:

          Oh, definitely agree with you on that one. I would never suggest copying anything, especially not their tactics, since everything works different for different people.

          Well, there is one thing I would try to duplicate and those are backlinks :)

          And since you mentioned blog hopping, stop by on Monday, I have a great list ready!

  21. I has being utilized Google Alerts to find the new blogs as well as to see what other think about my blog.

  22. hey, thank you for this reminder. I kind of didn’t actively use alerts like I used to, so it’s time to get it up and running again.

    I guess I’ll create fresh alerts on each and every (long-tail) keyword I optimize by posts on. I like your formula, something to experiment with.

    P.S. Brandon, it’s not really about copying competitors but looking for ideas to engage you come up with a different or opposite angle :)

    • Brankica says:

      I never use long tail for alerts or page optimization.

      I don’t even think people should optimize for long tail keywords. Those are the words that posts are found by, by not being optimized for them. Like if you would have a “puppy training” page and you are found for “how to train puppy 4 months old”, “can you clicker train puppy”, etc.

  23. This is certainly a new idea for me. I have used Google Alerts to get new blog post ideas, but using it to spy on our competitors is a great idea and I have never done it before. I will try this method and let you know how good are my competitors doing out there. Thanks for the idea.


    • Brankica says:

      Hey Sathish, make sure to come back and post some feedback :) I would love to see people having some nice results from my tips

  24. I was doing some thinking today about my niche sites. I thought i knew about doing keyword research until about a month ago. To tell you the truth i’m still not sure if i am doing it right. But i’ve had results in the past and thins get better over time.

    I used to find a keyword, write a post in it, distribute articles and hope to get ranked. I realize now it takes more than that, plus i need to keep my sites up to date. Last week i setup google reader on certain niche blogs to help me keep up with the niches.

    I then thought to myself that i need back links in order to rank well thus getting more traffic… So i thought i should write more articles on a certain keyword. I used ezine articles for ideas and then i remembered about google alerts. I set that up a few days ago and i’m waiting for results in a week’s time.

    Glad to see i’m on the right track.

  25. This is a good post with good tips. I use Google alerts to alert me on what “the internet” is saying about my company, or to learn what content of mine has been indexed. I never though to use it to spy on competitors and I wasn’t aware of the ability to customize it as you explain here!

    Time for me to put this info to good use.

    Thanks for the post!