Okay I lied a little bit, this method of automatically and instantly monitoring your competitors online activities takes a whole 2 minutes to setup but requires zero on-going effort.
Oh, and it’s completely free as well!
How would you like to know when your competitors do any of the following?
- Add a new section to their website
- Issue a press release
- Get coverage in the news or on a blog
- Have customers talk about them in forums
If you’re like me then I’m guessing that this information might be valuable to you, like the famous quote says ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’, with this easy method you can easily stay on top of your competitors activities.
As the name suggests, Google Alerts is a free service which sends you email alerts whenever Google comes across a new bit of content containing a keyword or phrase you want to track.
For example, you could set an alert up for the phrase ‘red banana’, every time Google found the phrase it would email you with a link to it.
Seeing as Google claimed to have 1 trillion pages indexed back in 2008 you can probably guess they are the masters of discovering new content, so you probably don’t have to worry about them missing anything!
How to Setup an Alert
Visit: http://www.google.co.uk/alerts (You will need a Google Account, if you don’t have one simply follow the steps to get one).
Now simply enter the search query you want to track. If you competitors website is abcwidgets.com enter abcwidgets.
You can then narrow the options down on the alerts as you want. I recommend you select ‘Everything’ in the ‘Results Type’ setting and go for ‘All results’ for the ‘How many’ option.
The next consideration is how often do you want alert emails sent, if your competitor is big and you chose ‘As-it-happens’ then get ready for a lot of emails!
You’re going to have to make a judgement call on this one, remember you can always change it at a later time if you’re getting too many or not enough emails.
Alert Tips & Tricks
I recommend you experiment with different phrases and keywords in your alerts and monitor the emails to see which give you the best quality results, cut out or modify the ones giving unrelated topics.
Use quotes to group phrases. Going back to our example red banana, if you just entered the words red banana then any time these words appeared on a new bit of indexed content you’d get an email. If you put quote marks on them like “red banana” then emails would only be sent when they appeared together in a phrase.
You can also use a negative keyword to refine the results. So if you didn’t want to know about a giant red banana but other types of red banana were okay (wishing I’d used a better example now…) then your alert would be “red banana” –giant. The minus directly before the keyword indicates a negative.
Setup your own name and websites with Google Alerts, that way if your product or service gets mentioned in a forum or on a blog you can know about it instantly and respond appropriately.
Finally, perhaps you could add a product name to an alert to see what kind of information you get through about it.
Why not spend a minute or two playing with some alerts, just think, you never know what you are missing out on!